Modern, international and commercially focused, Fladgate is also a firm with a long and distinguished pedigree. In 2010 we celebrated the firm’s 250th anniversary.
Here are just a few of the milestones on our journey:
In 1760 a young lawyer called George Stubbs started practice as a sole practitioner in Suffolk Street, Charing Cross. William Mark Fladgate joined him in 1835, becoming a partner soon after, and the name Fladgate has had an uninterrupted and prominent role in the firm ever since. However, while the Fladgate family has provided a long line of partners, the firm has never been family owned. It has had a diverse range of partners over the years from many different backgrounds.
Until the mid-1980s the firm could have been described as a traditional practice, which represented the great families of the landed aristocracy and their trustees. Fladgate’s clients also included important businessmen and politicians such as Sir Winston Churchill and Anthony Eden. One of the oldest and most famous connections came in 1862, with an instruction from Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, to help set up the Smithsonian Institution. Fladgate represented the Great Exhibition of 1851, Charing Cross Hospital and a number of well-known utilities and banks, including Drummonds (later part of Royal Bank of Scotland), which Fladgate set up in the late 1700s. There were also some notable corporate clients, such as The Savoy Hotel Group.
Fladgate became one of the most respected, prominent and solid London legal practices, but by the mid-1980s the legal and commercial landscape was noticeably and irrevocably changing. Recognising the need to evolve, Walters Fladgate, as it was known then, merged with Fielder Le Riche in 1988 to create Fladgate Fielder, a more commercially focused, entrepreneurial and dynamic firm with strengths in corporate, commercial, litigation, real estate and private client.
Fladgate Fielder weathered the recession of the early 1990s, emerging as a leading corporate and commercial practice. On 1 April 2008, after nearly 20 years of impressive growth, Fladgate Fielder transferred its practice to a limited liability partnership, Fladgate LLP.
The firm’s relocation to Great Queen Street, Covent Garden, in August 2010, coincided with its 250th anniversary and marked a new and exciting chapter in the history of Fladgate.
On 13 February 1760, a young lawyer called George Stubbs started practice as a sole practitioner in Suffolk Street, Charing Cross and the firm of today was born.
In its first years of existence, Fladgate managed to represent the local church, the local hospital and the local bankers. A powerful beginning.
In 1835, William Mark Fladgate joined the practice on Craven Street, Strand, WC. Since this time, the name Fladgate has had an uninterrupted and prominent role in the firm.
The son of Francis Fladgate, William Mark was the brother of John Alexander Fladgate, the port wine merchant of Taylor, Fladgate & Co.
William Mark Fladgate was appointed solicitor to the Commissioners for the Exhibition of 1851 and instructed to obtain the Royal Charter of Incorporation. Prince Albert had the idea of holding the Exhibition, wishing to use the profits to assist science and the arts as applied to industry. The Exhibition was held in Hyde Park, with the building constructed out of iron and glass. On removal to Sydenham, it became known as “The Crystal Palace”. The profits from the Exhibition amounted to some £150,000 which was invested in the purchase of what was then farm land in South Kensington. Our relationship with this client has spanned 150 years.
At the beginning of the railway era, the Duke of Wellington was averse, for military reasons, to having railway termini on the south of the Thames. William Mark Fladgate acted for the Victoria Station & Pimlico Railway Company Limited in obtaining Parliamentary powers and compulsory purchase powers for the purchase of land near the Thames. He used to enjoy recalling how he had often seen snipe flying over the site of what is now Victoria Station.
In 1838, John Smithson’s gold had been taken across the ocean in trunkfuls to finance the creation of the Smithsonian Institution. Smithson left his entire fortune to his nephew, but if the nephew died without children (as he did) it passed to the United States for the establishment of an educational institution in Washington, despite him never having visited the country. While the bulk of the Smithson estate was transported to the USA in gold sovereigns by a diplomat sent by President Andrew Jackson, there was a sizeable balance which had been held back to provide an annuity for Smithson’s nephew’s mother, Madame Marie de la Batut. When Madame de la Batut died, this needed to be recovered and sent to the US. Fladgate, Clarke & Finch was the agent of the Smithsonian Institution in England and President Lincoln and Secretary of State Seward executed a power of attorney in 1862 in favour of the firm to enable us to collect the rest of the Smithson estate. We are fortunate to have a copy of this power of attorney, signed by Abraham Lincoln and William Seward.
William Francis Fladgate, through a theatrical connection, became a friend of Richard D’Oyly Carte and undertook considerable work in connection with the highly successful Gilbert and Sullivan operas. D’Oyly Carte aspired to do the same for grand opera as he had done for comic opera. Fladgate acted on the acquisition of the site of the English Opera House in Shaftesbury Avenue, later to become known as “The Palace Theatre” and in the arrangements for the venture’s inaugural opera, “Ivanhoe”, written by Sir Arthur Sullivan.
With the death of Francis Fladgate in 1892, in his 94th year, the last original member of the Garrick Club passed away. Affectionately known among many of the old habitués as “Papa Fladgate”, he was a great friend of Thackeray, who characterises him in “Our Street” under the guise of Tom Fairfax. Fladgate’s portrait by Henry O’Neil hangs in the Club.
The Territorial and Reserve Forces Act was passed in 1907 and the Territorial Army came into being. We started acting for the Territorial Army Association of the County of London in August 1908 and we continue to act for their successors to this day.
One of the blocks of flats in the new Battersea Power Station development has been named Fladgate House, in recognition of Sir William Francis Fladgate who was a partner in Fladgate & Co from 1876 until 1935. In 1925, Sir Francis, whose photograph is in the National Portrait Gallery, became Chairman of the London Power Company (the grouping of 10 of the 60 or so power companies that had been supplying London) which, amid considerable controversy at the time, commissioned the Battersea Power Station. Grouping the power companies and supplying electricity to London “in bulk” was something about which Sir Francis was passionate.
In 1894, we acted in the formation of the company called New Claridges Hotel Ltd which, in the first instance, acquired a lease of the site of Claridge’s in Brook Street, W1. In 1930, we acted on the acquisition of the freehold.
Throughout the 1940’s, we acted for Sir Winston Churchill on his tax and literary affairs. Anthony Moir, the partner concerned, was a regular visitor to 28 Hyde Park Gate, Chartwell, 10 Downing Street and Chequers and also accompanied Sir Winston on numerous trips abroad. Our link with the Spencer-Churchill family continues today.
Sir Dingwall (“Dingo”) Bateson, a former President of the Law Society, was senior partner in the 40s and counted Noël Coward among his clients. Coward was so grateful for his advice that he named his speedboat Dingo. Sir Dingwall is quoted as saying: “A solicitor is a man who calls in a person he doesn’t know, to sign a contract he hasn’t seen, to buy property he doesn’t want, with money he hasn’t got”.
Through Richard D’Oyly Carte, we were involved with the Savoy Group from its inception, acting on the formation of a company in 1887, the chief object of which was to purchase land in Savoy Place and to erect an hotel. We also played a key role in resolving the 1947 Savoy Hotel strikes which threatened the hotel’s services on the eve of the Queen’s marriage to Prince Philip.
In “The Silver Spoon”, published in 1952 (and still listed on Amazon), the author Lord Grantley said, with a little author’s licence: “However, I left it in the hands of Fladgates, our family solicitors for the last three centuries.”
After Sir Anthony Eden’s resignation in 1957, he decided to write his memoirs and in 1958, following a recommendation from one of the trustees of Sir Winston Churchill’s Chartwell Trust, he instructed us to act for him on this matter.