200 years in the making
The history of our Shortmead Street legal practice can be traced back 200 years. On the 4th February 1966, Lewis Day, the then Senior Partner of the practice (known then as Hooper and Fletcher), lodged a range of documents relating to the Lordship of the Manor of Biggleswade (to which he was the Steward of the Manor) with the Bedfordshire County Archives Office in Bedford. In consideration of this action, an archivist kindly investigated and reported back to him about the history of the practice. This is set out below, together with some more recent detail added by the current Sole Principal, Paul Motley.
In 1813, Robert Lindsell set up as a Solicitor on Stratton Street (now High Street) Biggleswade and went into partnership with Edward Eagles. In 1840 Lindsell sold the office in Stratton Street to W. T. Chapman so that he could concentrate on the Brewery and Bank of Wells & Co.
Upon the sale of the office in Stratton Street, Edward Argles set up a law firm two doors down from Chapman. By 1850 Argles had, in turn, taken on a partner, namely William Smith of Potton.
By 1854 the partnership of Smith and Argles had broken down. Thomas James Hooper became a partner and Argles, who had been the Clerk to the Poor Law Union since 1834, advised the Guardians to appoint Thomas James Hooper to this role also. In 1855, Argles handed everything over to his successor and retired.
Hooper then became the Sole Principal of the practice. He was also the Registrar of the County Court as well as Clerk to the Guardians. In 1861 the work of the firm’s biggest client, Wells & Co., passed to Hooper and thus began a long partnership of Hooper with the Lindsells and Hogges. By 1869 Hooper had also added Superintendent Registrar of Births to the positions he held.
By the 1870s Hooper had entered into a new partnership with William Race Raynes of Potton, where Hooper concentrated on the Biggleswade area and Raynes, Potton. This partnership, however, had dissolved by 1885 but by this time Hooper had added a further range of appointments to his name. His legal work too had greatly increased.
By the 1880s Hooper had renamed the firm Hooper & Co. with A. J. Hills as his junior partner, but by 1898 this partnership had broken down. By 1903 Hooper had added the Joint Hospital Board Clerkship to his many other appointments while the years 1898 to 1900 saw another huge increase in work. In late 1903, however, his health had given way and on 27th February 1904 he died in Biggleswade.
In 1906 William Frederick Ashby Fletcher took over the firm in Stratton Street and henceforth the practice was called Hooper and Fletcher. Fletcher had secured the appointments of Commissioner of Oaths, the Clerkship to the Magistrates and Registrarship of the County Court that his predecessor had also enjoyed.
Fletcher’s business was able to grow due to the increase of work resulting from the abolition of Copyhold in 1925. He bought the manorial rights of a number of local estates and by 1924 he had added the Clerkship of Commissioners of Taxes to his positions held.
In 1931 Fletcher died. He was succeeded by Francis Prideaux Allbutt, who lived in Home Lodge. He was also Commissioner for Oaths, Under Sheriff for Bedfordshire, and Clerk to the Magistrates and to the Commissioners for Taxes. Some time between 1928 and 1936 the firm, still called Hooper and Fletcher, moved from Stratton Street to 9 Shortmead Street. Allbutt’s partner was Avery Clough Waters B.A.. Allbutt retired in 1938.
Waters became Sole Principal at some point between 1938 and 1940 and, like his predecessors, he was Commissioner of Oaths, Clerk to the Magistrates and Clerk to the Commissioners for Taxes.
In 1953, Wilkinson & Butler from St Neots took over the practice, still retaining the name of Hooper & Fletcher for its Biggleswade office. Lewis William Day, who came from St Neots in 1953, was made a partner in 1957 and thereafter was senior partner of the Biggleswade office until 1984 when he retired.
In the 1970s the practice moved from 9 Shortmead Street to The Manor House at 11 Shortmead Street, from which address it continues to operate. In 1979, the current Sole Principal, Paul Jeffrey Motley joined the firm and was made a partner in 1981 with Lewis Day and the partners of Wilkinson & Butler at St. Neots. In 1985 the firms of Hooper & Fletcher and Wilkinson & Butler merged with Winters of Huntingdon, St Neots, St Ives and Winter and Newton of Cambridge and became Winter Wilkinson. An office in Bedford was later added. In 1991 there was a de-merger and the Biggleswade office took the names of the then three partners Paul Motley, Duncan Strachan and Helen Hope and became known as Motley, Strachan & Hope. After Duncan Strachan set up on his own in 1992 the practice was continued by Paul Motley and Helen Hope under the name of Motley & Hope. Helen Hope left the partnership at the end of April 2012 and since that date Paul Motley has continued to practice as Sole Principal under the name of Motley & Hope.
A legal practice can therefore be traced back from the present day through partnership successions, sales and mergers fully 200 years to Robert Lindsell. During that time the firm was known longest as Hooper & Fletcher (1906 – 1985) but interestingly Hooper and Fletcher were never in practice together!