The map so far:

Welcome to the London Law Map!

Many people think they are familiar with legal London - the Royal Courts of Justice, the Inns of Court, the Old Bailey etc. But the streets of London are also home to a huge amount of case law. Here is just a selection:

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Sturges v Bridgman (1878) 11 Ch.D. 852

What's the case about?
Bridgman ran a confectioners from premises on Wigmore Street.  To the rear of the premises was a kitchen, which abutted Dr Sturges' garden on Wimpole Street. The kitchen was fitted with two large pestles and mortars, where the staff would break up and pound loaf sugar, meat and other hard substances needed to create the confectionery.  It could be noisy work but the neighbours did not complain.  

In 1873 Dr Octavius Sturges built a consulting room at the end of his garden.  The room shared a party wall with Bridgman's kitchen.  Sturges immediately found the the noise and vibration from Bridgman's pestles and mortars interfered with his work.  He sought an injunction to prevent Bridgman using the equipment in a way that would cause him nuisance.

Where is it on the map?
At point Z.

Who won?
Dr Sturges.  The Court of Appeal held that Bridgman was creating a private nuisance and granted the injunction.

What's the principle of law?
It is possible to acquire a right to do something that would otherwise be unlawful by a process called prescription.  The defendant must be able to show that he has done the unlawful thing for twenty years without complaint.  

In the present case, Mr Bridgman argued that he had been using the kitchen for twenty years - possibly much longer - without complaint.  However, the Court of Appeal held that Mr Bridgman had not acquired a right by prescription over this period as the noise had not been a nuisance until Dr Sturges built his consulting room in 1873.  

Sturges v Bridgman is often cited as authority for the proposition that it is no defence to say that the claimant came to the nuisance.  However, the recent Supreme Court judgment in Coventry v Lawrence [2014] UKSC 13 casts doubt on whether this was ever good law.  You can read my commentary on Coventry v Lawrence here.

Sturges v Bridgman also contains Thesiger LJ’s famous quote about the importance of considering the character of a neighbourhood when assessing whether certain behaviour amounts to a nuisance: “what would be a nuisance in Belgrave Square would not necessarily be so in Bermondsey”.

What's it like today?
Wimpole Street is in the heart of London's medical district, just two streets away from the rather more famous Harley Street.  It crosses Wigmore Street at right angles.  There was no sign of Brigman's confectioners on Wigmore Street when I visited, but this may have been due to the scaffolding that was covering that part of the street.  

I had more luck on Wimpole Street: the property formerly occupied by Dr Octavius Sturges is now home to a practice of counsellors and therapists - and someone with a sense of humour:

It wasn’t possible to get a view of the garden, but the position of the crane in the neighbouring yard gives an impression of how closely the properties are packed together.

You can read more about Dr Octavius Sturges here.

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