The map so far:

Welcome to the London Law Map!

Many people think they are familiar with legal London - the Royal Courts of Justice, the Inns of Court, the Old Bailey etc. But the streets of London are also home to a huge amount of case law. Here is just a selection:

Thursday, 1 October 2015 - now accepting guest posts!

I'm out of London for the next 9 months, studying for an LLM at Harvard Law School.  If you have an idea for a guest post while I'm away, why not get in touch? 

My email is amywoolfson [at]

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Chadwick v British Transport Commission [1967] 2 All ER 945

What's the case about?
On a foggy evening in December 1957 a steam train crashed into a stationary electric train just north of Lewisham.  The steam train was thrown to the left and damaged the pillar of an overhead railway bridge, causing it to collapse.  Both trains were packed (it was estimated that they were carrying over 2000 passengers between them) and 89 people died.  This photo, from a parliamentary report into the crash, shows the extent of the carnage.

A huge rescue effort commenced and a number of local people joined in, including Mr Chadwick, who lived in a street backing on to the railway line.  Mr Chadwick spent the night pulling the injured and the dead from the wreckage.  He was a small man and at one point he crawled into a damaged carriage to give an injured passenger an injection as the doctor was too large to crawl in himself.

After the accident Mr Chadwick's mental health deteriorated.  He lost weight and was unable to sleep.   A psychiatrist diagnosed him as having suffered a "catastrophic neurosis"He died in 1962, of reasons unconnected to the crash.  Mrs Chadwick brought a claim against the train operator on behalf of her late husband.  The train operator accepted that their negligence had caused the crash but denied that they had owed a duty of care to a voluntary rescuer such as Mr Chadwick.  

Where is it on the map? 
At point b.
Who won?

Mrs Chadwick won.  The High Court held that the train operator had owed Mr Chadwick a duty of care even though he had been a voluntary rescuer, and had not suffered any physical injury. 

What's the principle of law?
The case is authority for a number of principles of law:
  • A defendant may be liable for injury caused to a person even when the person has put themselves in harm's way, where it was  reasonably foreseeable that they might try to help a rescue effort.
  • A defendant may be liable for psychiatric damage caused to a person, even when he or she is not also physically hurt.  
  • It is not possible to escape liability for psychiatric injury on grounds of remoteness where there is nothing in the claimant's personality that would make them particularly sensitive to psychiatric injury. 
What's it like today?
The collapsed bridge was replaced by a temporary structure a month after the crash.  I have not been able to substantiate the claim that the bridge in use today is in fact the 'temporary' bridge.  

A parliamentary report into the crash recommended that new, automatic, signalling be installed on the railway network.  A plaque in Lewisham station commemorates the lives lost.

This short newsreel shows the aftermath of the crash, and includes interviews with some visibly shaken members of the public who, like Mr Chadwick, had joined the rescue effort:

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Roberts v Hopwood [1925] AC 578

What's the case about?
In 1920, Poplar Borough Council resolved to pay the same rate to its lowest grade of staff, regardless of whether they were male or female.  The cost of living fell sharply in the 1921/22 financial year, but the Council continued to pay its lowest grade of staff the same rate.  The district auditor challenged the councillors' decision on the grounds that the pay was excessive and that there was no lawful reason to pay women the same rates as men.  The councillors argued that they were merely exercising the discretion conferred on them by the Metropolis Management Act 1855 which gave councils the power to pay such wages as they think fit.

Where is it on the map? 
At point a.

Who won?

The auditor won. The House of Lords held that, whilst the councillors had a legal discretion to set wage rates, they had exceeded that discretion by paying so far above the market rate and by paying women the same as men. Lord Atkinson said that the Council had acted unlawfully because they had:
"...allowed themselves to be guided in preference by some eccentric principles of socialistic philanthropy, or by a feminist ambition to secure the equality of the sexes in the matter of wages in the world of labour."
What's the principle of law?
Equal pay legislation means that the parts of the judgment which discuss whether it is lawful to pay men the same as women no longer represent the state of the law, but the principle that a discretion should only be exercised in a lawful way is still good law.  As Lord Wrenbury said in his judgment:

"A discretion does not empower a man to do what he likes merely because he is minded to do so - he must in the exercise of his discretion do not what he likes but what he ought. In other words, he must, by use of his reason, ascertain and follow the course which reason directs. He must act reasonably."
What's it like today?
Poplar Borough Council was abolished in 1965, and is the area it served is now part of the London Borough of Tower Hamlets.  
From London's Coats of arms and the stories they tell, Richard Crosley, 1928.
Poplar Town Hall survived as a public building until 2011, when the mayor, Lufthar Rahman, sold it to an associate.  It soon received planning permission to be converted into a hotel.
Building work has already started. 

You can read more about Poplar's radical history, and the circumstances around the Town Hall's sale, here

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Somerset v Stewart (1772) Lofft 1 aka Somerset's case

What's the case about?
Stewart owned a slave called Somerset.  He brought Somerset from Virginia to London.  He planned to take Somerset to Jamaica where he would sell him.

On arrival in London, Somerset escaped.  Stewart ordered for him to be captured and returned to his ship.  Somerset applied to the court for a writ of habeus corpus, arguing that his detention was unlawful. 

Where is it on the map?
Kenwood House, home of Lord Mansfield, the leading judge in Somerset's case is at point N.

Who won?
Somerset.  Stewart had argued that the English common law did not prohibit slavery and therefore it was not unlawful to hold a person as a slave.  Lord Mansfield disagreed.  He held that slavery was not lawful simply because the common law was silent about it, or because it was lawful in other parts of the Empire.  Instead, Lord Mansfield said that slavery was 'so odious' that it could only be permitted if some positive law (i.e. an Act of Parliament) allowed it.

What's the principle of law?
Although this is a famous case, the principle of law is actually quite a narrow one.  It didn't make slavery illegal in the colonies.  It simply held that the common law did not permit slavery in England.  Therefore, in the absence of positive law to the contrary, slavery could not be legal in England.  Arguably the case was of more significance in political than legal terms. 

What's it like today?
Kenwood House was owned by Lord Mansfield's heirs until the early 20th century.  Famously, it was home to Lord Mansfield's mixed race neice, Dido Belle (subject of the 2014 film, Belle).  In 1925 Kenwood was purchased by Edward Cecil Guinness, 1st Earl of Iveagh, who filled it with paintings and opened it to the public.  It was taken over by English Heritage in 1986.

Kenwood today is largely a backdrop to the paintings from the Iveagh bequest, which include works by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Turner and Gainsborough. The library, however, is presented very much as Lord Mansfield's room.  It was designed for Lord Mansfield by Robert Adam and is richly decorated with frescos and plasterwork. 

This one shows Justice embracing Peace:

The library features a number of paintings and busts of the great judge and his family:

Kenwood House is set on the edge of Hampstead Heath and, unlike many English Heritage properties, entry is free.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Bruton v. London and Quadrant Housing Trust [1999] UKHL 26

What's the case about?
In 1975 Lambeth Borough Council acquired a row of properties on Rushcroft Road in Brixton.  The Council planned to demolish the properties and replace them with new housing.  The plans ran into delays and in 1986 the Council decided to allow London and Quadrant, a housing association, to use the properties as temporary accommodation for people who were homeless.

In 1989 London and Quadrant agreed to let Mr Bruton live in one of the properties.  The agreement was worded as follows:
"Occupation of Short-Life Accommodation at 2 Oval House, Rushcroft Road, SW2 on a temporary basis.     "As has been explained to you, the above property is being offered to you by [the Trust] on a weekly Licence from 6 February 1989. The Trust has the property on licence from [the council] who acquired the property for development. . . and pending this development, it is being used to provide temporary housing accommodation. It is offered to you on the condition that you will vacate upon receiving reasonable notice from the Trust, which will not normally be less than four weeks. You understand and agree that while you are living in the property, you will allow access at all times during normal working hours to the staff of the Trust, the owners and agents for all purposes connected with the work of the Trust."
After a number of years, Mr Bruton brought a claim against London and Quadrant, arguing that they had not met their obligations in the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 to repair the property.  In reply, London and Quadrant argued that Mr Bruton was a licensee rather than a tenant and therefore they had no obligations to him vis a vis the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985.

Where is it on the map?
At point G.

Who won?
Mr Bruton won.  The House of Lords held that even though the agreement had been described by both parties as a licence, it was in fact a tenancy and therefore London and Quadrant had an obligation to repair the property.

What's the principle of law?
A licence is a less secure form of tenure than a tenancy.  It is often in a landlord's interests to describe an agreement as a licence rather than a tenancy.  For example, if in the present case Mr Bruton had been a licensee, London and Quadrant would not have had an obligation to repair the property.

The case of Street v. Mountford [1985] A.C. 809 had established that an agreement with the characteristics of a tenancy (such as exclusive possession of the premises) could be a tenancy notwithstanding the fact that both parties had described it as a licence.

In the present case, counsel for London and Quadrant argued that Street v. Mountford should be distinguished because the housing association had no power in law to create a tenancy with Mr Bruton.  London and Quadrant were themselves only licensees of Lambeth Borough Council.  The terms of their licence specifically forbade them from creating tenancies.  However, the House of Lords were not persuaded by this argument.  Lord Hobhouse said that London and Quadrant should have realised that their agreement with Mr Bruton was in fact a tenancy, regardless of how it was described, and that their agreements with Mr Bruton and others probably meant that they were in breach of their agreement with the Council.

What's it like now?
The properties never were demolished.  But as a consequence of this House of Lords judgment, Lambeth Borough Council ended their arrangement with London and Quadrant.  Lambeth then sought to evict Mr Bruton and the other residents from the properties.  The evictions were themselves the subject of a House of Lords case (Kay and others v London Borough of Lambeth and others [2006] UKHL 10). 

The final residents of Rushcroft Road were evicted in 2013.  This Daily Mail report provides a graphic account of the evictions.

Lambeth Council have since sold some of the properties on Rushcroft Road, and are redeveloping the rest as social housing.

Friday, 1 August 2014

Ellen Street Estates Ltd v Minister of Health [1934] All ER Rep 385

What's the case about?
Mr Lithman held leases on properties in Ellen Street and Berner Street, Stepney. 

In 1920 the Minister of Health attempted a compulsory purchase of the properties. The properties were described as "by reason of their bad arrangement, or the narrowness or bad arrangement of the streets, dangerous or injurious to the health of the inhabitants of the area." Mr Lithman did not object to the compulsory purchase as he believed he would be entitled to compensation from the Minister of Health, as per the Acquisition of Land (Assessment of Compensation) Act, 1919.

Some five or six years passed, during which time an arbitrator was appointed to assess the compensation due to Mr Lithman under the 1919 Act. The arbitrator held that Mr Lithman was not entitled to any compensation. Perhaps unsurprisingly, as this point Mr Lithman began to raise objections. His solicitors discovered that under the law at the time, the compulsory purchase was unenforceable as it had not been concluded within three years. Rather than fight this out with Mr Lithman, the Minister of Health abandoned the compulsory purchase - but immediately started a fresh one, using powers in the newly enacted Housing Act 1930.

Ellen Street Estates Ltd, who by this time had taken ownership of the properties from Mr Lithman objected to the renewed attempt at a compulsory purchase. They argued that it was unlawful because the powers in the Housing Act 1930 were incompatible with provisions in the 1919 Act. 

Where is it on the map?
At point F.

Who won?
The Minister of Health won. The Court of Appeal held that the 1930 Act did not have to expressly repeal the 1919 Act in order to have precedence over it. Rather, the 1930 Act impliedly repealed the 1919 Act to the extent that it was incompatible with it. 

What's the principle of law?
Parliamentary sovereignty is a fundamental principle of UK constitutional law. Parliament is the highest source of law in the UK. No Parliament can pass a law that a future Parliament cannot change or repeal altogether.  

Whilst the 1919 Act stated that "any provisions of any Act... [that are] inconsistent with this Act... shall not have effect" this should not be read as an attempt to influence Parliament's ability to change the law in the future.  Parliament simply does not have that ability.

What's it like today?
The properties on Ellen Street were replaced with the Berner Estate in the mid-1930s. The parts of the estate built in the 1930s are particularly attractive, and clearly very well maintained.

The excellent St George in the East parish website has some photographs of the area as it looked prior to the compulsory purchase.  

Berner Street was renamed Henriques Street in the 1960s after the Jewish philanthropist Basil Henriques. It is also (in)famous as the place where Elizabeth Stride's body was found in 1888, in a murder attributed to Jack the Ripper.

It looks like the Henriques Street sign is covering up the old Berner Street sign on the side of this building.

Thanks to Michael Doherty at UCLAN for the inspiration for this post. His OpenLawMap project is well worth a look.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Sturges v Bridgman (1878) 11 Ch.D. 852

What's the case about?
Bridgman ran a confectioners from premises on Wigmore Street.  To the rear of the premises was a kitchen, which abutted Dr Sturges' garden on Wimpole Street. The kitchen was fitted with two large pestles and mortars, where the staff would break up and pound loaf sugar, meat and other hard substances needed to create the confectionery.  It could be noisy work but the neighbours did not complain.  

In 1873 Dr Octavius Sturges built a consulting room at the end of his garden.  The room shared a party wall with Bridgman's kitchen.  Sturges immediately found the the noise and vibration from Bridgman's pestles and mortars interfered with his work.  He sought an injunction to prevent Bridgman using the equipment in a way that would cause him nuisance.

Where is it on the map?
At point Z.

Who won?
Dr Sturges.  The Court of Appeal held that Bridgman was creating a private nuisance and granted the injunction.

What's the principle of law?
It is possible to acquire a right to do something that would otherwise be unlawful by a process called prescription.  The defendant must be able to show that he has done the unlawful thing for twenty years without complaint.  

In the present case, Mr Bridgman argued that he had been using the kitchen for twenty years - possibly much longer - without complaint.  However, the Court of Appeal held that Mr Bridgman had not acquired a right by prescription over this period as the noise had not been a nuisance until Dr Sturges built his consulting room in 1873.  

Sturges v Bridgman is often cited as authority for the proposition that it is no defence to say that the claimant came to the nuisance.  However, the recent Supreme Court judgment in Coventry v Lawrence [2014] UKSC 13 casts doubt on whether this was ever good law.  You can read my commentary on Coventry v Lawrence here.

Sturges v Bridgman also contains Thesiger LJ’s famous quote about the importance of considering the character of a neighbourhood when assessing whether certain behaviour amounts to a nuisance: “what would be a nuisance in Belgrave Square would not necessarily be so in Bermondsey”.

What's it like today?
Wimpole Street is in the heart of London's medical district, just two streets away from the rather more famous Harley Street.  It crosses Wigmore Street at right angles.  There was no sign of Brigman's confectioners on Wigmore Street when I visited, but this may have been due to the scaffolding that was covering that part of the street.  

I had more luck on Wimpole Street: the property formerly occupied by Dr Octavius Sturges is now home to a practice of counsellors and therapists - and someone with a sense of humour:

It wasn’t possible to get a view of the garden, but the position of the crane in the neighbouring yard gives an impression of how closely the properties are packed together.

You can read more about Dr Octavius Sturges here.