Blackmore v Butler

JurisdictionEngland & Wales
CourtCourt of Appeal
JudgeLORD JUSTICE SOMERVELL,LORD JUSTICE BIRKETT,LORD JUSTICE ROMER
Judgment Date19 May 1954
Judgment citation (vLex)[1954] EWCA Civ J0519-3

[1954] EWCA Civ J0519-3

In the Supreme Court of Judicature.

Court of Appeal.

Before:

Lord Justice Somervell,

Lord Justice Birkett and

Lord Justice Romer.

Blackmore
and
Butler

MR A.G. De MONTMORENCY (instructed by Mesers Bulcraig & Davis) appeared on behalf of the Appellant (Plaintiff)

MR E.P. WALLIS-JONES (instructed by Mesers Hollest, Mason & Nash, Farnham, Surrey) appeared on behalf of the Respondent (Defendant).

LORD JUSTICE SOMERVELL
1

This is an appeal from a decision of His Honour Judge Tylor in which he decided in favour of the Defendant on an issue as to the application of the Agricultural Holdings Act, 1948.

2

In or about 1941, Mr. Anson negotiated with the Defendant's father for the renting to his son of some 270 acres of land. The land was owned by trustees of a settlement in which Mr. Anson or his wife or both were interested. The father, Mr. F. Butler, made it clear before the lease was signed that he wanted the cottage in question in these proceedings for a farm worker. Mr. Anson agreed that he should have the cottage subject to Mr. Anson being able to find other accommodation for the then occupant, a farm worker, Goddard. In the meantime another cottage was put at the disposal of Mr. Butler for a worker on the land to be let.

3

The position in this period may be legally obscure but Mr. Anson had clearly undertaken to let Mr. Butler have this cottage as soon as he could find other accommodation for Goddard.

4

The farmland was leased to the Defendant by an agreement of 10th March, 1942. The father and son worked together but nothing now turns on the fact that the original negotiations were conducted by the father. The Defendant is accepted as the lessee of the cottage.

5

In August 1947 there was a further lease of the farmlands previously let with some additions. Goddard finally went out in, I think, 1947. The Defendant thereafter paid rent to Anson and the cottage was occupied by a farm worker on the lands leased.

6

At the end of 1947 the Plaintiff purchased this cottage with other cottages from the trustees subject to the lease, a yearly Michaelmas lease, to the Defendant. The Plaintiff has served a notice to quit and claims possession. The Defendant not being an occupying tenant no question of Rent Act protection arises. The Defendant has served a counter-notice under Section 24 of the 1948 Act, which has no effect unless the cottage is an agricultural holding. The Defendant's case is that the cottage is part of an agricultural holding or alternatively is itself an agricultural holding within the Act of 1948. It is not disputed that if either of these contentions is right the Plaintiff must fail. The learnedCounty Court Judge accepted the second contention and dismissed the claim.

7

I will now read the relevant sections of the Act. 1 (1) "In this Act the expression 'agricultural holding' means the aggregate of the agricultural land comprised in a contract of tenancy, not being a contract under which the said land is let to the tenant during his continuance in any office, appointment or employment held under the landlord. (2) For the purposes of this and the next following section, the expression 'agricultural land' means land used for agriculture which is so used for the purposes of a trade or business….".

8

The definition of agriculture in section 94 (1) is as follows: "agriculture" includes horticulture, fruit growing, seed growing, dairy farming and livestock breeding and keeping, the use of land as grazing land, meadow land, osier land, market gardens and nursery grounds, and the use of land for woodlands where that use is ancillary to the farming of land for other agricultural purposes, and 'agricultural' shall be construed accordingly". It is right to refer to it though it does not throw any light on the present problem.

9

The Appellant's argument may be summarised as follows. Under section 1(1) the holding must be contained in a single contract of tenancy. However connected or subsidiary or complementary the subject matter of a second contract of tenancy may be to a tenancy of agricultural land, it cannot with the subject matter of the latter tenancy constitute a single holding. That is his answer to the Defendant's first contention. On the second point, namely that the cottage considered by itself is an agricultural holding, the Defendant does not seek to exclude the surrounding circumstances as I have summarised them above. He submits that a cottage let for an agricultural worker, however closely connected with the land on which he works. Is not within the definition because it is not "used for agriculture". These words necessitatesome product or use pesuliar to agricultural. A cottage is simply a dwelling-house used as such. There is no element peculiar to agriculture.

10

Similar issues and arguments came before this Court in Godfrey v. Waite, 1951. That case is unreported so I will summarize it. Originally a house, Rodborough Manor, and 32 adjoining acres of farm land were owned and occupied by the plaintiff's husband. He died. The house was converted into two separate dwelling-houses. The 32 Acres were let to the defendant's husband. At that time he lived three quarters of a mile away. In 1945 one of the halves of Rodborough Manor fell vacant and the defendant's husband with the defendant moved in under a lease from the plaintiff. In the spring of 1950 the plaintiff served a notice to quit to expire at Xmas 1950. The defendant's husband died in September of that year his widow continuing to carry on the business.

11

The defendant maintained that the half of Rodborough Manor let in 1945 was an agricultural holding within the Act. If this were right it was conceded that the notice was ineffective.

12

In considering the application of the decision to the present case it is important to note the absence in the judgment of any point as to the user of the house for any other purpose than as a residence. There is no indication of any point based on the use of the house for the business of the farm — filling up forms, correspondence and so on. It is treated as premises or land used as a dwelling-house for the farmer, admittedly adjacent to the land farmed. It therefore raised potentially the question of construction — can a dwelling-house ever be an agricultural holding per so, if held under a separate tenancy.

13

It was argued in the first place, as here, that the house was so adjacent to and connected with the 32 acres that the whole thing together became one entity, one amalgamated holding, one farm with a farm house. The County Court Judge had held that it was not so amalgamated, the matter being treated apparently as oneof fact and degree rather than of law. This issue was not pursued in the Court of Appeal.

14

The Master of the Rolls then turned to the other way the case was put: "We therefore have to consider this case, as I understand it, with our eyes fixed exclusively upon this particular tenement, the Rodborough Manor segment, and ask whether that, not as part of some larger whole, but in itself, is an agricultural holding. Let me turn again to the definition. The words are relatively few in number and apparently simple in expression. In this holding which I have described, this tenement, 'used for agriculture'? I need not take any further time in considering the qualification about trade or business, for there is, I think, no doubt whatever — we certainly have heard no argument to the contrary — that the farming or agricultural activities carried on by Mrs. Walte are not carried on as a hobby or for pleasure, but are carried on for the purposes of trade or business. So it depends on the meaning of these three simple words, 'used for agriculture'. In one sense you may say that anybody carrying on an agricultural activity was using the place where he lived for agriculture in so far as it could be said that he must live somewhere, and if he carried on his business while residing at the particular premises then it could be said in a general sense that he was using these premises for agriculture: he was using them for the purpose of carrying on there from his agricultural business at some nearby place. But there must clearly be some limit to the scope of the phrase in that connection. In the course of the argument it was asked, supposing that Mrs. Waite lived in a small house in the main street of stroud and went by motor-car or bicycle or whatever other conveyance she might have available to her farm property in order to conduct her business — Stroud is not far away — could it be contended seriously on those facts that she was 'using her dwelling-house for agriculture'? I do not forget, as...

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7 cases
  • Tyack v Secretary of State for the Environment
    • United Kingdom
    • House of Lords
    • December 7, 1989
    ...and degree. 7The cornerstone of the argument advanced in support of the appellant's case is the decision of the Court of Appeal in Blackmore v. Butler [1954] 2 Q.B. 171. The issue in that case was whether a tenant farmer who held an agricultural labourer's cottage under a different lease f......
  • Wetherall v Smith
    • United Kingdom
    • Court of Appeal (Civil Division)
    • February 8, 1980
    ...assent, the holding would cease to be an agricultural one. 46 The last of this batch of Court of Appeal cases that I will mention is Blackmore v. Butler (1954) 2 QB 171. The issue there was as to whether two adjoining pieces of land let separately could constitute one agricultural holding. ......
  • Harrison-Broadley v Smith
    • United Kingdom
    • Court of Appeal
    • February 5, 1964
  • James Symons Hancock v Secretary of State for The Environment and Another
    • United Kingdom
    • Court of Appeal (Civil Division)
    • June 21, 1988
    ...held in this court that a dwelling-house and its curtilage may constitute agricultural land within the definition. That was held in Blackmore v. Butler [1954] 2 Q.B. 171, the decision in which case was itself based upon an earlier, but apparently only briefly reported, decision of this cour......
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