The heritage of our firm stretches back to the first half of the eighteenth century.
Penningtons Manches joined forces with Thomas Cooper in 2019 to create Penningtons Manches Cooper, a dominant legal player in London and the South East as well as overseas. The move opened an exciting new chapter in the 300 year history of our practice.
While Manches was founded in 1936, the Penningtons merger with Dawsons LLP in May 2011 brought together two firms with roots tracing back to the eighteenth century. The origins of the Penningtons firm go back to John Fallowfield Scott, who set up his practice in 1791, 62 years after Edward Woodcock registered the firm that would become Dawsons in 1729.
If you had been strolling through Lincoln’s Inn in 1801, you would have passed Mr Woodcock’s premises at 2 New Square next door to Mr Scott’s firm at numbers 3 and 6 but it would be over two centuries before these two businesses were under the same roof in Gutter Lane, Cheapside.
Just over 20 years later, in 1825, admiralty proctor Thomas Cooper established his own niche firm in the City of London, the forefather to generations of lawyers who have offered advice and assistance on maritime and trade law under his name.
By 1855, Mr Woodcock’s practice was thriving with an additional office in Chancery Lane. The first member of the Dawson dynasty, William Hill Dawson, joined as a partner that year and the line of Dawson partners continued until the death of Colin Aufrere Dawson in 1958.
The firm first became known as Dawson & Co in 1918 and did not adopt the name by which it became generally known – Dawsons – until 2002. In May 2007 Dawsons converted its status to a limited liability partnership (LLP).
In 1855, Richard Pennington was admitted to Mr Scott’s firm, Cookson, Wainewright and Co, and, after ten years as managing clerk, he became a partner.
By 1893 he had become the President of the Law Society and the firm, now called Pennington & Son, moved to 64 Lincoln’s Inn Fields. Following Richard’s death in 1910, his son, Herbert, ran the practice until he retired in 1921 but the line of Penningtons continued with a further 20 partners throughout the 20th century.
In 1964, another firm with a long and illustrious history joined forces with Pennington & Son to form Penningtons and Lewis & Lewis. The latter was founded in 1834 by two brothers, James Graham Lewis and George Coleman Hamilton Lewis. James’ son, George Henry Lewis was one of the most famous solicitors in the history of the profession. He was a partner from 1858 to 1909, knighted in 1893 and made a baronet in 1902.
Until Lewis & Lewis merged with Pennington & Son, 14 descendants of the Lewis family, including the second and third baronets, were partners in the practice.
Manches was founded in 1936 by Sidney Manches in a single room in what is now Broadgate. He and his wife Judith were the first husband and wife to practise in partnership. In 1956 they moved to Wigmore Street and in 1990 the firm's London office moved to Aldwych House.
Peter Angel opened the Oxford office in 1982 and the Reading office was opened in May 2008 to create a strong Thames Valley presence for the firm.
Sidney and Judith's son, Louis Manches, trained at Manches and became head of real estate and then senior partner in the London office while their daughter, Jane Simpson, was chair of the firm until her retirement in 2011.
Penningtons sold its lease in Lincoln’s Inn Fields in 1971 and moved to 99 Aldwych. In 1972 part of the firm moved out of London to Godalming where we built our own office in 1984. A merger with Ward Bowie in 1986 brought with it more ‘out of London’ offices in Newbury, Bournemouth and Basingstoke.
Following mergers with Lincoln’s Inn firm Gamlens and city firm Birkbeck Montague in 1991, we moved to Dashwood House but the offices were destroyed by the Bishopsgate bomb in 1993 which caused £350 million of damage, killed a News of the World photographer and injured 44 people.
In 1996 we moved to Bucklersbury House where we stayed until moving our London headquarters to Abacus House in Gutter Lane, Cheapside in 2007.
The new century started with a major rebrand and the introduction of the P logo as the core distinctive element of the Penningtons corporate identity.
In 2005, after centuries of being an unlimited liability partnership, the firm converted to a limited liability partnership (LLP) in step with many other professional practices. The next major change followed in 2007 when we brought in the concept of three divisions based on practice areas instead of a location-specific operating structure with office managing partners.
Since then, we have welcomed colleagues from Dawsons and Wedlake Saint in 2011 and boosted our practice further through the opening of offices in Cambridge and Guildford in 2012.
The acquisition of Manches LLP in October 2013 reflected both firms' strategic aims and the need to respond to the ever-changing legal environment by creating a £58 million firm with 600 staff operating out of seven locations in London, the South East and Thames Valley.
There was further expansion in 2015 as we consolidated our Surrey presence in new premises in Guildford and moved our London team to 125 Wood Street, bringing our City partners and staff under one roof for the first time since Penningtons and Manches joined forces.
In April 2019, the firm launched in the West Midlands through the opening of an office in the centre of Birmingham focusing initially on commercial property. As planned, over time this has developed into a much broader offering.
Just three months later, we completed our merger with Thomas Cooper, now universally recognised for its work in shipping, international trade and international arbitration. Our integrated team operates across seven UK and four overseas offices in Asia and Europe.
After nearly 15 years leading the firm, during which time turnover has grown by 400%, David Raine passed the reins as chief executive to corporate lawyer Helen Drayton. She was identified as his successor following a selection process that shortlisted a number of high performing candidates.