Widow stripped of cricket club’s outfield

Posted: 29th July 2013

The harsh impact that the principle of adverse possession can have on landowners has been starkly revealed by the extinguishment of an elderly widow’s tittle to part of a cricket club’s outfield that had been in her husband’s family for generations.

Town HousesJacki Mitchell had been locked in dispute with members of Charlton Kings Cricket club, in Gloucestershire, over the disputed title to the southern part of the club’s ground and the five-day High Court hearing of the case involved analysis of events going back to 1947 when Mrs Mitchell’s father-in-law, Arthur, owned the land.

In that year, Arthur had leased the plot to three members of a cricket club which was later merged with another to become the Charlton Kings Cricket Club. The rent paid for the land started out at just 10 shillings-a-year, before rising to £20-a-year in 1965. The last rent payment was made in October 1974.

The last of the three original tenants, a Mr Staddon, died in that same year, but the tenancy had continued, year on year, until the present day. Mrs Mitchell, whose husband, Lawrence, was given the land by his father in 1947, asked the court to declare her the land's rightful owner, having inherited it from her husband.

The Court found that Mr Staddon and his successors as tenants - who had never been identified - had been in adverse possession of the land for the requisite 12 years from the last date on which rent had been paid. In those circumstances, Mrs Mitchell’s title to the land had been extinguished on October 8 1986.

The cricket club successfully argued that the representatives of the Mr Staddon’s estate had acquired a possessory title to the land. Although the ruling did not confer title to the land on the club, the Court noted: "The present club is in occupation of the land with the licence of the tenant, whoever that is". Describing the dispute as 'highly unusual', Mr Justice Morgan concluded: "I would understand if Mrs Mitchell felt that the result in this case was very harsh".