Gaby Hardwicke in the 1920s by A. J. G. Hardwicke

Alan Junius G. Hardwicke, son of the early Gaby Hardwicke partner Herbert Junius Allen Hardwicke (whose surname graces the firm’s title), was born on 26 May 1909 at Jarvis Brook, Crowborough (then part of Rotherfield) and died in 1993.

 In 1919 Hardwicke snr. joined Ralph Gaby in partnership and the firm was re-titled Gaby & Hardwicke. Mr Hardwicke managed the Bexhill office (then 3a Sea Road) and Mr Gaby the Hastings office.

 In the below extract, taken from a letter Hardwicke jnr. wrote to Jethro Arscott (a Gaby Hardwicke partner of later years), he relates his memories of moving to Bexhill and working at the firm during the 1920s, prior to leaving the area in 1931.  

 Hardwicke jnr. served the first half of his articles of clerkship at Gaby & Hardwicke, and the second half with Mr F. Bentham Stevens of Stevens, Son & Pope, Brighton. In 1931 he was awarded the Mellish Prize (shared with C. H. H. Winston of Brighton), and the Clabon Prize for Equity on his own. He was also the only external student at London University to achieve 1st Class Honours in the LLB that year.

N.B. The Mr Arscott referred to in the text is the father of the Gaby Hardwicke partner of that name (the recipient of the letter).   

I well remember our first day at the Little House, 24 Cooden Drive. We had electric light! I was used to gas at Crowborough. And what a delight the tall double-decker trams were. They had an exciting habit of coming off the lines on the sharp turn from the bridge onto Endwell Road, right outside the office. There were then only two or three houses between ours and Collington Hall, with nothing else between there and Cooden Beach, and not much there either.

The office, as you know, was over Gordon, Green & Webber. Percy Webber was a great character. His daughter Doris, by the way, won a fancy dress competition as a South Sea Islander. I wonder whether she remembers this. She is now Mrs Madely, who became Chairman of the National Association of Flower Arrangement Societies of Great Britain. 

Having opened at 3a Sea Road in 1919, I think my father was joined very soon by Mr Evans-Vaughan, as an assistant solicitor. I began articles to my father at the end of December 1925, just before the new property Acts came into force. I was instructed on New Year’s Eve to listen at midnight to the sound of legal estates vesting.

I shared the backroom with Mr Vaughan, my father had the centre room, whilst Messrs Cole and Simmons were in the front general office. We did have a telephone (Bexhill 511 if I remember rightly), but inter-office communication was by means of speaking tubes, which were great fun because of the whistle.

One of my very first duties was to ‘take this round to Mr Arscott for his signature’. Needless to say, I came back with it unsigned because he didn’t consider it was in du form. Bexhill was full of famous characters in those days. There is a splendid photograph of some of them in the ‘Bexhill Observer’ for 18 Sep 1926 on the opening of the new Building Society offices in Devonshire Square…

Mr Gaby died 9 Oct 1927. After that my father was at the Bexhill office in the mornings and at Hastings in the afternoons. If I remember rightly, the managing clerk at Hastings then was a Mr Thomas, who must have taken over from Mr Boutwood, who had left after 32 years to be secretary of the Hastings United Conservative Association. There was a good photograph in the Hastings Observer of 12 Feb 1927 showing where Mr Gaby’s office must have been at Memorial Buildings (there really was a memorial there then).  After Mr Gaby’s death, I think it was Mr Evans-Vaughan became a partner, followed by Mr Bubear in about 1930 or 1931.

For a short time in the ’20s, there was a branch office at Ninfield, open for a few hours once a week. Transport to and from was by means of Carter & Lidstone’s busses, which started from Bexhill Station, or just opposite Station Road. This must have been early in the ’20s before the private buses were taken over. My father and I sometimes went by pedal-cycle from Cooden Drive to Sea Road, and the policeman on point duty at the corner of Sackville Road always saluted, which was a good start to the day and very comforting.

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