The firm of Wilks Price Hounslow is a merger of the
former practice of Sherwins, latterly Sherwin Price Hounslow and Wilks Solicitors.
Lesely Kemp's practice joined us in 2017.
The firm of Sherwins was founded in July
1894 by Robert Walter Sherwin. Robert Walter Sherwin started working from
home in Portsmouth and his original ledger shows a starting capital of
£100.00, derived from selling his Clarence Pier Southsea shares for £55.00,
withdrawing £25.00 from his Post Office account and borrowing £25.00 from his
brother. The Law Society Examination fees, admission fees etc. cost £44 16s,
Law Books £5 5s and an office safe £7 6s 6d.
In those days none of the present
safeguards imposed on Solicitors such as keeping clients' money in a separate
account, contributions to the Compensation Fund, and compulsory insurance in
the event of negligence applied and therefore the ledger shows not only
clients' money received and paid but also such items as “Paid Tom and Charles
(his 2 eldest sons) School Bill £1 12s 2d, Coal account £17 2s, for house £2,
Christmas expenses £3 and children’s clothes £1. The balance at the
31st December showed total costs received £149 10s 5d, total expenditure £274
19s 6d, of which £125 13s 11d were for his personal and household expenses,
from which he concluded he needed £375 a year income to cover his personal
At the end of the first year in practice
he had received £445 6s 4d in costs and his total expenditure including
office costs, personal expenses and capital expenditure £684 2s 10d, but a
note at the end of the account showed that there were several outstanding
accounts owing to him and he estimated his net profit for the year was about
His wife bore him 13 children, of whom
8 survived past infancy, and the 2 eldest sons, Thomas Miles and Charles
Ernest, both qualified as Solicitors before the start of the First World
War. Tom was articled in London but Charles was articled to his father
and intended to join the practice, but both joined the army following the
outbreak of war.
During the first year he does not appear
to have employed any staff but he did apparently have an arrangement with Mr
Hollings, another Portsmouth Solicitor, whereby he paid Mr Hollings for the
latter’s Clerk to engross documents on parchment for him. All the
ledger entries were in his own handwriting until late 1895 when the writing
changed, although again there is no mention of any wages being paid so,
possibly, one of his daughters was recruited into copying from the Bank
Passbook into the ledger. The practice, however, flourished and by the
outbreak of the First World War he employed 2 male Clerks, Tavener and Allen,
who remained with him for many years. All letters and documents were
still being written by hand and copies were impressed into letter books.
Before the War ended, a lady typist,
Miss Mackenzie, had been recruited and she remained the principal secretary
until she retired to get married just before the Second World
Tom Sherwin had a collapsed lung as a
result of asthma when a boy and therefore was classified as unfit for
service, and was sent to the Far East in 1916 serving in Hong Kong.
Charles became a fighter pilot in the Army Air Corps (subsequently the Royal
Flying Corps) and saw distinguished service in France, being awarded the MC
and Bar and decorated by the French. After the War Charles did not want
to settle at home in Portsmouth and, having heard of opportunities in the Far
East from Tom, decided to go there and established a highly successful
practice in Hang Kow, China, which flourished until the Sino/Japanese War in
the mid-1930’s, when he had to abandon the same and flee with his wife and
daughter to Shanghai where he set up practice again until the Japanese joined
in the Second World War and invaded Shanghai. He and his family were interned
by the Japanese, his younger daughter being born in a prisoner of war camp.
After the liberation he joined a firm of Solicitors in Hong Kong before
eventually returning to England.
Following Charles’ decision not to
return to Portsmouth, Tom joined his father in the practice which became “RW
Sherwin & Son”, with offices above the National Provincial Bank in
Commercial Road, Portsmouth. In 1931 the Bank wanted to occupy the
entire building so Bob Sherwin bought 5 Hampshire Terrace and moved there.
At that time the majority of Portsmouth Solicitors had offices on “The
Terraces” (Hampshire Landport and Kings Terraces jocularly known as “Thieves
Row”) which had been built as terrace houses in late Georgian/early Victorian
times just outside and following the line of the old fortified town of
Tom had 4 children, all of whom saw
service in the Second World War. The eldest, Tim, became a Regular
Officer in the Royal Navy in 1931 and was one of the youngest officers ever
to be made a Captain during the Second World War serving on board various
ships including the Barham, Warspite and Ark Royal. Mike served in the
8th Army as a territorial. Margaret served in the Wrens and the
youngest, Pat, joined the Navy from school and became a Petty Officer.
The War years were very difficult for
the firm. Business was almost at a standstill, mainly limited to War
Damage Claims and Probate work for people who had been killed. Miss
Mackenzie (then Mrs Fradd) came back as secretary during the Second World
War, as all younger staff joined up, and stayed until new staff had been
recruited after the War. The offices in Hampshire Terrace suffered
consistently from air raids and Bob Sherwin, who was always a firm believer
in investing in “bricks and mortar” lost all his investment income when the
properties he owned were blitzed. He died in 1944 aged 84. Being
a real “Victorian” he left the residue of his Estate equally between his 8
children, which meant Tom was faced at the end of the War with buying out his
father’s share of the practice after 4 lean years. To help, his
youngest son, Pat, became articled to him as soon as he was demobilised from
the Navy and qualified in 1949, having had his articles reduced by the Law
Society from 5 to 2 years as a result of War Service. Tom died in 1951
aged 64 from cancer.
In 1953 Pat Sherwin invited Bob Raper
to join him in the practice and in 1955 the firms name became “Sherwin Son
& Raper” and the first branch office was opened in Havant in 1955.
The Hampshire Terrace premises were outgrown and the Portsmouth office was
moved to its present premises at 196 London Road, North End, Portsmouth in
1970. The former neighbours Messrs Maidment Morgan & Palser
of 3 Hampshire Terrace merged with the firm. Messrs Polden & Co. of
Southampton were taken over in 1977. The firm then merged with Oliver &
Co. to become Sherwin Oliver. The firm then had 8 partners with 6 offices at
Portsmouth, Havant, Gosport, Fareham, Southampton and Ryde with about 8
qualified Assistant Solicitors and a total staff of around 70.