Lyon v Fishmongers’ Co: HL 1876

Access to the river Thames via the plaintiff’s wharf was obstructed and this was sufficient to give rise to a successful action in private nuisance.
A riparian owner has a private law right to gain access to its frontage by boat.
Riparian rights do not depend on ownership of the soil of a stream; they attach to land in either lateral or vertical contact with a stream. The grant of a fee simple to the bed of the river may be subject to common law riparian rights
Cairns LC said:-
:’Unquestionably the owner of a wharf on the river bank has, like every other subject of the realm, the right of navigating the river as one of the public. This, however, is not a right coming to him qua owner or occupier of any lands on the bank, nor is it a right which, per se, he enjoys in a manner different from any other member of the public. But when this right of navigation is connected with an exclusive access to and from a particular wharf, it assumes a very different character. It ceases to be a right held in common with the rest of the public, for other members of the public have no access to or from the river at the particular place; and it becomes a form of enjoyment of the land, and of the river in connection with the land, the disturbance of which may be vindicated in damages by an action, or restrained by an injunction.
The taking away of the river frontage of the wharf, or the raising of an impediment along the frontage, interrupting the access between the wharf and the river, may be an injury to the public right of navigation; but it is not the less an injury to the owner of the wharf, which, in the absence of any Parliamentary authority, would be compensated by damages, or altogether prevented.’
Lord Selborne, Lord Cairns LC
(1876) 1 App Cas 662
England and Wales
Cited by:
DistinguishedTate and Lyle Industries Ltd v Greater London Council HL 24-Mar-1983
The plaintiff had constructed and used two jetties, and dredged a channel down to the Thames for their use. The Council constructed two terminals nearby, the result of which was to cause a build up of silt blocking the channel.
Held: The . .

These lists may be incomplete.
Updated: 06 March 2021; Ref: scu.192597