Ownership of land normally includes everything below the surface

In Grigsby v Melville ([1974] 1 WLR 80, CA (Eng)) a property in single ownership had been divided into two semi-detached properties and each of these was sold to a separate buyer (P and D respectively). The entrance to the cellar under P’s property was on D’s land. The conveyance to P excepted and reserved ‘such rights and easements or quasi-rights and easements as may be enjoyed with the adjoining property’.

P learned that D was using it and sought an injunction to restrain what he alleged to be a trespass. D argued: (i) that the cellar had been conveyed to her not P; or (ii) that she enjoyed an easement allowing her to use the cellar.

The Court of Appeal held that P’s ownership of his land included the cellar underneath it. Stamp LJ said: ‘It is, however, axiomatic that a conveyance of land carries with it all that is beneath the surface’ (at 85). It was ultimately a matter of the construction of the conveyance but nothing in the conveyance pointed to any other conclusion than that P’s ownership included the cellar.

The Court of Appeal saw nothing on the facts of the case that would point to D’s enjoyment of an implied easement to use the cellar. The easement issue was explored in greater detail in the first instance judgment.

Michael Lower


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5 Responses to “Ownership of land normally includes everything below the surface”

  1. gogoy123 Says:

    An interesting case ! I have a question, though : Is it also axiomatically that P ,the owner of the cellar, has an easement on D’s land to gain access to his cellar ?

    • Michael Lower Says:

      No. In this case, there would have been no need to imply one since it seems that P could easily have constructed an entrance to it from his own land.

      • gogoy123 Says:

        I see !

        But then I must ask : Would D win, if she claimed a prescriptive easement on P’s cellar (instead of an implied easement) using the doctrine of lost modern grant, provided that she had evidence of 20 years usage of the cellar ?

      • Michael Lower Says:

        It would be possible to invoke the doctrine to claim an easement (assuming that the right in question is capable of being an easement). On the facts of this case, however, such a claim was not possible. There was no factual basis for such a claim.

  2. DANIEL Says:

    Then take an instance where the only way to access this cellar was through the use of D’s entrance because as readers we are not satisfied whether there was a further way to access it or not?

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