Allen Hardwicke (1881-1965)

Allen Hardwicke.Herbert Junius Allen Hardwicke – better known as ‘Allen’ Hardwicke – was born in Sheffield on 12 August 1881. His father, Dr Herbert Junius Hardwicke, was a leading physician who cultivated a wide circle of friends in the scientific world – not least Charles Darwin, famous author of The Origin of Species.

In 1893 the Hardwicke family moved to Hastings, East Sussex and six years later Allen Hardwicke was articled to Ralph Gaby, a solicitor in the town. Between 1899 and 1902, as Mr Gaby’s assistant, Hardwicke played a key part in the preliminary work connected with Bexhill’s incorporation as a municipal borough, a change spearheaded by Mr Gaby. Allen Hardwicke was particularly concerned with defining the boundary of the borough.

After qualifying as a solicitor in December 1903, Hardwicke moved to Fleetwood and then to Crowborough, where he was secretary of the golf club. At the outbreak of the First World War he became a recruiting officer for Crowborough before joining the Inns of Court unit. He served as an instructor with the Royal Flying Corps (forerunner of the Royal Air Force) and was responsible for introducing young pilots to the working of the synchronized gun, a weapon pioneered by the German Fokker Nighters but later copied by the Allies.

After the war he rejoined Ralph Gaby in practice at Sea Road, Bexhill and by 1921 was a partner in the firm, which was accordingly re-named ‘Gaby and Hardwicke’. Ralph Gaby died in 1927 and Mr Hardwicke was joined in partnership by Reginald Wynne Evans-Vaughan, with the firm re-titled ‘Gaby, Hardwicke and Evans-Vaughan’. In 1931 William Osmond Bubear joined the partnership and the firm’s name changed to ‘Gaby, Hardwicke, Evans-Vaughan and Bubear’. In 1936 it was abridged to the more memorable ‘Gaby Hardwicke and Co’ as Jack Baldry became a partner; then in 1940 the partnership was dissolved and Mr Hardwicke continued in practice alone. After the war Mr Hardwicke was again joined in partnership by Jack Baldry and later by two new partners, George Herbert and Jethro Arscott.

On 29 June 1965, following a short illness, Allen Hardwicke died at age 83. At the time of his death he was living at 24 Cooden Drive, and remarkably was still in practice. In fact, he was only taken ill after returning home from work a week before his death. He was survived by his wife, whom he had married in 1908, one son, Mr A. J. G. Hardwicke (who was a member of a London law firm) and two grandchildren.

His funeral was held on 2 July at St Andrew’s Church and followed by a private cremation at Hastings. The mourners included the chairman, director and secretary of Bexhill-on-Sea Building Society, several representatives from the Hadrian Lodge of Freemasons, a multitude of friends and representatives from local businesses, plus a host of Gaby Hardwicke staff, past and present. The Bexhill-on-Sea Observer wrote:

Mr Hardwicke had a long association as solicitor to Bexhill-on-Sea Building Society, succeeding Mr Gaby in that office, and he was also honorary solicitor to the committee which established Bexhill Hospital, afterwards serving the then Board of Management in a similar capacity. A further interest of these years was the Commercial Society, forerunner of the present Chamber of Commerce.

A freemason for very many years, he was the second senior member of the Hadrian Lodge, and the last survivor of the original Trustees from 1931 of the Masonic Temple in Wilton Road. He was for many years a congenial colleague among members of the former New Club, and in his earlier years a great walker who had done a considerable amount of climbing in Switzerland…

His knowledge of the town and its history was immense, and the ‘Observer’ was indebted to him on many occasions for his help and interest in bringing to our notice items from the past. He was a stimulating conversationalist… his passing will be mourned by many friends who held him in the highest esteem.

Rev P. Gresty, who conducted Mr Hardwicke’s funeral service, meanwhile paid him this tribute:

His passing will leave Bexhill and the area very much poorer indeed… There are many people in this town today who are enjoying peace of mind because he, with his friendship, his wise judgement and his professional skill, solved their many and complicated problems. They all will feel in a very real sense that they have lost a true friend.

The final link to the firm’s early days had been broken. Nevertheless Gaby Hardwicke would continue to go from strength to strength, staying true to the values of its founders but always striving to improve and stay at the forefront of legal developments.

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