Though this transcript of the Skegness Sands Case Trial may be quite laborious to read, (but no more so than typing it up!) it contains much valuable information about the early days in Skegness, provided by some of the witnesses.
The Skegness Sands Case
The Earl of Scarbrough v Walter Overton
A Special Jury Empaneled
This was an action for trespass brought by the Right Hon the Earl of Scarbrough against Walter Overton, and heard at the Lincolnshire Assizes, before Mr. Justice Day on Monday last.
The real question at issue was whether the noble earl had the right to the shore at Skegness above high water mark.
For some years past the sea has gradually receded at Skegness, and since the railway has been brought in here and the town grown in size it has become a popular seaside resort, and is visited be some three hundred thousand persons annually.
Each season there are various amusements on the sands, such as merry-go-rounds, aunt sallies, cocoa-nut shying, etc. Two or three years ago the Earl of Scarbrough asserted, what he claimed, his right to this shore on the land as the owner of the property in front of the same, and made a small charge for booths etc above high water mark, and among them was the defendant in this action who maintained that the shore belonged to the public.
Hence the present action.
Mr. Graham and Mr. Stewart Moore (instructed by Messers. R. H. Few & Co., solicitors, Surrey Street, London) were council for the plaintiff, and Mr. H. V. Stanger (instructed by Messers. Thimbleby & Son, solicitors, Spilsby) was for the defendant.
Mr. Stewart Moore opened the pleadings, which stated that the plaintiff sued the defendant for trespassing on land between the South Parade and high water mark at Skegness by placing a cocoa-nut sheet there; that the defendant denied that the plaintiff was the owner of the land, that the land had been dedicated to the public, that from time immemorial the inhabitants of Skegness had used the seashore, and that he claimed his right to do so, but in this the plaintiff joined issue.
Mr. Graham, in his opening address, said that this action was brought by the Earl of Scarbrough who was the owner of a considerable estate in Skegness, against the defendant who was the proprietor of one of those entertainments, which probably had delighted many present in their younger days, commonly known as cocoa-nut shying, and which were set up at fairs for the purpose of knocking down cocoa-nuts. The real object of the action was to establish Lord Scarbrough’s right to regulate the persons, who from time to time, and especially at holiday times when excursion trains were running to Skegness from London, the north of England, and the Midlands, occupied the sands in front of the Parade with matters of this description – round-abouts, stalls, cocoa-nut sheets, and things of that sort.
Skegness was a very ancient village, but it had only comparatively recently become known what, in the ordinary acceptance of the term, was a watering-place for the convenience of persons who came to lodge there or spend their holidays by the sea. Formerly the sea frontage there consisted of sand hills which were probably familiar to many of them. This part of Lincolnshire coast belonged to his client being left to him by he predecessor in title, and was part of a farm which from generation to generation had been let to the family of Everington. The present tenant would be called before them if necessary as a witness in this case.
In 1871 the late Lord Scarbrough determined to develop this land as a building site and make Skegness a seaside resort , and arrangements were made between him and his tenant to give up frontage to the sea for the purpose of carrying out the development scheme. Lord Scarbrough proceeded to do what every building owner had to do in the first instance, laying out the land in streets, and marking off plots for building purposes between the thoroughfares. The learned counsel then proceeded to explain what had been done, the laying out of the Lumley Road, the North and South Parades. Previously, he said a small coal trade was carried on where the Pleasure Gardens now stood, and vessels used to bring the coal to Skegness. The houses on the Parades now stood on what used to be the sand hills, and which were occupied by Mr. Everington, who used them more as a rabbit warren more than anything else.
After the houses on the Parades were erected the Earl of Scarbrough proceeded to lay out in front of them, two Marine Gardens as shown on the ordinance map, and plans proceeded. These were laid out partly for the purpose of providing a fund to keep them in proper order, and also making them more select than other portions of the beach for visitors who liked to pay a penny for going into them. These gardens were formed between the parades and high water mark. Some years ago when the farm was let to Mr. Everington’s predecessor there was no regulation on the sands simply because there was none required.
The sea at high tides had washed up to the sand hills where the houses now stood, but by a gradual process of accretion or sand drifting which had been going on for many years along that portion of the coast, the sea had gradually and almost imperceptibly receded during the last forty of fifty years and now there was a considerable acreage of sand between the parades and the sea. Since the present Mr. Everington was first connected with the farm it had considerably receded from the North and South Paraded which were, in fact, the edge of the sand hills. It was this acreage of sand which was now in dispute, the defendant claiming the right to erect any kind of building upon it without the permission of Lord Scarbrough, or to otherwise act with as he pleased.
He did not propose to trouble them with reading or referring to authorities on this subject because when principles were well settled that when a person had land fronting the sea the beach above high water mark belonged to him when there was no sudden conversion of nature, and when it was gained by a gradual process of accretion, the blowing up of sand or the silting up of ooze. As the sea receded the acreage of sand increased, and was what he called accreted land, and became the property of the frontager. He did not suppose that this point would be contested by his learned friend, and he was sure that his lordship would direct them that this was the present position of the law.
Lord Scarbrough being the owner of these sands in this manner he had made a good road from the Lumley Road down to high water mark so that people might get down to the beach with vehicles, to the bathing machines etc. As the place became more popular more people came, and the donkeys and ponies commenced, and all those things that tended to amusement were a good deal need there. It was really the suggestion of some visitors that there should be some shelters provided for the animals, which led to the two sheds being erected on the beach by Lord Scarbrough for that purpose. A fee of one shilling per year was charged for each animal for the privilege of using the sheds. A ship was driven ashore on the beach some years ago and was thrown up by an exceptionally high tide on to the portion of land described on the plan. She had not been broken up, being an old ship, and not worth the [trouble] of [putting] her off aging she had remained there ever since – a number of years and had been utilised by the person who bought her as a sort of place for refreshments, and there people would go and get tea or anything of that sort. Half-a-crown a year had been paid to Lord Scarbrough as owner of the soil for permitting the ship to remain there and to be used in that way. Various other acts of ownership, and more than they usually found in such cases, had been extended over this land by the agent of the Earl of Scarbrough. Previous to 1878 he believed there was nothing going on on the sands as there had been latterly, but when the buildings began to be erected about the summer of that year, and the railway was brought into the place and began to bring in excursionists, gave an impetus to the prosperity of the now popular watering-place.
Two or three years ago two booths were erected, one on the other side of the new road made to the beach, and as the owners declined to pay acknowledgements for them, they were taken down by Lord Scarbrough’s agent and removed, and after that Mr. Tippet, his lordship’s agent, met with little other trouble. Some who erected stalls there paid the small acknowledgement and their erections were allowed to remain, but others who did not come to be ruled by Lord Scarbrough’s agent placed their stalls and sheds below high water mark, over which his lordship claimed no jurisdiction. Things remained in that condition, and nobody disputed Lord Scarbrough’s right to that property down to the year 1891.
In that year, however, there was an exceptionally high tide, and the result was that those people who had erected their sheds and stalls, and things of that sort, below high water mark, were flooded out, and no doubt some damage was done to their property. They then held a meeting on the shore. Some advice was taken, legal or otherwise, by some person, and they announced to Lord Scarbrough’s agent that they were advised that they were entitled to property of this nature, and to any portion of the land between high water mark and the road that they thought fit.
The learned counsel then produced a photograph of the sands, stalls etc, at that time, and proceeded to say that these people then started putting up the various stalls, booths, merry-go-rounds, etc, which were shown on the photograph, on the land claimed by his client. Some of those sheds were so large that they actually obstructed the view from the houses of the plaintiff’s tenants on the parades, so that visitors in some of those houses were absolutely debarred from having a view of the sea from the lower windows. Besides that, in some of those refreshment sheds the people actually lived there – he would not go into details – without any sanitary arrangements of any sort of kind.
Mr Stanger: Before my learned friend goes any further I may call your lordship’s attention to the fact that my client is only proceeded against respecting the cocoa-nut sheet. Therefore is it relevant?
The Judge: It will take up time it is perfectly clear, but whether it is relevant or not is another matter. Mr. Graham is showing that sometime or other there is something in the nature of a public nuisance.
Mr. Stanger: If he is complaining of this we are not responsible for it
The Judge: It has nothing to do with cocoa-nut sheets.
Mr Graham continuing said he did not desire to dwell upon that point. In the first place he would say that he was within his rights, because those people were all acting in concert, and the defendant was put forward as the first to start this matter in order that proceedings might be taken. The defendant supposed that he had the right to go on this land, and Lord Scarbrough desired it to be known that this action was not brought in any oppressive spirit on his part, but simply because it was absolutely a nuisance to his tenants and an injury to his property. And if Lord Scarbrough did not take steps to vindicate his rights he would damage those who were living in his houses.
Mr. Stanger: I think my learned friend should stand to the cocoa-nut sheet.
The Judge: I agree with you.
Mr. Graham thought there was only one other question. It had been intimated that the proprietor of the cocoa-nut sheet was the only man they were fighting – he was the only one they could look to for the cost of these proceedings – but he thought there was a man at the back, the lord of the adjoining manor, who was wanting to raise the question as to the ownership of this portion of land. That matter was dealt with so long ago as the reign of Queen Elizabeth, and if Mr. Mundy wished to raise this question Lord Scarbrough was prepared to meet him, if he (Mr. Mundy) would come here and make himself responsible for the cost if he failed, but he (Mr. Graham) did not intend going into an issue of that sort when they were dealing with a simple trespasser. The law was settled on that point. The sole question the jury had to try was – was this the property of Lord Scarbrough, in the sense that he was in possession of the front land, and all the accretions to it, and exercising those acts of ownership upon it; and if he were, then could defendant show any right in himself to keep an occupy a portion of the beach, and to work that cocoa-nut shy between the road and the high water mark?
The Judge: Does the defendant justify?
Mr. Graham said he might state that notice had been given to defendant, and in reply to interrogatories he (defendant) had admitted that Lord Scarbrough had erected the houses along the front, that he had enclosed the two gardens in front of the parades, on a portion of the sands and that they were kept enclosed and a charge of one penny made for admission, that he (defendant) had erected and maintained this cocoa-nut sheet between the Marine Gardens and the ordinary high water mark, and upon these admissions which could not be continued here, he contended that his client (the Earl of Scarbrough) was entitled to judgement. He did not know what the defence was, but the only defence suggested was that this land did not belong to his client. If this point was contested he should contend that this land was accreted land in the way he had described, by the accretion going on for about forty years. If he had established this fact it would be clear that the land belonged to his client. Then the only other defence was this, that from time immemorial the inhabitants of Skegness and the public at large had had a free and uninterrupted highway over the whole of the shore, including that portion where the defendant erected his cocoa-nut sheet, and the defendant maintained that he was entitled by custom, and by prescription to use the seashore in the manner he had been doing. In point of law “time immemorial” meant from the time of Richard I, and the suggestion must therefore be that from that time cocoa-nut sheets had existed on Skegness beach when, as they knew, that Skegness was a seaside town started only in 1878. He believed that on the admission of the defendant this was absolutely an undefended action. Those people seemed to desire to have the question decided, and it was well that it should be decided so that everybody might know what was the law upon the subject. So far as the facts were concerned they had all been supplied. This was purely a question of law and perhaps it would be convenient that his lordship should bear what his learned friend, Mr. Stanger, had to say on that point now, as he had a large number of witnesses to call if necessary. He submitted that the land had been a gradual accretion the way he had described.
Mr. Stanger said he would deal with the admission of facts first. The first was with reference to an old sandbank, that it was levelled down by plaintiff’s father, and that it had been let on leases to various persons and houses erected thereon. He admitted that the embankments on the North and South Parades were made by Lord Scarbrough or his father. He would say that the land had accreted before the parades were laid out, and whatever rights thee plaintiff had he had obtained by adverse possession.
The Judge: Wrongly?
Mr. Stanger: Wrongly, in the way that it was for the good of the neighbourhood and no one disputed it.
The Judge: Then he has got it with all rights ancidental to it.
Mr Stanger: He would have whatever rights an owner has. The old of first owners had a right to this land.
The Judge: If a person acquires adverse possession he also acquires the rights which the other one had to the accreted rights.
Mr. Stanger: I think whatever rights the former owner had the plaintiff has had.
The Judge: The former owner would have the right to accretion.
Mr Stanger: That, my Lord, I do not admit.
The Judge: I suppose the accretion is made for the benefit of the owner of the land immediately behind it.
Mr Stanger: It comes to him.
The Judge: Every grain of sand down to high water amrk goes to the frontager, and he who acquires the frontage acquires the grains of sand, I am assuming that there are accretions.
Mr Stanger: If the sand on which th cocoa-nut sheet was erected was an accretion it would have passed to a former owner and then to the next one.The lord of the manor had exercised his rights over the seashore and had not divested himself of those rights, but had taken tolls and other matters.
The Judge: He who acquired the soil of the frontage acquires all the rights of that frontage and acquired a title to that house he surely became entitled to the land down to the high water mark.
Mr Stanger: If it is a recent accretion, but it is not sufficient for my friend to say that he has acquired this fromtage.
The Judge: Has that portion of the sand been separated from the frontage? If a man had a house in front of the sea he would not be entitled to the land down to high water mark if some one else had built a house between his property and high water mar.
Mr Stanger: If my friend can show that these accretions have never been separated from the frontage well and good.
Examination of Mr W Everington
Mr. W. Everington was then sworn an examined by Mr. Stewart Moore.
I belive you were born in 1826? Witness: Yes.
And you were a farmer at Skegness? – Yes.
I believe your family have for generations before you farmed the same farm at Skegness? – A portion of it. I farmed more largely than my predecessors.
Will you look at the plan and see if it is a correct plan of the farm you occupied there? – Yes it is.
I think you assisted your mother from the year 1844? – Yes.
How far back do you remember Skegness? – Ever since I was seven or eight years old.
What was the front towards the sea like then? – Sandhills.
And then from the sandhills to the beach? – Yes.
How did the tide go? – It came up to the sandhill.
Every tide? – A strong tide, and also a middle tide.
Has the tide receded? – Very much, and the shore is changed.
It was sandhills all along the front, and also where the parades now stand? – Yes, the parades are on the sandhills.
Now the Marine Gardens which have been laid out, are they on what was formerly the beach or the sandhill? They were laid out on a portion of the beach.
Did the tide come up to where they are now? – Yes.
Would they have been under water at high tide if the tide had come up so far as it used to do when you were a boy? – Yes.
This going back of the tide has been gradual? – Yes.
And more particularly since the new sea wall was built some years ago and when gravel and shingle were taken from the beach? – Whether it may be attributed to that or not I cannot say; but since the pier and sea walls were built there has been more receding of the sea.
I belive you and your predecessors used to carry on a coal trade? – Yes.
And you stored your coal where? – Where the Pleasure Gardens now stands.
How did your coals arrive? – By ship.
Did the ship come ashore on the beach? – Yes, and we carried the coals from it to the yard.
How many years were you carrying on that trade? – I think until 1864.
How many years altogether? – My mother carried it on for many years, and my father previously.
Were you called upon to pay any dues? – Never.
Were your father or mother? – My fatjer, I believe, did pay at one time, but he afterwards received a claim for £38 and resisted it. He was told that he was not bound to pay it, and he took counsel’s opinion theron and never paid it.
The sandhills were a part of your farm? – Yes.
What use did you make of them? – I stocked them with sheep or horses.
Did the sheep and beasts pasture over them? – Yes.
Did the beasts go down to the seaside? – Yes, down to low water mark sometimes.
Did you keep any rabbits there? – Yes.
Did you stock the hills with rabbits? – I did. In 1868 I had a fresh supply of rabbits and put them there.
You paid rent for the sandhills to Lord Scarbrough’s agent? – Yes.
You have live at Skegness until recently? – Yes, until 1884.
When did visitors begin to arrive here in any numbers? – Soon after the railway came here in 1873, and there was no accommodation for them then.
The booths and stalls on the beach have began to increase very rapidly latelt? – Yes, they have.
When did you first know of any shows or booths coming here? – Soon after Skegness began to be developed.
Cross-examined by Mr Stanger:
The sandhills were let to me and included in the acreage.
Did you pay less rent when you gave up the sandhills? – Yes, I believe I did.
Is it not a fact that nobody wanted the sandhills? – I gave them all up.
When were the Marine Gardens laid out? – Not many years ago.
You say there was a claim made for coal dues. Was that made by the lord of the manor? – I don’t know. Mr Mundy, I heard, was the lord of the manor of Ingoldmells.
Have you been in Skegness for the last twenty years? – Yes.
Do not the extraordinary high tides come up to the parades now? – Yes an extraordinary high tide, and it must be an extraordinary high tide to come up to the parades.
Do the tides now occasionally come up to the parades? – I should say it has done so within the last four or fivr years. I cannot tell you exactly.
Re-examined by Mr Graham:
I paid three shillings and sixpence an acre for the sandhills, and when I gave them up my rent was reduced.
Examination of Mr. H. V. Tipett
Mr. H. V. Tipett, agent to the Earl of Scarbrough, was next examined by Mr. Graham.
You live at Skegness and you are Lord Scarbrough’s agent? – Yes.
I believe in 1861 you were assistant agent, and in 1867 you became agent for all Lord Scarbrough’s estates? – Yes.
At that time you were not living at Skegness? – I was not.
Did you go there from time to time to look after the estate? – Yes.
I may take it that you have know Skegness since 1861? – Yes.
In 1882 did you go to Skegness to reside? – I did.
Where should you say the medium high water mark was in 1867? – I should say half way between the parades and the present high water mark.
I believe you have had some posts put down to mark the present high water medium? – Yes.
Does the line on the plan, and taken from the ordinance map, show the high water mark now? – Yes, the ordinary medium tide.
In 1873 the railway came to Skegness? – Yes.
In 1875 did you prepare plans for the laying out of land for building purposes? – Yes.
You first made the North and South Parades? – Lumley Road first, and the North and South Parades immediately after.
The Lumley Road pullover used to come over the sandhills? – Yes.
The first thing you did was level it? – Yes.
And you made on the North and South Parades ordinary roads and footpaths as in seaside places and put seats there? – Yes.
And those roads have since been repaires, cleansed and maintained by Lord Scarbrough? – They have.
After these roads were made on the front did you let off the sandhills at the back of them for building purposes? – Yes, on a 99 years lease.
And you collect ground rents on the various houses erected there? – Yes.
I believe a tramway [see photo above] was erected alongside the roadway for the convenience of people going down to the sea? – Yes.
Did the persons who laid that tramway pay you, as the representitve of Lord Scarbrough, rent for the same? – Yes, five shillings a year. There were two of them.
I believe after you completed the road the tramway was no longer necessary? – No, it was not.
When did you make the road to the beach? – I commenced it in 1891 and continued it in 1892.
Two portions of the land in front of the sandhills have been enclosed to form these north and south Marine Gardens? – Yes.
When was that work done? – It was commenced in 1887, and it was three years before it was finally completed.
Have you since laid out these gardens? – Yes. Turf has been placed on them, a beautiful tennis ground made, and walks made round the gardens. I charge one penny admission for people who like to use them.
On the sides of the road leading to the beach two sheds are shown on the plan. When were they erected? – They were erected in the spring of 1891.
And they are used, I believe, for ponies and donkeys? – They are shelters for ponies and donkeys, and I charge one shilling per head per year for the use of them.
When did the old ship come ashore there? – I cannot tell you exactly. I should think about 1884 or 1885.
And it has since been maintained as a sort of refreshment place? – Yes or something if that sort.
Have you been paid for the ship lying there? – Yes.
How much? – Two shillings and sixpence a year.
In 1875 I believe, some houses had been erected in Skegness, and were two sheds put up for refreshment? – Yea, two booths were erected, one on each side of the pullover, on the accreted land outside the sandhills.
Did you call upon the owners to remove them? – Yes.
Did they do so? – They at first refused to do so, and we served a legal notice upon them. One of them reconsidered the matter and removed it, and the other I had a gang of men to knock down and remove.
After that did you allow similar booths to be set up from time to time on those sands? – There were some few things put up after that.
Did the people erect their stalls etc where they were directed to do so? – There was no supervision, there were so few of them.
Did they put their booths and things below high water mark? – Yes, but that was later on when the railway was here and the visitors began to increase. They were put down below high water mark in 1891.
Was it in 1891 when the tide came up and flooded the booths? – Tes.
I beliebe there was a dispute about the matter, a meeting was held, and they claimed the right to place their booths etc above high water mark? – Yes.
Where did the degendant erect his cocoa-nut sheet? – A little higher up than where the old ship and the donkey shed and close to the south side of the new road.
You have had a great many complaints about those things being erected there? – A very great number, especially from the visitors who go there with their families. They consider it a great nuisance.
You have had some posts put up to show exactly where high water mark is? – Yes, in the spring of 1891, and it is in accordance with the ordinance survey.
And these posts show the medium high water mark now? – Yesd.
And after these were put up the defendant and others came and erected their sheds etc? – Yes.
You have seen what has been going on here since 1861; has the sea been gradually receding during all that time? – Yes.
Is it, in your judgement, caused by the blowing up of the sand? – Yes, and there is a marked difference from one year to another in the silting up of the sand.
How long is it since those bushes were put down to prevent the sand blowing up on the parades? – We put down some every year, and shift them from time to time.
Were you the agent when the arrangements were made with the last witness for taking the farm? And was any special sum agreed upon for the sandhills? – Yes, the sandhills have been let since I can remember at three shillings and sixpence an acre, and Mr Everington fed his stock on them and shot rabbits on them.
Have you ever had any dispute respecting these sandhills? – I have not.
When Mr Everington gave up the sandhills and other portions of his land you reduced the rent? – Yes.
From how many people have you received acknowledgements for various things put on the beach? In the first place do the bathing-machine proprietors pay? – Yes, those who use the sands above high water mark.
Have you also been paid acknowledgement by people who keep booths and things of that sort on the beach? – Yes.
About how many persons were paying when this dispute arose? – Twenty-two, as shown in the list I now produce.
Cross-examined by Mr. Stanger
Some paid and some did not? – Yes.
When Mr Everington gave up the sandhills he gave up the other land? – Yes.
Up to what time do you know about the payment of three shillings and sixpence an acre for the sandhills? – Since 1881.
With reference to the tides, they are often high? – Yes. Sometimes they are more than ordinarily high.
Do they then cover the whole of the Marine Gardens? – They have done. I have seen them covered but it has been by an extraordinarily high tide.
How far from the Masrine Gardens was the defendant’s cocoa-nut sheet? – I have not measured it.
Have you measured it from the parade? – No.
Mr Graham: It would be about fifty yards from the Marine Gardens.
Witness: That is somewhere about it.
Mr Stanger: That will be about one hundred yards from the parade? Witness: Yes.
Now is not that spot where the cocoa-nut sheet stood frequently covered with the tide? – Oh, dear no.
As to those posts, you put them a good deal below the cocoa-nut sheet? – The posts are put exactly in a line with the medium high water mark.
How do you take the ordinary tide? – I took it from the ordinance survey.
Mr Graham said that defendant admitted that the posts were placed at the ordinary high water mark. It was in his first answer to the interrogatories.
The Judge: If that is admitted we need not go into the question.
Mr Stanger said there was just one other question.
What was called the new road on the plan, did that take the place of one where there was an old parish road running down to the beach? – Witness: No.
Was there not a road there? – No, nothing but loose sand, and there never had been a road there until it was made by Lord Scarbrough.
On the place where the tramway ran, was there no road? – None whatever.
Did the road break off at the pull-over? Yes. There was no difference between that and the rest of the sand.
When was that road laid? – In the spring of 1991. There was no road there before then.
Examination of William Grunnill
William Grunnill examined by Mr Stewart.
This witness appeared in the witness box wearing the medal he had been presented with for saving life at sea.
Mr Stewart: I believe you are 78 years of age? – Witness: I am.
I have to compliment you with the order you wear. I believe it is a medal for saving life at sea? – Yes, I have been a fisherman all my life on the Lincolnshire and south coast. I was born at Skegness, and have never been out of the place above four months.
When you were young where did the ordinary tides come up? – A great deal higher than they do now. It is receding now.
Did they come up to the sandhills? – Yes, and into the marshes beyond.
But those were extraordinary tides? – Yes.
Take a medium tide, where did it go near? – Up to the hills where the green herbage was.
Was that Mr Everington’s farm then? – Yes.
The present Mr Everington’s father, I suppose? – Yes.
You say the sea has been receding. Has it been receding many years? – It has been going back for forty years.
Gradually year by year? – Yes.
You know Mr Everington? – Yes, and knew his father, and he used to feed cattle on these hills and there were rabbits there.
You did not go poaching, I hope? – No, but I would like to get one if I could. (Laughter)
Do you recollect a baot that used to stand in the old street at Skegness? – Yes, it was put up for shade for people to sit in.
Did the tide come up to that boat? – Yes, the tides came up both sides of it , and people used to sit in it with water around them. It stood near Mr Everington’s caol yard.
Did they ever remove it? – Yes.
Why was that? – Because they wanted to get it neared the sea when the sea was receding. I remember is being removed once or twice.
It was called Mrs Hildred’s boat, was it not? – Yes.
Cross-examined by Mr Stanger –
These sandhills were better for rabbits than for cattle? – Yes, there were plenty of rabbits there.
Do you know where the defendant’s cocoa-nut sheet stood? – No.
Do you remember the gargens being laid out? – I cannot say anything about them.
Does the tide come up to the Marine Gardens now? – It must be a very high tide to do so.
Have you know people pay tolls for their coal? – No, I have never known anybody pay a ha’penny.
Not yet for cocoa-nut shhets or booths? – No. We used to put our boats and fishing gear by those sandhills, and was never interrupted by anybody. We reckoned that we had toleration to do that, We considered that the land on the foreshore down to the high water mark belonged to the crown.
Re-examined by Mr Graham –
You have had nothing to do with the booths or anything on the sands? – No.
When did you first see anything of this sort of amusements on the sands? – Not before the railway came.
Mr Graham said he had a large number of witnesses as to the accretion, but as there was no question as to that, this would be his case.
Mr Stanger said he did not intend to call any witnesses.
Mr Graham said the evidence he had adduced was not contradicted, and therefore it was un-necessary for him to say anything more.
Mr Stanger then addressed the jury in behalf of the defendant. He remarked that they had heard from his learned friend that Lord Scarbrough claimed and exercised rights as the owner as far as and including those sand banks, and for which Lord Scarbrough’s agent said that Mr Everington paid three shillings and sixpence an acre. He had no evidence to contradict the latter statement. He would not say that the law did not give Lord Scarbrough the right to retain those sandhills which he had laid out, but it had not been suggested by his learned friend that he could claim any of the land beyond except by the doctrine of accretions. There had been no sale, no grant from the Crown but if the right of accretion gave it to him then he was entitled to it. Some few years ago he advanced sp far as the sand banks on the parades. Nothing further was done until 1887 when he advanced still further by laying out the Marine Gardens in front of the parades. He would not admit that Lord Scarbrough had acquired any title to the sands by adverse possession, but by accretion. It appeared that the sea was receding but the tide came up at times to the Marine Gardens, fifty yards beyond where the defendant’s cocoa-nut sheet was fixed. Lord Scarbrough said that the doctrine of accretion had given him those rights, and that he was going to use them with toleration and in the interest of the public. Yet he claimed to be absolute owner, to have the right to turn people off, and the right to claim tolls from people having booths there. But had the doctrine of accretions given him the right to exercise absolute ownership over the sands?
He maintained that it had not.
He had a right to the North Parade and the South Parade, and a right it might be to the Marine Gardens, but not to the place where the cocoa-nut sheet had been placed.
Mr Justice Day, then summed up. He said:
Gentleman of the jury, this is a very simple case. Lord Scarbrough is the frontager here of this part of the foreshore. He is also the owner of the land, I understand, if there is any, in front of it, the road. He has also laid out these Marine Gardens, and he is in every sense of the word, the frontager. It is true he has not held and occupied the Marine Gardens and had possession of them, in the sense of occupying them, for the last seven years, but the law of accretion, it may be that they are his. If that land came to him by accretion he had a right to enclose that particular part. It has accreted: and as owner of the sandhills, it may be that this land has accreted to him.
If one landlord, or landowner, on one part of the coast gains by accretion another landlord, or landowner, on another part of the coast loses by it. In one place the sea advances and in another the sea recedes. The law holds that whatever comes by accretion, that is, by slow, steady, action of the sea, belongs to the person to whom it accretes. It is a very reasonable provision of the law and one that is good common sense. It appears to be a very reasonable provision that this land should have accreted to this frontager; and if that is so, this frontager would be, therefore, entitled to keep other people off that land. I should think, after what we have heard of this place, and the nuisance thus caused on the frontage, that Lord Scarbrough is not to be looked upon as a despot or tyrant in seeking to enforce his rights; and, for the benefit of every person who resided in the neighbourhood, keeping the accreted portions of this land in reputable order; and if he does bring this action against the person who keeps this “sheet” and something else – cocoa-nut amusements or games, there – I only say that I should think he is acting in the interest of everybody who has to do with Skegness, or who has any interest in it. It seems to me very unfortunate that he should be provoked to enter an action against such a person, but still, he has to bring the action and it is for you to say whether he has made out his claim or not. There is no ground then for impropriety in bringing the action, Gentlemen, consider your verdict.
After three minutes deliberation the jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff, with forty shillings damages, and judgement was entered accordingly.
Mr Graham asked his lordship to grant an injunction and to certify that this action was brought to try a right, and that it had a right to be tried in a superior court.
His Lordship granted the application.
Mr Stanger said he was requested by Mr Mundy to say that he never instigated the defendant in this matter and had paid nothing of defendant’s cost. He had simply assisted defendant by contributing a trifle like many other people.
This concluded the case which lasted just two hours.
The Earl of Scarbrough was present during the trial, and we may state that his lordship had about twenty-five witnesses present on his behalf. Of these, eighteen were the oldest inhabitants of Skegness and there ages totalled 1206, giving an average age of 67 years.