TWM has recently celebrated 50 years in Cranleigh, having opened as Durham and Co in September 1968. Graham Oliver has been with the firm throughout that time. He spent 40 years in charge of the office specialising in conveyancing and then, following his retirement from full time work, a further 10 years continuing his practice as a Notary Public. Here he shares some memories of the early days in Cranleigh.
In September 1968 I was a very newly qualified solicitor, having been articled to Durham and Co in Kingston. I was asked if I would like to take charge of a new office in Cranleigh, widely known as the largest village in England, which was then undergoing its first big expansion of housing. Opening day was fixed for Monday 16 September 1968 but over the preceding weekend there was heavy rain which resulted in floods throughout the Wey Valley. Cranleigh was badly affected and some residents even had to be evacuated by boat. Our offices at 3 Bank Buildings in the High Street were on the first floor but the ground floor entrance was full of water. I was then unmarried and living with my parents in West Byfleet and it was impossible to reach Cranleigh as all the roads were impassable and the village was cut off! Thus opening day was in fact Tuesday 17 September. It was hardly an auspicious start, but happily better times lay ahead.
Setting up the practice was something of a challenge as the firm’s other offices were in Kingston and Leatherhead. It was very much up to me to establish contacts; in those days solicitors were forbidden to advertise! In the early days the staff consisted of me and one secretary. I moved to Cranleigh when I married in 1969 and joined various organisations including Round Table and later Rotary and ran the village Hockey Club for many years. Some of the early clients from those days have remained with the firm ever since. Things gradually went from strength to strength and by 1988 we were able to move to the larger and more prestigious Broadoak House, which is still the firm’s office. There have, of course, been mergers and changes of name over the years; we practised as Wilkinsons for many years prior to the amalgamation with Triggs Turner and Tuck and Mann in 2000, which led to TWM becoming a leading South East practice.