Ruscoe v Grounsell: CA 1903

A stone tablet had been set into the wall of a building in 1816. I was inscribed ‘this stone is placed by J to perpetuate R’s right to build within nine inches of this and any other building.’ R was selling part of his land (adjoining the plaque) to J. A buidling was erected next to the sign in 1901. The plaintiff objected that the new building obstructed the light to a window. The defendant relied upon the plaque.
Held: The claim succeeded. The defence under section 3 did not suceed because it could not be construed as a consent or agreement within section 3 as regards a right of light.
Lord Halsbury said: ‘Enjoyment of light for twenty years would prima facie, under section 3 of the Prescription Act 1832, give a right to the light. Those who deny that the right has been acquired must show that the right has been cut down by the proviso to section 3. Looking at what has been done in this case, I will assume that the stone tablet contained an agreement and that it was in writing. But the question still remains whether that which appears upon this stone is an express agreement relating to light and made for that purpose. Looking at the possible reasons why the parties may have agreed to this inscription, I am wholly unable to say that it is so. I cannot say why the parties agreed to put this tablet up. If I were to do so, I should be doing that which the tablet itself has carefully avoided doing. I cannot come to the conclusion that it was in the minds of the parties that this tablet was intended to be a reservation as to the acquisition of a right to light. I can imagine it possible that the parties desired to preserve the boundary, when we see the statement as to ‘nine inches.’ I cannot, then, come to the conclusion that the right to obstruct the access of light to the windows of these houses was expressly reserved by an agreement expressly made for that purpose.’


Cozens-Hardy LJ, Lord Halsbury LC and Lord Alverstone LCJ


(1903) 89 LT 426


Prescription Act 1832 3


England and Wales

Land, Limitation

Updated: 08 May 2022; Ref: scu.567940