St Helens Smelting Co v Tipping [1865] 11 HLC 642

Key point

  • The locality is only relevant where the alleged nuisance is sensible personal discomfort, if there is physical damage there is automatically nuisance (unless the property or person affected is hypersensitive: see Robinson v Kilvert)


  • C bought property in a factory district
  • Several months later, D began smelting works on its property, situated within a mile and a half of C’s
  • C alleged that the fumes from D’s works had caused damage to trees and shrubs on his land
  • C sued D for nuisance

Held (House of Lords)

  • D was liable in nuisance for the damage to C’s trees and shrubs

Lord Westbury L.C.

  • Where nuisance is in the form of actual physical damage to property, the character of the locality is irrelevant to determining what amounts to a reasonable use of property
  • The character of the locality is only relevant when nuisance was in the form of sensible personal discomfort
  • Hence, even though the house was situated in an industrial estate, C is required to put up with discomfort but not damage