Home >> Bouvier's Law Dictionary >> Allegiance to And The Manner Of >> Ancient Lights

Ancient Lights

am, rep, light, held, ch, mass, eq, land, house and dec

ANCIENT LIGHTS. Windows or open ings which have remained in the same place and condition twenty years or more. Wright v. Freeman, 5 Harr. & J. (Md.) 477; Story v. Odin, 12 Mass. 157, 7 Am. Dec. 46 ; Thurs ton v. Hancock, 12 Mass. 220, 7 Am. Dec. 57.

In England, a right to unobstructed light and air through such openings is secured by mere user for that length of time under the same title.

Until the last forty years there was no right of action merely because there was less light than formerly, but only where material inconvenience was caused in ordi nary occupations ; 1 Dick. 163; 2 C. & P. 465; 5 id. 438. This rule was followed in L. R. 4 Eq. 421; [1897] 2 Ch. 214 ; Ir. Rep. 11 Eq. 541. It is held that one is entitled to as much light as his building may ordinarily require for habitation -or business ; [1900] 2 K. B. 722. In L. R. [1904] A. C. 179, it is said: "To constitute actionable deprivation of light, it is not enough that there be less light than before; there must be a sub stantial deprivation of light,-enough to ren der occupation uncomfortable according to ordinary notions of mankind." This has been said to be the leading case ; 23 L. Q. R. 254. In [1902] 1 K. B. 15, the plaintiffs had an easement of light and needed an extraor dinary amount in their business; a newly erected building cut off a substantial amount of it, but enough was left for all ordinary purposes of habitation or business ; it was held they were entitled to relief. This case was approved ; L. R. 6 Ch. 809 ; and disap proved ; L. R. 4 Eq. 21; 28 L. T. 186. In [1907] A. C. 1, there had been a large ob struction of light by the erection of the de fendant's house, and a large interference with the cheerfulness of a room in the plain tiff's house, so that the character of such room had been altered, and it had lost one of its chief advantages, causing a substantial depreciation in the rental value. It was held that an actionable nuisance had been committed. It is said the decision of the House of Lords in [1904] A. C. 179, has left the obstruction of ancient lights still, as it always has been, a question of nuisance or no nuisance, but has readjusted the law in respect to the test of nuisance, and that the test now is, not how much light has been taken, and whether that is enough material ly to lessen the enjoyment and use of the house which the owner previously had, but how much light is left, and whether that is enough for the comfortable use and enjoy ment of the house according to the ordinary requirements of mankind; 74 L. J. Ch. 621; [1905] 2 Ch. 210.

In the United States, such right is not ac quired without an express grant, in most of the states ; 2 Washb. R. P. (5th ed.) 62, 63 ; 3 Kent 446, n. See Cherry v. stein, 11 Md. 1; Hulley v. Safe Deposit Co., 5 Del. Ch. 578; Parker v. Foote, 19 Wend. (N. Y.) 309 ; Ward v. Neal, 37 Ala. 501; Pierre v. Fernald, 26 Me. 436, 46 Am. Dec. 573; Keats v. Hugo, 115 Mass. 204, 15 Am. Rep. 80 ; and cases under Alm This same doctrine has been upheld in Illinois and Louisiana ; Gerber v. Grabel, 16 Ill. 217 ; Taylor v. Boul ware, 35 La. Ann. 469. It is said not to be suited to the conditions of a growing coun try and that it never became part of our common law ; Myers v. Gemmel, 10 Barb.

(N. Y.) 537. Other courts decline to adopt the English doctrine ; Keats v. Hugo, 115 Mass. 204, 15 Am. Rep. 80 ; Randall v. San derson, 111 Mass. 119 ; Hoy v. Sterrett, 2 Watts (Pa.) 327, 27 Am. Dec. 313 ; Doyle v. Lord, 64 N. Y. 439, 21 Am. Rep. 629; Powell v. Sims, 5 W. Va. 1, 13 Am. Rep. 629 ; In graham v. Hutchinson, 2 Conn. 597 ; Gerber v. Grabel, 16 Ill. 217 ; and even where it is accepted, its application should be limited to cases where the easement is strictly nec essary to the beneficial user of the property granted ; Turner v. Thompson, 58 Ga. 268, 24 Am. Rep. 497 ; 15 Harv. L. Rev. 305.

One who claims that the land adjoining his shall remain unimproved should show an express grant or covenant ; Morrison v. .Marquardt, 24 Ia. 35, 92 Am. Dec. 444. There can be uo such easement by implication over adjoining unimproved land of the grantor ; id.; Stein v. Hauck, 56 Ind. 68, 26 Am. Xtep. 10; Keating v. Springer, 146 Ill. 481, 34 N. E. 805, 22 L. R. A. 544, 37 Am. St. ,Rep. 175 ; Mullen v. Stricker, 19 Ohio St. 135, 2 Am. Rep. 379 ; Rennyson's Appeal, 94 Pa. 147, 39 Am. Rep. 777 ; Wilmurt v. McGrane, 16 App. Div. 412, 45 N. Y. Supp. 32. But it has been held that a grantee of land has an easement of light by implied grant over the adjoining unimproved land of his gran tor ; Sutphen v. Therkelson, 38 N. J. Eq. 318 ; Knoxville Water Co. v. Knoxville, 200 U. S. 25, 26 Sup. Ct. 224, 50 L. Ed. 353 ; Janes v. Jenkins, 34 Md. 1, 6 Am. Rep. 30Q. In 15 L. Q. R. 317, it is said that American courts, in declining to follow the English doctrine, have assumed that it was unknown prior to Independence. It was so said by Bron son, J., in Parker v. Foote, 19 Wend. (N. Y.) 309. But this is to be incorrect. There is a dictum of Wray, C. J., in Mosely v. Bland (1611), cited in 9 Rep. 58 b., and a reference to it as an established doctrine in 1443 Y. B., 32 Hen. VI, f. 15, and in 4 Del. Ch. 643, it was held that the doctrine was part of the common law of England and of the colonies at the time of American Independ ence, and as such continued to be the law of Delaware under the constitution adopted in 1776. See Ant.

As between landlord and tenant it is held that a lease of a tenement carries with it an implied grant of the right to light and air from the adjoining land of the landlord where the situation and habitual use of the demised tenement are such that the right is essential to its beneficial enjoyment ; Darnell v. Show-Case Co., 129 Ga. 62, 58 S. E. 631, 13 L. R. A. (N. S.) 333, 121 Am. St. Rep. 206 ; Ware v. Chew, 43 N. J. Eq. 493, 11 AtI. 746; Case v. Minot, 158 Mass. 577. 33 N. E. 700, 22 L. R. A. 536 (where the ten ant of an upper floor was held entitled to light and air from a well) ; Doyle v. Lord, 64 N. Y. 432, 21 Am. Rep. 629; Hazlett v. Powell, 30 Pa. 293 ; contra, Keating v. Springer, 146 Ill. 484, 34 N. E. 805, 22 L. R. A. 544, 37 Am. St. Rep. 175 ; Myers v. Gem mel, 10 Barb. (N. Y.) 537.

As to the right of an abutting owner to light and air over the highway, see Am.