Tamplin v James – Summary

Tamplin v James

Court of Appeal

Citations: (1880) 15 Ch D 215.


A seller sold property in a sale-room under the description:

‘All that inn with the brewhouse, outbuildings, and premises known as The ship, together with the saddler’s shop and premises adjoining thereto, situate at N., NOS. 454 and 455 on the tithe map, and containing by admeasurement twenty perches more or less.’

The sale-room also provided plans of the property. At the back of the land were unfenced gardens which were not part of the sale. The buyer was acquainted with the land but did not realise that the gardens were not part of the sale. They did not look at the plans. The seller sought specific performance of the sale contract.

  1. Could the buyer rely on their mistake to resist a claim for specific performance?

The Court of Appeal held in favour of the seller. The seller had not made any misrepresentation and had not done anything to induce the buyer’s mistake. Since the buyer’s mistake was purely subjective and not induced by the seller, they had no grounds to resist an order for specific performance.

This Case is Authority For…

A purely subjective mistake cannot be relied on to void a contract or resist an order for specific performance.


James LJ noted that a subjective mistake could void a contract where ‘a person snapped at an offer which he must have perfectly well-known to be made by mistake.’ Brett LJ similarly thought that a subjective mistake void a contract where the other party ‘was acting fraudulently in seeking to take advantage of what he knew to be a mistake.’