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On the South West’s high streets for over 100 years – Wards Solicitors

Wards Solicitors is a familiar name on high streets across Bristol, South Gloucestershire and North Somerset. For over 100 years the firm has provided expert legal advice to local people, covering services for both private and commercial clients.

In 1895, at the age of 15, James William Ward moved down to Bristol from Yorkshire. Articled to William Roberts of Strickland Roberts & Tratman, Solicitors of All Saints Court, Bristol, at a weekly wage of 5/- (25p), he was admitted in April 1905 and by 1906 had an address at 38 Redding Road, Stapleton, Bristol as well as two offices bearing his name at 402 Fishponds Road, Upper Eastville and Dolphin Street, off Wine Street. Within another eight years he had added two further offices in Frampton Cotterell and Mangotsfield.

In 1928 J W Ward's son, William Wray Ward, was admitted as a partner and the name changed to J W Ward & Son (which you can still see on the elevator plaques and reception wall in the Bristol City Centre branch, today).

In 1932, J, W, Ward & Son took over the practice of George Stredwick who practised as a solicitor from Rupert Chambers, Rupert Street, Bristol. Like his father, William Wray Ward was an expert business man, as well as an ambitious and astute lawyer. During 1938/39, he assisted numerous builders financially and also provided land for building purposes, thereby generating Conveyancing work for the firm. This was an area of business interest that would help to transform the city within twenty years.

At that time, he lived at The Pines, Cleeve Hill ,Downend and his business activities with the builders centred around Kingswood, Staple Hill, Downend and many houses in Stoke Bishop and Knowle, administered by his Dolphin Street office. Needless to say, money was always very tight in the 1938/39 years and many of the builders went bankrupt. William Wray Ward's foresight paid off as these buildings reverted to him, as mortgagee.

With the outbreak of war the firm was run by the sole practitioner William Wray Ward, assisted by his brother Wilfred Beaumont Ward, cashier Miss New, and Managing Clerk Reginald Ferris. The firm struggled on through the early war years until November 1940 when Bristol suffered extensive air raids and the offices were destroyed. Undeterred J W Ward & Son took up offices in Albion Chambers, running operations from a room in 67 Cleeve Hill, Downend, on a table tennis top, until these offices could be secured. As a part of this move, Mr Ward acquired the firm Broad and Lewis, who were operating from the second floor at Albion Chambers.

The post-war years saw characteristic growth and opportunity for the firm as the surrounding areas began to recover from Blitz-damage with regeneration and building projects. The next generation of 'Wards' qualified and were taken on as partners and the firm partnered with many of the building contractors responsible for re-building the city of Bristol.

In 1956 the firm moved from Albion Chambers to 28 and 33 Broad Street before eventually settling at the address it occupies today, 52 Broad Street.

It was during these years that the firm's partnership began to expand more widely outside of the immediate Ward family. Although there had been a number of 'non-Ward' partners to this point, the 1960s and 1970s saw the introduction of many of the names that clients remember today - Mr Michael Thompson, Mr Bryan Jones, Mr J F Johnston, as well as the long-standing Mr Heaven.

Having set up a home at 52 Broad Street, Bristol the firm continued to grow, once again taking on space in Albion Chambers, as well as establishing a Weston-super-Mare office at 37 Boulevard.

In 1981 the firm joined with Salisbury Griffiths & White, taking in Mr W H Cook, Mr Bob Cook and Mr Les Pearce. In 1988 the firm joined, again, with Brown & Partners, taking on Mr John McDonald, Mr Martin Keegan and Mr Chris Cole. A year later it was Trapnell &. Forbes, who joined the 'Wards Family' with Mr Robert Swift.

In 1996 J W Ward and Son became simply Wards Solicitors. The firm has continued to expanded, merging with many other local firms, and currently has nearly 150 people, including 15 partners, spread over 9 branches in Bristol, Bradley Stoke, Clevedon, Nailsea, Portishead, Staple Hill, Weston-super-Mare, Worle and Yate. It is a legacy to Mr J W Ward that his name is still present on the wall in the Bristol City Centre office and that his family name still holds a place on the region's high streets.