Watcham v Attorney-General of the East Africa Protectorate: PC 1919

The Watchams held land along the bank of the Nairobi River. It had been conveyed to them by the Crown by a certificate under the East African Land Regulations. The certificate gave the area transferred as ’66 3/4 acres, or thereabouts’, but included a description by reference to physical features on the ground which would have resulted in an area of 160 acres. There was evidence that the Watcham family had never occupied the more extensive area, part of which had been occupied without objection from them by someone else.
Held: The evidence was admissible as an aid to construction, to show that the description in the certificate must be ‘falsa demonstratio’. In a conveyancing matter, it may be possible to take into account the subsequent behaviour of the parties to interpret what was intended by the conveyance.

[1919] AC 533
Cited by:
DoubtedF L Schuler AG v Wickman Machine Tools Sales Limited HL 4-Apr-1973
The parties entered an agreement to distribute and sell goods in the UK. They disagreed as to the meaning of a term governing the termination of the distributorship.
Held: The court can not take into account the post-contractual conduct or . .
CitedTower Hamlets v Barrett and Another CA 19-Jul-2005
The defendant tenants appealed an order for them to surrender possession of land which they claimed had been acquired by adverse possession. The buildings, including one which shared a party wall with the building owned by the defendants had been . .
AppliedNeilson v Poole ChD 1969
Significance of Boundary agreements
The parties, neighbours, disputed the boundary between their gardens. In a conveyance of land where the plan is stated to be for identification purposes only, the effect of those words: ‘Seems . . to confine the use of the plan to ascertaining where . .
SupportedAli v Lane and Another CA 21-Nov-2006
The parties disputed the boundary between their neighbouring plots of land.
Held: In the modern law the conveyance (parchment or not) is undoubtedly the starting point. Where information contained in the conveyance is unclear or ambiguous, it . .
DoubtedSussex Caravan Parks Ltd v Richardson CA 1961
Harman LJ described the Watcham case: ‘a case which has been long under suspicion of the gravest kind from real property lawyers.’ . .
DoubtedWickham Tools v Schuler AG HL 1974
Lord Wilberforce referred to the Watcham case as: ‘a precedent which I had thought had long been recognised to be nothing but the refuge of the desperate.’ but ‘Whether in its own field, namely that of interpretation of deeds relating to real . .
Not FollowedBeale v Harvey CA 28-Nov-2003
Land had been divided into three lots on its development, but the site plan did not match the line of a fence actually erected.
Held: The court was not bound by the Watcham case, and would not follow it to allow reference to the later . .
CitedPiper and Another v Wakeford and Another CA 17-Dec-2008
The parties disputed the boundary between their land.
Held: The judge had been entitled to rely on the evidence he had accepted, and had been entitled to find on the factual basis asserted. . .

Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.


Updated: 06 December 2021; Ref: scu.228940