The Law on Fixtures

The Law of Property Act 1925 s.205(1)(iX) states:

“Land” includes land of any tenure…buildings or parts of buildings and other corporeal hereditaments”

This statutory definition does not entirely answer the question of whether Cleopatra’s needle will form part of the land (see post on ‘Definition of corporeal hereditaments‘). Therefore, it has been the traditional approach to determine objects that form part of the land as Fixtures and those that do not as Chattels. But the preferable approach would be to separate objects that can form part of the land by using the three-fold classification, so as not to confuse the meaning of Fixtures.

The three-fold classification is set out in Elitestone v Morris [1997] 1 W.L.R. 687, at page 691. See examples:

Classification Example
Chattel A moveable object. “chalet is a chattel and not a fixture” e.g. not forming part of the land. See Deen Andrews [1986] 1 E.G.L.R. 262
Fixture The commonest fixture is a house which is built into the land, so that in law it is regarded as part of the land. The house and the land are one thing”. See Billing Pill [1954] 1 Q.B. 70, page 75
Part and parcel of the land itself This is generally looked at within the surrounding circumstances. This classification will be looked at in further detail below in Holland Hodgson (1871-72) L.R. 7 C.P. 328.

The three-fold classification has forced a discussion as to the degree of permanence of the obelisk and address the arguably obsolete maxim of ‘quicquid plantatur solo cedit’. The leading case is Holland Hodgson (1871-72) L.R. 7 C.P. 328.  Whether an object is a fixture or a chattel depends upon two conditions:

  1. The degree of annexation and;
  2. The purpose of annexation

THE DEGREE OF ANNEXATION: It is generally considered fixtures would prima facie form part of the land if it has a substantial connection to it. See examples below:

One of the most important considerations is whether the “object can be removed without serious damage”. Or worst, total destruction of the object (Berkley v Poulett [1976] EWCA Civ 1). These considerations forces a brief discussion of the history of Cleopatra’s needle.

The obelisk was originally built in Egypt around 1460 BC as a religious monument celebrating Pharaoh Thotmes III. It was later gifted to the British Government in 1820 and later brought over at the great monetary expense of Sir Erasmus Wilson free of any serious damage. (For further information click here and here).

Considering the technological skills of our modern age in comparison of 1820, it would be arguable that Cleopatra’s needle would not form part of the land because it can, and has been, easily moved in the past.

THE PURPOSE OF ANNEXATION: It must be noted before examining the second part of the test that determining the ‘purpose’ of the obelisk is an objective one (Deen v Andrews (1985) 52 P. & C.R. 17, page 22). This means that the court is not concerned with the subjective rational of the person that placed the object there (Elitestone Morris at page 698). This means that there must be some objective circumstance proving that Cleopatra’s needle is not to be regarded as a chattel. It was stated in D’Eyncourt Gregory [1866] L.R. e Eq. 382  that if a statute is merely resting on a plinth, it is not part of the land unless the statue is part of an ‘architectural design‘. Therefore, by this judgment it is unclear whether Cleopatra’s needle is classified as chattel, considering it is only being held in place by its own weight (MatherFraser(1856) 2 K. & J. 536). It could be argued that the purpose of Cleopatra’s needle is to form an essential architectural feature of Victoria Embankment. In unison of this architectural argument, it could be stated that the commission of the two loins by Ecclestone Iron Works in 1881, which sit directly next to Cleopatra’s needle, are all collectively part and parcel of the land. Therefore by this analysis Cleopatra’s needle would form part and parcel of the land.


Megarry & Wade, The Law of Real Property, Sweet & Maxwell, 2012

Sandra Clarke and Sarah Greer, Land Law, 4th edn, Oxford University Press, 2014

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