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Mark Wonnacott QC

Call: 1989    QC: 2013

+44 (0)20 7306 0102mwonnacott@wilberforce.co.uk

Practice Overview

Mark is mostly a commercial property litigator.

Recent work includes things like acting for the landlord of a shopping centre on a 1954 Act renewal during the pandemic WH Smith v. Commerz Real: Winchester CC 25/3/21, invalidating defective break notices Sackville v. Robertson Taylor [2018] L&TR 22, Siemens v. Friends Life [2014] 2 EGLR 41, lawfully exiting onerous conditional contracts, Sainsbury’s v. Bristol Rovers [2016] EWCA Civ 160, Whitacre Management Limited v. Sainsbury’s [2019] EWHC 13 (Ch), enforcing payment of overage where the necessary endeavours had not been made to achieve the trigger Gaia Ventures v. Abbeygate [2019] EWCA Civ 823, striking out claims for specific performance of the repairing covenants in a portfolio of hotels, Zinc Cobham 1 Ltd v. Adda Hotels [2018] L&TR 36, and avoiding a penalty rent Vivienne Westwood v. Conduit Street Devpts [2017] L&TR 23.

He is not afraid to challenge heresy, even when it has become orthodoxy: he fought Berrisford v. Mexfield [2012] 1 AC 955 to the Supreme Court, to establish that a lease for an uncertain term is not simply void, but is a defeasible lease for life. He has published articles in the Law Quarterly Review and elsewhere, and is the author of two books – Possession of Land (Cambridge, 2006) and The History of the Law of Landlord and Tenant in England and Wales (New Jersey, 2012) – which are sometimes quoted in judgments (Arnold v. Britton [2015] AC 1619, Secretary of State for the Environment v. Meier [2009] 1 WLR 2780), occasionally even with approval (Thorpe v. Frank [2019] 1 WLR 6217). In due course, there will be a third, about all the land law that has been forgotten, but which is still useful.

Mark’s interest in the history means that he is also often instructed in cases involving some of the dustier corners of land law, particularly involving the rural economy. Examples include cases about shooting rights Pole v. Peake  CA Times 22/7/98, mines and minerals and private Inclosure Acts Wynne-Finch v. Natural Resources Body for Wales [2020] EWHC 1924 (Ch), franchises and manorial rights Roberts v. Swangrove Estates [2008] Ch 439, and rights of common Dance v. Savery [2011] EWCA Civ 125.

As a result, Mark also has an advisory practice, resolving historic title problems involving unregistered land, and he able to advise on land law problems in jurisdictions where the 1925 legislation does not apply. But he is just as happy advising on how to create or resolve problems with registered titles too.

Mark also sometimes acts as an arbitrator in property disputes.

Outside work, he is a failed viticulturalist and a somewhat unsteady pilot of old aeroplanes.