St Helen's Smelting Co v Tipping – Case Summary

St Helen’s Smelting Co v Tipping

House of Lords

Citations: (1865) XI House of Lords Cases (Clark’s) 642; 11 ER 1483.


The claimant owned a manor surrounded by a large estate of trees and plants. Nearby was an industrial district. The defendant engaged in copper smelting in a factory within that district. Fumes from the factory caused damage to the claimant’s trees and plants. The claimant sued the defendant in private nuisance for the damage.

  1. Was the defendant’s copper smelting reasonable user?

The House of Lords held in favour of the claimant. The character of the neighbourhood was irrelevant in this case: it is always unreasonable to use land in a way which damages another person’s property.

This Case is Authority For…

User of land which caused property damage is automatically unreasonable, no matter the character of the neighbourhood or any other factors.


There was also a dispute in this case over whether the defendant’s activities had been taking place before the claimant bought his land. The defendant had argued at trial that the claimant had ‘come to the nuisance’ and that this was essentially a defence. The trial judge rejected the idea that there was any such defence. The House of Lords did not directly comment on this point, but approved of the trial judge’s judgment in general.