Bristol: Emporium and Classics still alive and well

Update on legal threat to 35/37 Stokes Croft

People that know and use the spaces have been asking for an update on the legal situation with 35/37 Stokes Croft so we’d thought we’d get a little summary out.
We are still going! There are exhibitions and events coming up at the emporium and the free shop continues its regular opening times of Thursday to Saturady 2pm-5pm.

Our next court appearance will be Thursday 7th of April.

We haven’t actually spoken to any ‘owner’, even their lawyers laugh at the fact that he/she might not exist. The claim in court is that the owners are Hong Kong businessmen, and company records have been produced to attempt to confirm this. We have attempted to speak to them but there has been no reply. Only through an estate agents (Maggs and Allen) and a law firm (Awdry, Douglas and Bailey) have we ascertained more information, which is not wholely reliable as they are trying to make money out of an abandoned building and have been trying every trick in the book to make a quick buck. Here’s updates on what’s happened so far.

The mysterious hong kong owners

It looks as though Maggs and Allen (agents) and Awdry Bailey and Douglas (solicitors) are apparently acting on behalf of a company called Jerwood Trading Limited that is registered in the Isle of Mann. Their company is headquartered in Hong Kong and the apparent owners are two Hong Kong businessman who are financiers or speculators. Jerwood seems to have acquired the building in 1993 and since then have done little to nothing with it. They have not visited it in person, they have not put any effort into maintaining it or communicating with the local community about it. Bristol City Council put in £67,000 of structural repairs to make it safe and they have not recovered the money from the ‘owners’ who refuse to communicate with them.


The council then proceeded to lay the grounds for a Compulsory Purchase Order, which they were granted, but never carried out, around 2006.

The occupation

The occupation of the buildings by grass roots projects began in August 2008. People immediately started to renovate the buildings and reside there. The buildings have been in use since then continually and a huge amount of time, work and money has been put in to make them inhabitable and useable by people from the local area. The website shows the back history of the Emporium space – which is part of the buildings – from it’s opening to the public in Dec 2008 and the many many events and exhibitions it has held since then. Next door in number 35 there are several community projects going on. The ground floor holds a free shop (a charity shop that doesn’t take or make any money), upstairs there are carpentry workshops, art studios, a homeless/housing office, a community gym, a community garden and residential rooms.


This extensive work was carried out on the assumption that the buildings had been abandoned by the owners, as no one in the council, the local area or through governmental websites could confirm who the owner actually was. Locally people understood that the place had been left to rot. Maggs and Allen tried to change the locks on the place in July 2009 and they and their lawyers have since claimed that they couldn’t get into the buildings to talk to anyone. This is doubtful as the free shop is open 3-4 times a week, and similarly the Emporium has regular events – anyone from the local area would know this. We have never had a notice to quit, or a verbal warning to leave. Little to no interest has still been shown in the buildings until in November 2010 court papers arrived for a claim for possession.


The court hearings have been as such: the first was adjourned due to a large amount of errors in the service of the particulars and a huge doubt as to the ownership expressed by the judge; the second hearing was concerned with the proof of ownership and a counter-claim by the defendants concerning proprietary estoppel – the judge decided that there was a case to be heard owing to the fact that we might have an equitable interest in the properties. This means that we have put work, time and money into the building and deserve to be compensated as such before the owner can simply waltz back in and take the building back.

The Trial has now been set for 7th of April 2011, an all day court hearing that will be concerned with Unjust Enrichment/Proprietary Estoppel and potentially further questions as to ownership. We are looking for a barrister to represent us pro bono, as we have not got any money and have been building this case and representing ourselves with little to no legal knowledge. There has been some advice on the way, but all of the defences have been drafted and filed by ourselves as laymans. Any help would be greatly appreciated and it seems that publicity about this fairly outrageous situation – where an absentee owner, residing in Hong Kong, can let a building deteriorate to such an extent that the council has to come in and save it, and refuses to communicate with the council or the occupants or his own building, and now seeks to take back from the local community that which they have built up from the rubble over the last two years. We will not be leaving.


We have contacted the lawyers, who represent the apparent owner, explaining that we would like to negotiate to stay in the building, by peppercorn rent or the like. They have not got back to us at all. They couldn’t care less about the local area and simply want to turn a quick profit. They’ll have a hard time selling these buildings – the council valued them as having ‘negative value’. The owner owes Bristol City Council at least £67,000 not to mention unpaid business rates and empty property tax for the whole time he has left the buildings to rot.

Any of the legal documents can be received by contacting emporium37 [at] gmail [dot] com

They will be posted on the emporium website as well:

To find out more about the emporium and how to propose to put something on there check out:

These buildings are still going! So please come and use them, the next open meeting time will be published soon and any ideas, comments, proposals for projects etc are most welcome…

35/37 Stokes Croft