Milner v Staffordshire Congregational Union (Inc): ChD 1956

The plaintiff had contracted to buy land from a charity. The consent of the Charity Commissioners had not been obtained, but the contract was not conditional on such consent. When the charity trustess realised that consent was required they told the plaintiff that the contract was conditional on such consent and applied for consent. Before that consent was received, the plaintiff purported to rescind the contract, and sue for the return of his deposit.
Held: Dankwerts J said: ‘I have to decide what that Act means when it says: ‘make a sale’. It does not say ‘make a conveyance’ or ‘complete a sale’ or anything of that sort; it simply says ‘make any sale’, and I think for the purposes of the section, though I am bound to say that the matter is not free from doubt, that a sale is made when a contract is entered into by the owners of the property in question for the sale of the property to some purchaser. It is therefore a breach of the terms of the section if a body of charitable trustees enters into a contract to sell the trust property without the authority of the Charity Commissioners. I would observe that there is some support for this view to be found in the documents in the present *59 case. In the alleged contract the phrase is: ‘The property is sold subject to any reservations’, and so on, and in the solicitors’ letter of 24 September 1954, the expression is: ‘The sale of this property must be subject to the consent of the Charity Commissioners.’ It is perhaps then not unreasonable to think that the word ‘sale’ in the section must be used in a similar manner. I am not saying, of course, that a conveyance in pursuance of the purported contract would be any more lawful than the original contract; but it seems to me that the word ‘sale’ must include the making of a contract of sale at least as well as a conveyance on sale.’ The contract was unlawful; the plaintiff was not bound by it; and he was entitled to repayment. The court considered that the expression ‘make any sale’ in section 29 of the 1855 Act, included a contract for sale.


Dankwerts J


[1956] Ch 275, [1956] 2 WLR 556, [1956] 1 All ER 494


Charitable Trusts Amendment Act 1855 29


England and Wales

Cited by:

CitedBayoumi v Women’s Total Abstinence Union Ltd and Another ChD 21-Jan-2003
The claimant sought specific performance of a contract to purchase land from the defendant charity. The defendant had not complied with its obligations under the Act. The cliamant sought to say at the transaction came within s36(3) (that it was . .
DisapprovedBayoumi v Women’s Total Abstinence Union Ltd and Another CA 5-Nov-2003
A charity entered into a contract for the sale of land. It failed to comply with the requirements under the Act. The purchaser assigned the benefit of the contract, to the claimant who sought to enforce the contract.
Held: The section only . .
CitedHaslemere Estates Ltd v Baker 1982
A contract for the sale of land by a charity was expressed to be subject to and conditional upon the grant of a consent before 31 March 1982 and if consent was not granted before that date then the contract was to be ‘null and void and of no further . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Land, Charity

Updated: 29 April 2022; Ref: scu.187942