Herne Bay Steam Boat Co v Hutton [1903]

Herne Bay Steam Boat Co v Hutton [1903] 2 KB 633 is a case in English contract law that addresses the issue of frustration of contract when the cancellation of an event occurs. The key principle established in this case is that the cancellation of an event, for which the contract was made, does not frustrate the contract if the contract is not unique to that specific event.

The defendant had hired a vessel from the claimant for the purpose of viewing a naval review. However, when the naval review was canceled, the defendant refused to pay the balance for the vessel's hire. The claimant then sued the defendant for the payment of the balance, and the defendant argued that the contract had been frustrated due to the cancellation of the naval review.

The Court of Appeal held that the defendant was in breach of the contract, and therefore, the claimant was entitled to damages. The contract was not terminated by frustration. Romer LJ emphasised that the ship hired had no particular connection or uniqueness tied to the naval review. Any other ship could have served the same purpose. The purpose of hiring the ship did not form the subject matter or essence of the contract. Additionally, the defendant noted that the purpose of the hiring was a concern only for the hirers, not the owners of the ship.

This case is distinguished from Krell v Henry [1903] on the basis that, in Herne Bay Steam Boat Co v Hutton, any ship could be hired to view the naval review. In Krell v Henry, the rented room was unique and chosen specifically for its special view.

It is important to take note of a parallel analogy drawn from Krell v Henry, where Vaughan Williams LJ used the example of hiring a cab for the purpose of going to the Epsom Derby, and if the derby was canceled, the contract would be frustrated. Similarly, in Herne Bay Steam Boat Co v Hutton, it is highlighted that the ship's purpose was not integral to the essence of the contract, making it distinguishable from situations where the uniqueness of the subject matter is crucial to the contract's fulfilment.
Back to blog
UOL Case Bank

UOL Case Bank

Upon joining, you become a valuable UOL student and gain instant access to over 2,100 case summaries. UOL Case Bank is constantly expanding. Speed up your revision with us now.

Subscribe Now

Where are our students from?

Yale University
Council of Europe
Baker Mckenzie 
University of Chicago
Columbia University
New York University
University of Michigan 
University College London (UCL)
London School of Economics (LSE)
King’s College London (KCL)
University of London
University of Manchester
University of Zurich
University of York
Brandeis University
University of Exeter
University of Sheffield
Boston University
University of Washington
University of Leeds
University of Law
Royal Holloway, University of London 
Birkbeck, University of London
SOAS, University of London
University of Kent
University of Hull
Queen’s University Belfast
Toronto Metropolitan University
Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
University of Buckingham

  • Criminal Practice

    Diagrams and Charts

    Our carefully designed diagrams and charts will guide you through complex legal issues.

  • Criminal Law

    Clear and Succinct Definitions

    Key concepts are concisely defined to help you understand legal topics quickly.

  • Property Law

    Statutory Provisions

    Statutory provisions are provided side by side with legal concepts to help you swiftly locate the relevant legislation.

  • Public Law

    Case Summaries

    We have summarised important cases for you so that you don't need to read long and boring cases.

  • Evidence

    Rules and Exceptions

    Rules and exceptions are clearly listed so that you know when a rule applies and when it doesn't.

  • Company Law


    Legal terms and key concepts are explained at the beginning of each chapter to help you learn efficiently.

  • Case Law

    Case law is provided side by side with legal concepts so that you know how legal principles and precedents were established.

  • Law Exam Guide

    Law Essay Guide

    You will learn essential law exam skills and essay writing techniques that are not taught in class.

  • Law Exam Guide

    Problem Question Guide

    We will show you how to answer problem questions step by step to achieve first-class results.

  • Conflict of Laws

    Structured Explanations

    Complex legal concepts are broken down into concise and digestible bullet point explanations.

  • Legal System and Method

    Legal Research

    You will learn legal research techniques with our study guide and become a proficient legal researcher.

  • Jurisprudence and Legal Theory


    All essential concepts, principles, and case law are included so that you can answer exam questions quickly.