Bewley’s Café stained glass windows – landlord fittings or tenant fixtures?

Bewley’s Café stained glass windows – landlord fittings or tenant fixtures?


This question was recently considered by McDonald J in the Commercial Court in the case of RGRE Grafton Limited –v- Bewley’s Café Grafton Street Limited and Bewley’s Limited.  The case centred around six stained glass windows four of which were known as the “Four Orders” and two described as the “Swan Yard” works. Clearly, these are no ordinary panes of glass and they have significant artistic and monetary value.

The landlord argued that the stained glass windows formed part of the leased premises.  On that basis it was contended that the works were as a matter of law the property of the landlord.  The landlord further went to contend that the works were commissioned in the late 1920s by architects on behalf of the original owner of the building to perform the function of windows.

On the other hand, the tenant disputed the characterisation of the works as windows.  The tenant contended that the works were in fact “art works” and that they were decorative and ornamental and thus, not part of the fabric of the building.  The tenant’s contention was that those works were therefore tenant fixtures and could not be said to be the property of the landlord.  In the course of its arguments, the tenant also argued that the windows were in fact moveable and were there to enhance the decorative nature of the café.

In a 141 page judgment, McDonald J examined the law in this area.  Ultimately, he concluded as follows:-

  1. The works known as the Four Orders did form part of the building.  He indicated that they were installed in the property to form the function of windows protecting the property from the elements.  Interestingly, McDonald J pointed out that in determining if a particular item is a fixture or fitting, its artistic value does not come into the equation.
  2. The landlord had sought declaration that the windows comprised “landlord fixtures”.  McDonald J stated that this argument was misconceived.  He pointed out that where something is held to be part of a leased premises, it cannot also be a landlord fixture, given that the tenant has the benefit of it for the duration of the lease, meaning the landlord has no entitlement to remove any part of the premises subject to that lease.
  3. McDonald J did find that the tenant had succeeded in establishing that the Swan Yard works were tenant fixtures.  In coming to this conclusion, he looked at the functionality of those windows.  He looked at the fact that they were removable and sat parallel to an existing window.  The Swan Yard works were therefore more of a decorative nature intended to obscure the view through an existing window onto Swan Yard Alley.

The matter will come back before the court later in February to determine what order may need to be made by the court in the absence of the parties agreeing.

For further information on this topic, please contact Brendan Sharkey at

Brendan Sharkey
Author: Brendan Sharkey