The Birmingham Gazette 29th March 1935 contains a report of the opening of Solihull Magistrates’ Court, Warwick Road, Solihull on the previous day. The first case called was that of a householder who was summoned for having her chimney on fire. She was told that “as it was the first case heard in the court, it would be dismissed.”
The article describes the Warwick Road building (pictured above) and designed by Warwickshire County Council’s architect, Mr Arthur Charles Bunch (1879-1950), as having two court rooms, a retiring room for magistrates, a clerk’s office, a room for solicitors, and a consulting room. The walls were lined with acoustical boarding and all the furniture was of oak.
The building was the first purpose-built courthouse in Solihull, with previous courts being held at:
- the Mermaid Inn (now the Greswolde Arms), Knowle in 1837
- the George Inn, Solihull in 1839
- the old Town Hall, Solihull 1848-1880
- the Public Hall, Poplar Road, Solihull 1881-1935
The move to a new building in 1935 apparently took place because of the significant increase in court work, making the accommodation at the Public Hall (now Yates’s wine bar) inadequate. There was also an article in the Birmingham Daily Gazette 5th July 1932 complaining that there was nowhere at Solihull Police Court for witnesses to stay when ordered out of court, and nowhere for magistrates to deliberate.
The foundations of the new court were laid early in 1934, near the Saddlers Arms on Warwick Road on a site that was previously occupied by some old cottages. The cost of the new building was estimated at £8,000 and it would be Solihull’s court building for almost 50 years.
Following the opening of the new Magistrates’ Court, the Public Hall in Poplar Road subsequently became Solihull’s Council House 1937-1967.
Solihull Magistrates’ Court later moved to Homer Road, opening for business on 16th March 1981. Reports in local newspapers at the time describe how the previous court building in Warwick Road was insufficient to handle all local cases, as a result of only having two courtrooms. An overspill court had to take place in the basement of the former Council House in Poplar Road, and magistrates also sat at Coleshill twice per week as a result of the workload.
The new Magistrates’ Court complex was officially opened by H.R.H. Prince Charles on 24th June 1981, just a month before his wedding to Lady Diana Spencer. The Birmingham Evening Mail of 11th March 1981 commented that it was “a major coup for Solihull to get the Prince to open officially the plush courthouse complex.”
With six courtrooms sitting five days per week there was confidence that the new premises would cope with the work. A notable feature of the new courts was a tunnel that linked the courts with the adjacent police station, enabling prisoners to be moved between the police cells and the dock without risk of escape. Prior to this, prisoners were taken by police car to the court buildings on Warwick Road and there were reports of a number of escape attempts.
In 2013 it was announced that criminal cases would move to Birmingham Magistrates’ Court, leaving the Solihull building in use for administrative purposes only. In February 2016, it was announced that the building was “surplus capacity” and would be closed and sold. In April 2018, it was announced that Aldi had bought the building and that it would be used as training centre.
In August 2018, plans were submitted to demolish the building and to build a two-storey building and two-storey annexe, with parking for 81 vehicles. The initial proposals also included apartments above the store. Solihull’s Planning Committee gave its approval to the plans in November 2018.
Demolition of the building that had housed Solihull’s magistrates’ courts since 1981 began in December 2018 in preparation for the site to be redeveloped as an Aldi store.
The new store opened at 8am on Thursday 28th November 2019.
If you have any further information, or memories of any of the buildings, please let us know.
Heritage & Local Studies Librarian
© Solihull Council, 2020.
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