Category: Property

Grant v Edwards [1986]

Grant v Edwards [1986]

George Edwards and Linda Grant had been seeing each other for a couple of years, and had a child together, when they decided to live together and buy a house. Edwards told  Grant that her name would not go onto the legal documents because it would prejudice her pending divorce. The house was brought in the name of Edwards and his brother.Colour photo a person signing documents

After their relationship broke down,  Grant claimed a share in the property on the grounds she had contributed very significantly to the its purchase by means of her contribution to the joint household expenses, housekeeping, feeding and bringing up the children. The judge dismissed her claim and she appealed.

The Court of Appeal held that where an unmarried couple lived in a property held in the name of only one of the parties, the other party could establish an interest if they could demonstrate a common intention that they would share which they had relied upon to their detriment. The Court found that the statement as to why her name was not on the documentation showed the common intention and that she was entitled to a half share in the house.

The decision was a landmark as the courts found that there was an actual common intention between the parties to share ownership of the property, without such an intention being declared formally in writing.

Joanne Beswick

This marked a shift in judicial thinking about the way in which justice should be done to women in this increasingly common situation, not by changing the law, but by interpreting it more equitably and taking into consideration a wider variety of discussions and contributions regarding the household.

The full version of this landmark is written by Joanne Beswick.


Learn More

Office for National Statistics, ‘Marriage, Cohabitation and Civil Partnerships’

Office for National Statistics,’Women Shoulder the Responsibility of ‘Unpaid Work”  

Telegraph Media Group Ltd., ‘Household Chores to be Given Economic Value’ 

Williams & Glyn’s Bank v Boland [1981]

Williams & Glyn’s Bank v Boland [1981]

Image of the Land Registration Act 2002 with the Royal Coat of Arms
Land Registration Act 2002 contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0 (

Boland is significant not just because it offered protection to individual women … but because it spelt the death-knell of the custom of putting the matrimonial home in the husband’s sole name.

Rosemary Auchmuty

Williams & Glyn’s Bank v Boland appears in Land Law textbooks as authority for the proposition that ‘actual occupation’ is a question of fact, not of law, for the purpose of deciding whether someone has an overriding interest in registered land – section 70(1)(g) Land Registration Act (LRA) 1925, now replaced by Schedule 3 Land Registration Act (LRA) 2002 para 2.

This description, while true, masks the fact that, prior to Boland, a wife was not considered to be in actual occupation of a house owned in law by her husband, even when she lived there and was physically present at the time he mortgaged or sold the property to a third party who now claimed possession.

Boland established that wives could have overriding interests that bound third parties, and thus that those third parties would in future, to avoid being caught by such interests, be obliged to make inquiries of the woman in the house as well as the man – to acknowledge, in fact, that women might have separate interests in land from their home-owner husbands.

The full version of this landmark is written by Rosemary Auchmuty.


Learn More

Law Commission, ‘Property Law: The Implications of Williams and Glyn’s Bank Ltd. v Boland (No 115, 1982)’

Married Women (Restraint Upon Anticipation) Act 1949

Married Women (Restraint Upon Anticipation) Act 1949

The story of the restraint on anticipation is a textbook case of the development of English property law with respect to women … it was introduced to counter the oppressive effects of laws which facilitated patriarchal power … the campaign for its abolition shows how first-wave feminists recognised the need for married women to have equal property rights with men as a pre-condition to their material emancipation. But it was only because the restraint came to be seen as a burden on men that it came to be abolished.

Rosemary Auchmuty

The ‘Restraint Upon (or more usually ‘On’) Anticipation’ was a device, imposed in a settlement on a married woman, which ensured that she could not touch the capital property that had been settled on her or any future income under the settlement. The purpose was to prevent her husband from forcing her to give it to him. By the mid-twentieth century, the restraint had become a serious encumbrance on married women’s ability to meet their financial obligations, to the annoyance both of the women themselves, who resented the suggestion that they were not competent to handle their own money, and of their creditors who could not get their hands on it. One of the last remaining gender-specific protective devices of equity, the restraint was finally abolished by the Married Women (Restraint Upon Anticipation) Act 1949.

The full version of this landmark is written by Rosemary Auchmuty.

Married Women’s Property Act 1882

Married Women’s Property Act 1882

Sections 1 and 2 of the Married Women's Property Act
Sections 1 and 2 of the Married Women’s Property Act 1882 contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0 (

While the Married Women’s Property Act 1882 is often lauded as a victory for all women … [perhaps its] greatest triumph was not the actual provisions of the Act but the strategizing of women lobbying for reform stretching back to the Langham Place Group [and Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon].
Andy Hayward

The Married Women’s Property Act 1882 provided for a married woman to hold all the property brought by her to the marriage or subsequently acquired thereafter as her ‘separate property’. A married woman possessed for the first time the ability to acquire and dispose of all kinds of property ‘as if she were a feme sole [single woman] without the intervention of any trustee’ (section 1). It removed many (though not all) of the legal disadvantages flowing from coverture (a common law doctrine conceptualised husband and wife as one person; that person, unsurprisingly, being the husband).

It instigated a critical reappraisal of property holding within marriage, precipitating important debates in the 1940s onwards that questioned whether it should be accepted that marriage frequently generated economic disadvantage.

The full version of this landmark was written by Andy Hayward.


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British Library, ‘Women and Work’

The Slave, Grace (1827)

The Slave, Grace (1827)

Black and white engraving of abolitionist Olaudah Equiano
Olaudah Equiano, abolitionist, engraving by Daniel Orme via [Public Domain] Wikimedia Commons

The judgment in The Slave, Grace by mustering and galvanising women in the anti-slavery movement it gave them experience in organising around political issues, dealing with male opposition, and identifying the ways that privilege and oppression worked, which was to stand them in good stead when, the emancipation of slaves achieved, they turned their attention to the emancipation of women.
Rosemary Auchmuty

In 1822 Mrs Allan of Antigua came to England with her slave, Grace James, who, once she set foot on British soil, became a free woman. In 1823 Grace James returned voluntarily with her mistress to Antigua and lived as a free woman. After a ‘trifling’ incident in which she offended Mrs Allan, she was publicly flogged ‘and told she was still a slave’. Her case attracted sympathy, and in 1825 she was seized by a customs officer ‘as forfeited to the King, on suggestion of having been illegally imported in 1823’ – it being illegal to detain a free person in slavery. Mr Allan claimed for her return, contending that Grace James was his property.

Front page of Mary Prince's book A West Indian Slave, 1831
Mary Prince, abolitionist, First Edition of A West Indian Slave, 1831 via [PD-US] Wikimedia Commons

The judge of the Vice-Admiralty Court of Antigua agreed, and ordered that she should be returned to the claimant. Grace James petitioned for her freedom, and the Crown appealed to the High Court of Admiralty in London to answer the point of principle of whether a slave, once freed in England, would revert to slavery on return to the colonies or would remain free.

The presiding judge, Lord Stowell, ruled that England had no power to alter the laws of other jurisdictions, and thus that Grace James had indeed reverted to slavery on her return to Antigua. When the case returned to court for remedy, however, his successor judge (Sir Christopher Robinson, who as King’s Advocate had argued her case in the hearing before Lord Stowell), refused to grant restitution, but merely awarded damages to Mrs Allan.

Thus Grace James achieved her freedom, in fact if not in law. Five years later, slavery was abolished by Act of Parliament throughout the colonies.

The full version of this landmark was written by Rosemary Auchmuty.


Learn More:

Black Presence, ‘Rights: Abolition of the Slave Trade’ (The National Archives

Black Presence, ‘Rights: Emancipation’ (The National Archives

Black Presence, ‘Rights: Slave or Free?’  (The National Archives 

British Library, ‘Abolitionist Campaigners’

The Independent, ‘Slavery: How Women’s Key Role in Abolition Has Yet to Receive the Attention it Deserves’ (

Karina Weller, ‘245 Years Ago Today An English Judge Changed History’ (Human Rights News, Views and Info, 22 June 2016)

Married Women’s Property Act 1964

Married Women’s Property Act 1964

Image of section 1 of the Married Women's Property Act 1964
Section 1 of the Married Women’s Property Act 1964 contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0 (

The significance of the incremental reform contained in the Married Women’s Property Act 1964 cannot be overstated. It led to more radical discussions of automatic equal division of property between husband and wife – a central aim of the Married Women’s Association

Sharon Thompson

The effect of the Married Women’s Property Act 1964 was simple: it enabled a wife to share housekeeping money (and any property derived from that money) equally with her husband. Previously it was legally considered to be her husband’s money only and so reverted back to him. Yet in spite of the Act’s brevity – section 1 comprises only seventy-one words – and apparently narrow scope, the Act was hugely significant, as for the first time, it enabled married women without independent income to acquire their own money.

The full version of this landmark is written by Sharon Thompson.


Learn More

Sisterhood and After Research Team, ‘Marriage and Civil Partnership’ (British Library, 8 March 2013)

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Project leaders, Rosemary Auchmuty and Erika Rackley, talk to Elizabeth Woodcraft about the aims, methodology and ambitions for the Project for PodAcademy

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