Gilbert v S Hickinbottom and Sons Ltd: CA 1956

A large industrial bakery comprised a number of buildings in two blocks separated by a street. The Lands Tribunal held, overruling the valuation officer, that they constituted a single hereditament.
Held: The valuer’s appeal failed. The application of the test was ‘a question of degree and therefore of fact’, and if the Lands Tribunal thought that it was one hereditament they must have had their reasons. Geographically contiguous spaces are normally to be treated as one hereditament and geographically separate spaces as distinct, but there remain ‘exceptional cases’ where their function required a different treatment.
Denning LJ gave as examples of the treatment of separate premises as one hereditament, the case where a road bisected a nobleman’s park, or agricultural land (in the days when agricultural land was rateable) or a golf course. The common feature of these cases, he thought, was that: ‘the two properties on either side of the road are so essentially one whole – by which I mean, so essential in use the one to another – that they should be regarded as one single hereditament.’
Morris LJ thought it undesirable to lay down general principles to govern what he regarded as a ‘common sense assessmen’. At best the closest that he came to indicating in what circumstances geographically separate spaces might be regarded as a single hereditament was in the following passage: ‘buildings which, though not actually enclosed together or actually contiguous, are very near together and are not separated by the presence of other buildings and are being put to one common use may be regarded as comprising one hereditament. There can be no doubt that ordinarily very great weight will be placed upon what may be termed the geographical test. But the question is always one of fact and degree.’
Parker LJ gave the guidance: ‘Whether or not premises in one occupation fall to be entered in the valuation list as one or more hereditaments depends upon a number of considerations. Without attempting an exhaustive list, the following considerations can be mentioned:
(1) Whether the premises are in more than one rating area. If so, they must be divided into at least the same number of hereditaments as the rating areas in which the premises are situated.
(2) Whether two or more parts of the premises are capable of being separately let. If not, then the premises must be entered as a single hereditament.
(3) Whether the premises form a single geographical unit.
(4) Whether though forming a single geographical unit the premises by their structure and layout consist of two or more separate parts.
(5) Whether the occupier finds it necessary or convenient to use the premises as a whole for one purpose, or whether he uses different parts of the premises for different purposes.
Whereas a consideration of questions (1) and (2) will in certain events conclude the matter one way or the other, the same does not, I think, result from a consideration of any one of the other questions alone. The conclusion, where the considerations of (1) and (2) are not decisive, must depend on the weight to be attached on the facts of each case to the other considerations. No doubt the most important of these other considerations is whether the premises form a geographical unit. Can they be ringed round on a map?’
Parker LJ cited University of Glasgow, and said of the geographical and functional tests: ‘[The geographical test] is so often decisive that it is a convenient starting point to the inquiry, but it is not decisive in all cases. Thus, though the premises may form a geographical unit, the manner in which different parts are used may justify the premises being treated as several hereditaments; cf North Eastern Railway Co v Guardians of York Union [1900] 1 QB 733, 739 per Channell J. The appellant’s contention, however, is that though the functional test may justify treating a geographical unit as two hereditaments, it is wholly inapplicable where the premises occupied are geographically and structurally separate. There is no doubt, I think, that in the latter case little weight will ordinarily be given to any functional connexion, but it is another thing to say that it is irrelevant. If, as is admitted, a functional connexion is a relevant consideration when considering a geographical and structural unit, I fail to see why as a matter of law it cannot be considered at all when there are separate geographical and structural units. Each case must be considered on its particular facts, due weight being given to the degree and nature of the separation on the one hand and the importance of the functional connexion on the other.’


Denning LJ, Morris LJ, Parker LJ


[1956] 2 QB 40


England and Wales


ApprovedUniversity of Glasgow v Assessor for Glasgow 1952
(Lands Valuation Appeal Court)
Held: Various buildings of the University which were physically separate from the main buildings, capable of being separately let and dispersed among buildings belonging to other proprietors, were properly . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.


Updated: 09 May 2022; Ref: scu.591255