Birkett Long photos focus on Halstead history

Photos dating back to the nineteenth century which chart the history of leading Essex law firm Birkett Long have been loaned to Halstead Heritage Museum.

Birkett Long’s origins in Halstead date to the 1820s, and the firm had a base in the town for more than 180 years until 2006.

Halstead Museum Co-ordinator Jim Davis said Robert Rutherford Morton, who became a Partner in the firm in 1868, and Sir Ronald Long, who joined the firm in 1922, were key figures in the town’s commercial history. 

When Mr Morton became a Partner, the firm’s name changed to Harris, Morton and Harris. Mr Morton’s daughter Agatha was a celebrated Wimbledon tennis player, reaching four ladies’ singles finals.

Mr Morton became Clerk to Halstead Urban District Council in 1894 and died in 1917, by which time his son Gerard Sinclair Morton had joined the firm, which had become Morton & Son.

GS Morton accepted Ronald Long as an articled clerk in 1922. Mr Long, later Sir Ronald, was admitted as a solicitor in 1927 and was still a practising solicitor when he died in 1987, making him one of just a handful of solicitors who practised for more than 60 years.

In 1927 Ronald Long also became Clerk to Halstead Urban District Council, a position he held for 40 years. In 1952 he became President of Essex and Suffolk Law Society, becoming President of The Law Society in 1963 and being knighted the following year. The firm became Smith, Morton & Long in 1963. Sir Ronald’s son Richard Ronald Long became a partner in May 1967. 

Originally based in Halstead High Street, the firm moved to Head Street before being based for many years in The Red House on Colchester Road. 

Managing Partner Adrian Livesley from Birkett Long said: “Birkett Long’s roots are in Halstead, building a platform for the firm to grow and develop our services to clients across and beyond Essex, with offices in Colchester, Chelmsford and Basildon. As we mark our move to new purpose-built offices in Colchester, we are happy to make our historical photos available to Halstead Museum.”

Halstead Museum is run by Halstead & District Local History Society, of which Sir Ronald Long served as the first President. 

Mr Davis said: “The Museum tells the industrial and commercial history of Halstead, which was an influential town from the 15th until the 20th century.”