When we formed this firm just over two years ago, whilst we set out to establish a modern, innovative law firm for the 21st Century, we did so in a very historic building, in Abingdon, which also happens to be thought to be the oldest town in England.
Whilst striving to be a modern law firm, we take pride in the history of our building, and last year opened our doors as part of the Heritage Open Weekend. This year, with Covid, we could not do the same, but we still made sure we celebrated 1-3 Ock Street’s history and part of the town’s history, by taking part in the Heritage Open Weekend virtually, and putting together a window display.
Ruth Hawkins worked with Aimee Peacock, who was with us for a short work experience stint before returning to university for her final year, on the video.
We are the third firm of solicitors to be based at 1-3 Ock Street. The first legal occupant was the Bartlett family who lived and worked in the building in the 1850s through to the 1890s. Alfred Bartlett was a solicitor, and we believe he had the room that is now our boardroom/conference room as his legal practice, whilst he and his family lived in the rest of the building. A check of the Census records show that by 1871, Alfred was 54 years old and lived at 1-3 Ock Street with his wife Ann, their three children Ellen, Edward and Anne, and two servants.
After the Bartlett family, the property was occupied by the Stevens family, and John Stevens was a Congregational minister, possibly from the church next door, which is now owned by Ask Italian. By 1911, the property was occupied by Harry D’Almaine, who was the second solicitor at 1-3 Ock Street. Like Alfred Bartlett, he lived and worked at the property. Harry died in 1933, but the legal practice continued at 1-3 Ock Street as D’Almaine and Cockeram solicitors until the 1960s.
After that, the property was in local government hands, most recently as a probation office.
So, we are simply keeping up those legal traditions. Though what Harry and Alfred would think about three female solicitors, we’re not sure! But hopefully they would approve.
The property is a Georgian property, with a distinctive columned portico. In the boardroom, there is an example of the original wallpaper, which is on display and has the inscription “Papered by E R Petty July 24th 1762.”
On the first floor, the original rear wall to the building has been exposed to show the constructions methods, and is a stunning and unique feature for us and our colleagues to enjoy. Many of the upstairs rooms have beautiful fireplaces and ranges.
Downstairs, there is also an exposed beam across the width of the building, which has been carbon dated and predates the age of the building. The likelihood is that as it has been cut in one piece in an ecclesiastical style, it is likely to have come from Abingdon’s Abbey, though this has not been verified.
It goes without saying that we feel privileged to be practicing law in this beautiful building, with all its heritage, even though we are aiming to practice family law in a modern and innovative manner.