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Ruth Hawkins, Founding Partner

BH&O – a young firm, in touch with our heritage!

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When Emily, Irena and I started planning this firm, we wanted to create a modern thinking innovative specialist family law firm.  We think we have succeeded.  But little did we know when we started our planning, that we would end up opening our firm in a Grade 2 listed building!

Neither could we have known that we would find ourselves being the third firm of solicitors using 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.

BHO Heritage

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, when we moved into the property last August, we were 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 social history belonging to the building is fascinating to me. In our boardroom, we are lucky to have a cabinet of bits and pieces that our landlords Chris and Steven found when they were renovating the property.  As well as Morland beer mats (given its close proximity to Abingdon’s former brewery, across the road), there are also various items with connections to the law; we have some Chambers Journal pamphlets, and some other legal documents that were found in the renovations.

As to the building itself, there are some fascinating features. 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.

This Saturday, we are opening our office as part of Abingdon’s Heritage Festival (part of the National Heritage Open Day weekends). I understand that the festival features a showing of some cine film owned by the Imperial War Museum, of the town’s WW1 homecoming march from 1919, which ended just outside our office.  Given that Harry D’Almaine’s son Roy was killed in the Great War, it feels incredibly apt to be taking part in this event.

If you’re around, come along and see us!

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.

Ruth HawkinsPartner

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