The spiritual home of Wednesbury Unreasonableness is for sale

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By Alex Aldridge on

West Midlands cinema at heart of Provincial Picture Houses Ltd v Wednesbury Corp goes on the market


Rare is the law graduate who is unable to vaguely recall the 1947 case of Provincial Picture Houses Ltd v Wednesbury Corp, where a cinema went head-to-head with a local body over a condition imposed by the latter preventing children under 15 being admitted to watch films on a Sunday.

The hotly contested dispute was ultimately resolved in favour of the Wednesbury Corporation, with the Court of Appeal holding that it could not intervene to overturn the condition simply because it disagreed with it, before proceeding to lay down a rule for future similar disputes. For the court to have the right to intervene, the behaviour of the public body would have to meet the criteria for — drum roll — Wednesbury Unreasonableness: the three-limbed definition of which has since been etched annually onto thousands of law students’ souls.

However, while Wednesbury Unreasonableness hit the big time, the cinema which featured in the case has endured a difficult half a century or so. In 1964 it had its name changed from ‘Gaumont’ to plain old ‘Odeon’ after being taken over by the well-known chain. Later it would suffer the ignominy of becoming a bingo hall, before lapsing into dereliction.

But better times could be on the horizon after the building was recently put up for sale — hat tip to eagle-eyed Wolverhampton University legal academic Richard Glover for alerting us to this exciting news.

With the cinema-turned-bingo-hall boasting the potential to become a Mecca for public lawyers around the Common Law world, 115 Walsall Street could prove a shrewd purchase for someone with the resources and marketing savvy to re-position it as a global attraction.

What’s more, the price — £425,000 — is lower than many Kensington broom cupboards. Law firm equity partners and top QCs, what’s stopping you? For your convenience, here are some directions.