Armory v Delamirie

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Armory v Delamirie
Auguste de Chatillon - Le Petit Ramoneur.jpg
CourtCourt of King's Bench
Decided31 July 1722
Citation(s)(1722) 1 Strange 505, 93 ER 664
Court membership
Judge(s) sittingSir John Pratt CJ

Armory v Delamirie [1722] EWHC J94, (1722) 1 Strange 505, is a famous English case on personal property law and finder's rights. It is one of the first cases that established possession as a valuable property right and as evidence of ownership. The defendant in the case was Paul de Lamerie, a great producer of silverworks in the 18th century.[1] His name was misspelled by the court reporter.


Armory was a chimney sweep's boy who found a jewel in the setting of a ring. He took the jewel to the shop of Delamirie, a goldsmith, to obtain a valuation of the item. An apprentice, the agent of Delamirie, surreptitiously removed the gems from the setting on the pretense of weighing it. The apprentice returned with the empty setting and informed Armory that it was worth three halfpence. The apprentice offered to pay him for it but Armory refused and asked the apprentice to return the stones and setting in their prior condition. The apprentice returned the socket of the jewel without the gems. Armory brought an action against Delamirie in trover (via respondeat superior for the actions of his apprentice).

The issue before the court was whether either party had any property rights to the jewel.


The Court held that both Armory and Delamirie had property rights in the jewel, even though neither was the true owner. Sir John Pratt CJ held they each have a right to possession that is enforceable against everyone except those with a greater right to the possession. The true owner of the jewel was not relevant, the Court was only concerned with who had a better right to possession. The priority of rights to possession say that a finder has better title to property that he or she finds over everyone except the true owner, thus Armory had full title to the jewel. The Court found in favour of Armory. Since the jewel was not produced at the trial, Armory was awarded the maximum value that a jewel of that form could have (under the principle that a wrongdoer should not be able to derive gain, i.e. uncertainty of damages, from the effects of his wrongdoing).

The report shows the following text:


Armory v Delamirie inspired A. M. Watson’s literary fiction novel Infants of the Brush: A Chimney Sweep’s Story, which focuses on the life of the chimney sweep’s boy who found the jewel.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Property 7th Edition by Dikeminier
  2. ^ A servant to a pawn-broker took in goods, and the party came and tendered the money to the servant, who said he had lost the goods. Upon this, action of trover was brought against the master; and the question was, whether it would lie or not? Holt CJ "The action well lies in this case: If the servants of A. with his cart run against another cart, wherein is a pipe of wine, and overturn the cart and spoil the wine, an action lieth against A. So where a carter's servant runs his cart over a boy, action lies against the master for the damage done by this negligence: and so it is if a smith's man pricks a horse in shoeing, the master is liable. For whoever employs another, is answerable for him, and undertakes for his care to all that make use of him. The act of a servant is the act of his master, where he acts by authority of the master.
  3. ^ At Guildhall, Eyre CJ, A goldsmith's apprentice sold an ingot of gold and silver upon a special warranty that it was of the same value per ounce with an essay then shewn. Upon the evidence it appeared he had forged the essay, and that the ingot was made out of a lodger's plate, which he had stolen. And the Chief Justice held the master was answerable in this case, Strange pro def'.

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