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This page will discuss a number of miscellaneous topics concerning the law of personal property: attachment, alteration, mixing, tracing and finding.


Attachment concerns the debate over whether a particular item of property has been attached to land (a fixture), or whether it remains as a separate item (a chattel). This question becomes important where a purchaser or chargee of land seeks possession of that land: has the item of property become the property of the new owner or chargee or not?

General test

The general test for attachment has two elements: the degree of actual attachment, and the intention to attach.

  • Hellawell v Eastwood (1851) – consider the mode of annexation of an item of property (could it be removed without damage) and its purpose (for enjoyment, or to improve land)
  • Holland v Hodgson (1872) – intention was given precedence over actual attachment


According to Elitestone v Morris [1997], intention in attachment is an objective standard, such that in Hobson v Gorringe [1897], a gas engine inside of a mill was treated as a fixture even though it had an identification plate suggesting a contrary objective intention.

Actual attachment

  • Ellior v Bishop (1855) – house keys were classed as a fixture
  • Wake v Hall (1883) – a boiler house and engine room built on land seized under customary mining rights were chattels as they were easy to remove and the freehold owner had no financial investment in them (though if they were bailed, Gorringe may have applied, oddly)
  • Elitestone v Morris [1997] – a bungalow was a fixture, even though it only rested under its own weight on pillars.

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