ancient lights

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ancient lights pl (plural only)

  1. (law) The right, based in English common law, of a property owner to retain an accustomed, unobstructed view and satisfactory illumination from his or her window(s), restricting nearby construction that would obstruct such a view or such illumination; the window(s) providing such an accustomed view or satisfactory illumination.
    • 1723, William Bohun, Privilegia Londini: Or, The Rights, Liberties, Privileges, Laws, and Customs, of the City of London, 3rd ed., p. 103 (Google preview):
      It was reſolved by the Opinion of the aforeſaid Judges, That the Cuſtom of London will not enable a Man to erect a new Houſe upon a void Space of Ground, whereby the ancient Lights of an old Houſe are ſtopp'd up.
    • 1823, Sir William Blackstone (author), Vincent Wanostroch (editor), The British Constitution, or an Epitome of Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England, for the Use of Schools, p. 403 (Google preview):
      If a house or wall is erected so near to mine that it stops my ancient lights, which is a private nuisance, I may enter my neighbour's land, and peaceably pull it down.
    • 1900, Jerome K. Jerome, chapter 9, in Three Men on the Bummel:
      At home he might hang himself out of window, and nobody would mind much, provided he did not obstruct anybody's ancient lights or break away and injure any passer underneath.
    • 1982 July 10, "Landmark Decision on Sun Access," New York Times (retrieved 5 Feb 2014):
      Writing the majority decision, Judge Shirley S. Abrahamson noted that the English common law "doctrine of ancient lights" entitled a landowner to an unobstructed access to sunlight across an adjoining property if the landowner had already enjoyed the privilege for some time.
    • 2013 Feb. 26, Mary Dejevksy, "Don’t let the developers take your last civil right–the right to light," The Independent (UK) (retrieved 6 Feb 2014):
      Those who have successfully claimed the right to “ancient lights” down the years, understood this in a way today’s development-hungry councils do not.