Bishop of Rochester v Bridges – Case Summary

Doe dem Murray, Lord Bishop of Rochester v Bridges

High Court

Citations: (1831) 1 Barnewall and Adolphus 847; (1831) 109 ER 1001.


A statute provided that bishops could charge the land tax associated with their land to tenants as an addition to their yearly rent. This right only applied automatically to existing leases. For it to apply to new leases, the right had to be expressly reserved in the lease contract.

The Bishop of Rochester granted a Lord a lease containing terms to this effect. Later, the lease was terminated and replaced with a similar one. However, the second lease did not have any terms relating to the land tax. Nevertheless, the Lord continued to pay the additional rent.

The bishop was then replaced by another man. The second bishop noticed that the second lease had been improperly issued, since it did not contain terms relating to the land tax. He then tried to void the lease, thinking this would revive the original lease and oblige the Lord to pay the tax. A dispute arose over whether the Lord was obliged to pay the tax.

  1. Was the statute to be interpreted as allowing the recovery of land tax from new lessees?

The High Court held in favour of the Lord. Voiding the second lease could not have the effect of reviving the original. Since the second lease had no express terms relating to the land tax, the Lord was not obliged to pay the tax.

This Case is Authority For…

Lord Tenterdon CJ laid down a critical principle of statutory interpretation:

‘[W]here an Act creates an obligation, and enforces the performance in a specified manner, we take it to be a general rule that performance cannot be enforced in any other manner.’


This principle has become important in the law of tort, where it heavily influences whether an action for breach of statutory duty exists. Statutes which provide an alternative means of enforcing a duty do not generally give rise to such an action because of the principle set out by Lord Tenterdon CJ.