Proprietary Estoppel

St John's Chambers houses one of the premier Chancery teams on the western circuit, with a collection of 'expert, approachable, and down to earth' barristers who 'offer London expertise at regional rates'. "

Legal 500  2021
Chancery, probate, and tax

Many disputes in relation to land and inheritance in recent years have concerned the doctrine of proprietary estoppel, where the Court will in certain circumstances enforce informal assurances and promises made, often between family members but also between neighbours, commercial landowners, landlords and tenants and others.

Proprietary estoppel relates to land and other property, and concerns both its ownership and the existence of rights over it. It can govern matters as substantial as succession to family farms; or as intricate and important as the creation of rights of way to commercial premises without which they are valueless; or as personal as access to the family home.

Although the broad general principles of proprietary estoppel are well known, the technical aspects of this area of law has been developed dramatically by the courts in cases in recent years. Many of these are West Country or Welsh cases, and barristers from St John’s Chambers have been at the forefront of those developments.

The team have been involved in a number of landmark decisions in the High Court and Court of Appeal, including:

  • Davies v Davies – the ‘Cowshed Cinderella’ case involved the claim to a dairy farm by a daughter against her parents. The claimant was represented by Leslie Blohm QC and Adam Boyle.
  • Culliford v Thorpe – a dispute between cohabitees involving claims of proprietary estoppel and constructive trusts, where the parties were each represented by Adam Boyle and Joss Knight.
  • Gonthier v Orange Scaffolding – which dealt with the issues which arise where the promises are affected by illegality. The respondent was represented by John Sharples.
  • Hoyl v Cromer Town Council – where the Court of Appeal considered the operation of ‘silent’ representations, or ‘standing by’, in the context of the grant of a right of way attached to a lease, Leslie Blohm QC leading Catherine Collins of Iscoed Chambers, Swansea in defending the appeal in the Court of Appeal.

The team have also been involved in many cases relating to farms over the past nine years, from Thorner v Majors onwards, including Seward v Seward, Habberfield v Habberfield, and Gee v Gee.

Members of our Wills & Trusts team are featured in the Chambers UK High Net Worth Guide 2021 as leaders in the private wealth market (outside London). This recognition clearly demonstrates the team are leaders in their field nationally. Read more here. We were shortlisted for “Chambers of the Year” at the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) Awards in 2017, and again in 2018.

Our clerking team are always accessible, and take care and time to understand the case or the individual personalities involved when recommending individual barristers. Read more.


As the number of cases being dealt with by way of mediation increases, our mediation team are on hand to help, be it by providing the advocates, mediators or both. Our facilities are specifically designed to meet with clients’ needs for a mediation venue. Read more.

Public Access

Some members of the team are also available to act, where appropriate, for members of the public, as well as for commercial and non-commercial organisations, under the Public Access scheme.


The team delivers workshops and seminars in Chambers and regional centres. We also provide training on behalf of local Law Societies and in conjunction with solicitors’ firms. In addition we can give tailored in-house training for particular firms. If you would like any further information please contact Paul Bennett on 0117 923 4793 or email: [email protected].

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