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Colonial Cases

Webb v. Wright, 1881

[land law, mining]

Webb v. Wright

Judicial Committee of the Privy Council
9 July 1881
Source: The Times, 1 June, 1881.


JUDICIAL COMMITTEE OF THE PRIVY COUNCIL.
(Present - Sir Barnes Peacock, Sir Montague Smith, Sir Robert Collier, Sir Richard Couch, and Sir Arthur Hobhouse.)
WEBB v. WRIGHT.
  This was an appeal from a judgment of the High Court of the colony of Griqualand West, in South Africa, of the 25th of September, 1879, in an action brought by Mr. Webb, the appellant, in his capacity as agent of the London and South Africa Exploration Company (Limited), against Mr. Henry Boscawen Wright, the Civil Commissioner of the district of Kimberley, in respect of an alleged right of the company to have issued to them an indefeasible British title under the seal of the province to certain diamond fields therein.
  Mr. Benjamin, Q.C., and Mr. Romer, Q.C., were counsel for the appellant; the Solicitor-General and Mr. Beaumont for the respondent.
  Prior to 1871, Griqualand West was subject to the jurisdiction of the Orange Free State, but in October of that year it became British territory, and claimants to land in the province were called upon by the Cape Government to send in their claims for registration, and for the issuing of British titles in place of those previously held by them. The London and South Africa Exploration Company, who were the successors of the Hope Town Diamond Field Company, accordingly applied for the title-deeds of a farm called Bultfonton in that district. The claim was brought before the Land Court and opposed by the Government, but the Judge decided that the company ought to receive their title in the terms and on the basis of a grant of the President of the Orange Free State to the previous holders in 1864, and that decision was made absolute. The question was, however, raised later on before the High Court of Griqualand West, who ordered that the title should contain n certain clauses and provisions, to which the company objected. Against that decision the present appeal was granted.
  Their Lordships, at the conclusion of the arguments, took time to consider their judgment.


Source: The Times, 11 July, 1881

LAW REPORT, July 9.
JUDICIAL COMMITTEE OF THE PRIVY COUNCIL.
(Present - Sir Barnes Peacock, Sir Montague Smith, Sir Robert Collier, Sir Richard Couch, and Sir Arthur Hobhouse.)
WEBB v. WRIGHT.
  This was an appeal from a judgment of the Recorder of the High Court of Griqualand West of the 25th of September, 1879, in an action in which the appellant, Mr. Henry Barlow Webb, in his capacity as agent of the London and South Africa Exploration Company (Limited) was the plaintiff, and Mr. H. Boscawen Wright, the Civil Commissioner of the district of Kimberley, was the defendant.
  Mr.  Benjamin, Q.C., and Mr. Romer, Q.C., were counsel for the appellant; the Solicitor-General and Mr. Joseph Beaumont for the respondent.
  It will be recollected that for several years prior to 1871, Griqualand West, the sovereignty of which had been originally exercised by Griqua Chiefs, was subject to the jurisdiction and government of the Orange Free State, but that in 1871 it was annexed by the British Government and the sovereignty assumed by Sir Henry Barkly, the then Governor of the Cape of Good Hope. By various notices published from time to time in the official Gazette of the Province, claimants to land there were called upon by the Government to send in their claims for the purposes of registration, and for the issue of British titles in lieu of those they formerly held. Upon the discovery of the diamond fields, and in order to make provision to guard against consequent disaster and violence, such notices had become absolutely essential. Accordingly, the Hope Town Diamond Field Company filed with the Commissioners representing the British Government their claim and prior title deeds to certain diamond fields and diggings at a farm called Bulfontein. In 1875 the Legislature of the Province established a Land Court to finally adjudicate on all claims to land within it, subject to an appeal to the High Court, and, if necessary, to the Privy Council; but before the constitution of that Court the Hope Town Diamond-Field Company had sold their estate to the London and South Africa Exploration Company (the present appellants), who then became the claimants to the farm in question. The claim of the company to have granted to them an indefeasible British title to the farm of Bulfontein, in exchange for the title they then held under, was admitted by the Judge of the Land Court, and his order was subsequently made absolute without appeal, and in 1878 the Company applied for the issue of that title, but the Government refused to accede to the request.
  Accordingly, the company took proceedings against the Civil Commissioner in the High Court of Griqualand to compel him to issue the title.  In 1879, while the proceedings were pending, a tender of title was made to the Company, containing, as they considered, certain restrictive clauses and provisions, making the land not only subject to the laws in existence when it was held under the jurisdiction of the Orange Free State, but any laws or regulations then made or which hereafter might be imposed. This offer was refused.
  The High Court gave judgment substantially reviewing and over-ruling the order of the Land Court, against which no appeal had been instituted, and ordering that, in addition to what was contained in the title already tendered to the Company, it should enumerate certain grants, sales, and purchases incorporated in the original claim of the Hope Town Diamond-Field Company.  Against that decision the present appeal was instituted.
  Their Lordships now held that the judgment of the High Curt under appeal could not be sustained and must be reversed, but without prejudice to any other proceedings which might be instituted by the appellant company to establish their right to the farm, at Bulfontein. They made no order as to costs.

Published by Centre for Comparative Law, History and Governance at Macquarie Law School