Sturges v Bridgman – Case Summary

Sturges v Bridgman

Court of Appeal

Citations: (1879) 11 Ch D 852; (1879) 43 JP 716; (1879) 48 LJ Ch 785; (1879) 41 LT 219.


The defendant was a confectioner whose premises neighboured the claimant’s home. The defendant used a noisy pestle and mortar from around 10am to around 1pm each day. This went on for more than twenty years without complaint. Then, the claimant built a consulting room for his medical practice at the end of his garden. At that point, the noise and vibration from the defendant’s activities began to interfere with the claimant’s work. The claimant sued in nuisance for an injunction. The defendant argued that the noise was not a nuisance. Alternatively, he argued that if the noise was a nuisance, he had acquired a prescriptive easement to make noise by reason of the long use.

  1. How is a nuisance assessed?
  2. Can a defendant acquire a prescriptive easement to make noise?

The Court of Appeal held in favour of the claimant. The defendant’s activities were a nuisance. He had not acquired a prescriptive easement to cause a nuisance because his activities only became a nuisance after the claimant built the consulting room. This was too recent for prescription. Before then, the claimant had no way of stopping the noise, so there could be no easement.

This Case is Authority For…

It is not possible to create an easement by conduct which the owner of the servient land cannot prevent by physical means or legal action.

When considering whether user amounts to an actionable nuisance, all surrounding circumstances must be considered. This includes the nature of the locality: ‘what would be a nuisance in Belgrave Square would not necessarily be so in Bermondsey.’