Skip to Content

Colonial Cases

Templeton v. Palestine Government, 1928

[land law]

Templeton v. Palestine Government

Land Court, Haifa
Source: The Palestine Bulletin, 1 March 1928



Mrs. Templeton v. the Government.

   On Friday last, the 24th February, there was in the Land Court, Haifa, the adjourned hearing of the action by Mrs. Templeton against the Government of Palestine.  Mr. Sacher and Dr. Weinshall appeared for the plaintiff and Mr. Dukhan for the Government.  Mrs. Templeton, who is the widow of the late Lawrence Oliphant, is claiming the area of some 27 dunams of land upon which the Haifa Railway Station is now built.  The land originally belonged to Lawrence Oliphant, who made a gift of it to Mrs. Templeton (then Mrs. Oliphant) in 1306 (1890).

   The Government claims (a) that the land was sold and conveyed by Mrs. Templeton to the Syria Ottoman Railway Company, (b) that the Syrian Ottoman Railway Company sold the land to the Turkish Government and that under the Treaty of Lausanne the property passed from the Turkish Government to the Palestine Government.  Alternatively, it is claimed by the Palestine Government that the claim of Mrs. Templeton is barred by prescription.  At Friday's hearing, Mr. Dukhan on behalf of the Government argued that Mrs. Templeton had been out if possession since 1899 or 1900 and that, therefore, her claim was barred by prescription.  He, further, contended that Section 79 of the Treaty of Lausanne had no application to the case because Palestine was not a territory of one of the High Contracting Powers, and because the relation between Mrs. Templeton and the Palestine Government, was not, for the purposes of the treaty, that of enemies.

   In reply, Mr. Sacher submitted that prescription does not commence to run until there is adverse possession, and that there was no evidence of any kind of adverse possession before 1907.  Mr. Sacher further contended that there was no provision in the Treaty of Lausanne which gave the Palestine government the benefits of the adverse possession of the Turkish Government.  Under Section 79 of the Treaty of Lausanne, the period from the 29th of October 1914 to the 6th of November 1924 was excluded, so that (a) even if the Palestine Government enjoyed the advantages of the adverse possession of the Turkish Government, the period of adverse possession would only be from 1907 to 1914 and  from 1924 to 1927, namely ten years instead of fifteen years, and (b) if the pales trine government did not enjoy the benefits if the adverse possession of the Turkish Government the period of possession by the Palestine Government would be only from the 6th November 1924 to March 1927, when action was brought, namely 2 ½ instead of 125 years. Mr. Sacher further admitted that the term "territories" used in Section 79 embraced all the territories under the sovereignty of the high Contracting Powers at the time of the making of the treaty, and therefore included, and further that the Treaty contemplated the term "enemies" as applying to the relationship during the war when Mrs. Templeton was an enemy as regards the Turkish Government.  The Palestine Government, as it inherited any right to the land by virtue of its succession to the Turkish Government, inherited in respect of those rights the burdens under which the Turkish Government rested.

   During the course of the argument, the President raised the question as to the meaning of a Mandate.  Mr. Sacher, in reply, stated that whatever else a Mandate might mean, it conferred sovereignty upon the Mandatory Power, and it was not relevant whether that sovereignty was derived from the Treaty of Lausanne or derived more immediately from the decisions of the Great Powers acting by virtue of the Treat of Lausanne or otherwise.

   The Court delivered judgment on the point of prescription to the effect that the Plaintiff's claim was not barred by prescription, that adverse possession commenced in April 1907, that it was suspended from October 29th 1914, until the opening of the Land Courts in 1920, and that maximum period which had passed, therefore, was less than 15 years.  The case was adjourned until April 19th, and that day and the following day are reserved for the hearing of the case on its merits.


Source: The Palestine Bulletin, 13 February 1931


   One of the most remarkable dramas ever enacted in the Courts of Palestine is drawing to a close.  In a few days the curtain will fall.

   Drawn by his writings from her home in England to cross the Atlantic and find Sir Laurence Oliphant, the plaintiff in the present action, Mrs. Templeton, met Sir Laurence and married him.  Before they had been married a few days Sir Laurence Oliphant died.

   Before the war Mrs. Templeton bought a small plot of land - 15 dunams - in site [sic], as she believed, of Armageddon.  But a foreigner could not under the Turks hold land in her own name.  Then cane the War.  The war was over, how could she prove her claim?  Did not land belonging to the Turks become the property of the British?

   Her claim to Armageddon has been before the Palestine Courts for 4 years.  In 1928, a white haired lady, over 90 years of age, came to give evidence as to her claim.

   Yesterday, in Haifa, Mr. Horowitz told the story of the land and dealt with the many legal points with which the case bristles.   Dr. Dukhan, for the Government, replied.

   Mr. Justice de Freitas said that judgment was reserved.

   And the old lady, wife for a month of the great Sir Laurence Oliphant, sits waiting, waiting, wondering whether she will hear that the field of Armageddon is hers.


Source: The Palestine Bulletin, 10 April 1931


Mrs. Templeton Wins Her Claim.

Haifa, Tuesday. - The local Land Court has at last rendered its decision in the case of Templeton vs. Government of Palestine.  The Court had favoured Mrs. Templeton's claim that the 15 dunams of land which are to-day the premises of the Haifa Railway Station are her property.  The case has lasted for four years. The Palestine Government contended that inasmuch as the land had been the property of the Turkish government, it was confiscated just as other government property had been annexed.

   Mr. Justice De Freitas and Judge Ali Hasnah, the two judges who were the Court in this case, ruled that the action of the Medjlis Idara (the Haifa Administrative Council during the Turkish regime) was illegal since it had no right to register Mrs. Templeton's land in the name of the Turkish Government.

   The Court directs, concludes the decision, that the Turkish entry be cancelled and that the disputed land be registered as the property of the plaintiff.  A copy of the decision has been sent to the High Commissioner and the counsel for Mrs. Templeton.  The right to appeal has been granted to the Government.

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