'Anciently...every suitor was obliged to appear and prosecute or defend his suit in person unless by special license of the King; and this still continues to be the rule in criminal cases. But by sundry old statutes... permission was granted to attorneys to prosecute or defend any civil suit in the absence of the parties.

To him, the repressed repair to learn by what means the oppressor is to be resisted; to him, the orphan and the friendless look, as to one who knows how to direct them to recover their property or their rights. The attorney it is to whom, as a conveyancer in preparing deeds, bonds, mortgages, marriage settlements etc., we confide the transfer and security of our monies, our goods and our estates. It is the attorney before whom we lay these documents, upon his opinion of which we buy and sell land, houses and a variety of other property depending more especially upon what is usually called the Title to their possession. By these means it is the attorney who has an opportunity of knowing the most intimate affairs of individuals in every relative situation in life,; and it is the attorney, thus invested with so much power, who has the opportunity of becoming either a blessing or a curse to the neighbourhood in which he resides.'

The book of English trades and library of useful arts, London 1818, pp6,7

John Dunning Snr.

John, the father of famous Ashburtonian John Dunning, was an attorney.

Born in 1701* he 'had settled at Ashburton....where he practised as an attorney. He had married the daughter of a Mr Henry Judsham, of Old Port, in the parish of Modbury**'

John junior 'was born on the 18th October 1731 in the house where his father resided and carried on his business, which house is still standing, and is pointed out at this day to the stranger by the townspeople of Ashburton, with no little pride and complacency.'

Lives of eminent English judges of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, William Newland Welsby, T & J W Johnson, Philadelphia 1846, p535

* Charles Worthy says he was born 1701. Charles Worthy, Devonshire Parishes, op cit. p 73

** Henry Jutsham  according to Charles Worthy, Devonshire Parishes, op cit. p 73. Marriage licence said to be 17th May 1726.

Leaving school at about age 13, Dunning became an articled clerk in his father's firm.

'Several monuments of his industry as a clerk are still to be met with in the neighbourhood of Ashburton, such, for instance, as family deeds and settlements, written throughout by his own hand, and bearing his signature as an attesting witness. Many pages also of the proceedings in the parish books are of his writing, and are signed J Dunning, junior.'

Lives of eminent English judges p536

For more on John Dunning see Famous Ashburtonians


1749 In the National Archives, ref
ADM 106/1077/118, is a letter to or from John Hicks, attorney, Ashburton, detailing Amos Mallett and Prudence Webb's trial for embezzling naval stores. - Accessed 21-11-2014


Richard Harris
In 1756 John Smerdon was an apprentice to Richard Harris of Ashburton, attorney.
In 1767 Robert Brent was an apprentice to Richard Harris, gent.
1769 John Seale and in 1777 Robert Abraham were apprenticed to Richard Harris attorney.
Register of duties paid for Apprentices' Indentures 1710-1811

Richard may have been the same Richard Harris who left a charitable bequest in his will of 1778 (see the Rich and poor section of People and properties).

Above: Letter addressed to Mr Richard Harris, May 1770

From my own collection 

Mary, the daughter of John Edmonds, attorney, and Ann his wife, was baptised in May 1780
Parish records

In 1774 Thomas Soper was apprenticed as an attorney to John Edmonds of Ashburton.
In 1780 both John Rowe Southmead and Rob Abraham were apprenticed to John Edmonds.
Register of Duties Paid for Apprentices' Indentures, 1710 - 1811, availabe via

A memorial on the wall of St Andrew's Church commemorates John Edmonds, who died 10th August 1808, aged 63 years. He was an attorney.
See photograph in the Ashburton and the East India Company section


The death of John Smerdon, attorney, at Ashburton, was reported in 1817. He may be the same John Smerdon who was apprenticed to Richard Harris, above.

The New Monthly Magazine, vol 7, London, January - June 1817, p461


Thomas Tucker

In 1783 Vincent Langworthy was an apprentice to Thomas Tucker of Ashburton, attorney.
Register of duties paid for Apprentices' Indentures 1710-1811

The marriage of Thomas Tucker, attorney, and Miss Cooksley, both of Ashburton, was announced in 1793

The Gentleman's Magazine, 1793, p372

Andrew Tucker

'Doctor Andrew G C Tucker* was born in 1778 at Ashburton. After qualifying as a solicitor and obtaining the degree of LL.D. of St Andrews, he practised in that town and evidently from his writings was a keen naturalist and philosopher.'

Report and transactions of the Devonshire Association, Plymouth 1900, Vol XXXII p271

Available to read freely on Accessed 22/9/2013

* Believed to be Andrew Griffin Coard Tucker

For more on the Tucker family, many of whom became solicitors, see The Tucker family under People and properties


The Tozer family

1761 The banns were read in March for the marriage of Solomon Tozer of Ashburton and Catherine Wreford of Bow.

1765 Solomon Tozer, the son of Solomon and Catherine, was baptized on July 4th

1767 Moses Tozer, the son of Solomon Tozer and his wife Rebecca, was baptized in May.

1783 John Tozer, sergemaker, was buried on April 27th.

Parish register

1817 A 'substantial' property in West Street occupied by Solomon Tozer is up for sale. The house had two parlours, a drawing room, a kitchen, 7 bedrooms, a wash-house, scullery, pantries, drying lofts and a pump.

Exeter Flying Post 16 Oct 1817 p1 col5  

This is probably the same Solomon Tozer who died aged 48 in 1819, and was buried in Ashburton on 19th May. The burial record states that he was an attorney.

Parish register

In 1819 the Exeter Flying Post printed a notice regarding the estate of the late Solomon Tozer, attorney-at-law at Ashburton. Anyone with a claim on the estate was to contact Mr R M Tozer of Newton-Abbott or Mr J C Tozer of Teignmouth. 

Exeter Flying Post 3 Jun 1819 p1 col5


5th March 1821. Solomon Tozer married Mary Rendell by licence at the bride's parish, Stokeinteignhead. Solomon was of the parish of Ashburton.

1823 Solomon Tozer, the son of Solomon Tozer and Mary, was baptized on April 30th. Solomon was a sergemaker.

Parish register.

The 1861 census of Ashburton shows Henry Tozer, solicitor, living in East Street. With him is his wife Harriet A, his daughter Harriet M E, and his son Solomon.

Henry was probably the son of Solomon and Mary Tozer, born 9th August 1829 and baptised in Ashburton on 6th January 1830. The Devon Family History Society index shows Solomon as a sergemaker.
Ashburton Baptisms 1830-1840 Devon FHS 2006

Solomon and Mary may be the same couple of that name living at Abbey View in the 1861 census. Solomon is still there in 1881, aged 89 and describing himself as a retired sergemaker. He was born in Somerset.

In 1894 the following obituary was written about Henry Tozer:

'Henry Tozer was the youngest son of Solomon Tozer, a member of an old Ashburton family, long connected with the woollen manufacture. He was educated at the Ashburton Grammar School, and entered the legal profession about forty years since, having served his articles with the late Mr Edgar, of Weston-super-mare. He took an active part in local matters, and his genial and generous nature made him a popular man. For many years he had the management of Spitchwick and Widecombe Manors, then in Chancery. For some time Mr Tozer had withdrawn from public business, and his son and survivor Mr Solomon Tozer, having entered into partnership with him, he devoted himself to his garden and other kindred pursuits.

Mr Tozer joined the Association in 1872, and the success of the meeting at Ashburton in 1876, was largely due to the active interest he took in the arrangements, and to his liberal hospitality on the occasion. He was also one of the early members of the Teign Naturalists' Field Club, having been elected in 1865.

Early in life he married Harriet Goodhall*, who died in 1884 leaving a son and daughter. Early in 1893, Mr Tozer moved into his country house at Priestaford, near Ashburton, where he died suddenly on the 27th August, at the age of 64. 

Transactions of the Devonshire Association Vol 26 (1894) p50

Freely available from - accessed 19-9-2014

*According to FreeBMD Henry Tozer married Harriet Agnes Goodall in the Axbridge registration district in the September quarter of 1853



Joseph Gribble

In 1814 a dwelling house was to be let in Newton Abbot, as was a house in Shaldon and a cottage in Bovey Tracey. Particulars could be obtained from various people, including Mr Gribble, solicitor, Newton and Mr J Gribble, solicitor, Ashburton.

Exeter Flying Post 11 August 1814, p3 col4

1815 Documents connected with the French prisoners of war show that Joseph Gribble was agent for the prisoners

For more on this see the Conflict section of Ashburton in peril.

Coroners - Joseph Gribble, Ashburton, 1816

Exeter Itinerary and general directory, T & H Besley, Exeter 1828, p76

Mr Joseph Gribble mentioned as Ashburton solicitor

London Gazette Issue 18247 13 May 1826, p1143 

When parts of a phaeton belonging to Mr Thomas Cousins were stolen from a coach house in East Street, five guineas reward was offered for the conviction of the culprits. Application could be made to Mr Joseph Gribble, secretary and treasurer of the Ashburton Association for the prevention of robbery and theft. 

Exeter Flying Post 1 November 1821, p1 col4

On 30th October 1835 a fiat in bankruptcy was issued against Joseph Gribble of Ashburton*4, scrivener. 

Western Times 15 October 1842, p1 col5

*The same person?

He lived somewhere in West Street. Later that year (1835) the property, 'late and for many years in the occupation of Mr Joseph Gribble' was up for auction at the London Inn.

Western Times 19 December 1835, p2 col3

In 1851, 76 year old Joseph Gribble, coroner and solicitor, was living in West Street. A widower, his 3 unmarried daughters and one unmarried son were living with him. The 31 year old son, Arthur M Gribble, was a dissenting minister.

1851 census HO107,  piece no. 1871, folio 314, p3                                                                  


The Abraham family.

In 1777 Robert Abraham was apprenticed to Richard Harris attorney. Three years later a Robert Abraham was apprenticed to John Edmonds, attorney, which possibly indicates a change of master.

1785. John Gillett was an apprentice with Robert Abraham jnr., attorney, as was Henry M. Lyde in 1789, Joseph Gribble in 1790, Jonas Ridout and John Henry Pinker in 1795 and Charles Kendall and Jas N. P. Cosserat in 1800.
Register of duties paid for Apprentices' Indentures 1710-1811

Robert Abraham married Sarah Cockey in July 1784
Parish records

They had at least 5 children, including Robert Abraham [jnr.]*, baptised in May 1793
Parish records
*This junior is a generation down from the one above.

Robert Abraham [jnr.], bachelor, married Frances Cockey in October 1826
Parish records

October 1827. Robert and Frances Abraham baptized their daughter, Sarah Mary. Robert is described as a solicitor.
Ashburton baptisms 1822-1829 Devon FHS 2006

In 1830 Robert Abraham jnr., solicitor, of Ashburton, was killed in a riding accident.
Bristol Mercury 6 July 1830 p1 col4

Robert George Abraham, of 21, Harp-Lane, Tower, and Ashburton, articled to Robert Abraham, Ashburton, was listed amongst those applying to be admitted as attorneys in the Court of Queen's Bench, Hilary Term 1841.
The Jurist, London, 1841, vol IV p 1042

Articled clerks who passed their examination at the Hall of the Law Society, Hilary Term 1841: Robert George Abraham, articled or assigned to Robert Abraham, Ashburton.

The Legal Guide, Vol 5, London 1841, p237

In 1844 The Exeter and Plymouth Gazette noted that in the Register of Attornies and Solicitors several men had been practising between 59 and 64 years. The solicitor in third place for length of service was Robert Abraham of Ashburton, who was admitted in 1782.
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 5 October 1844 p3 col2

He died aged 86 in 1847. The North Devon Journal reported that he was then the oldest solicitor in the county.
North Devon Journal 11 February 1847 p3 col1

Robert George Abraham, the son of Thomas and Mary, was baptized at Lambeth, Surrey, in May 1819
Transcription from FamilySearch England Births and Baptisms 1538-1975

In the 1841 census he was an attorney, in the household of Robert Abraham [snr.] in East Street. Robert Abraham snr. was approximately 80 years old; Robert George was approximately 20.
1841 census HO107, piece no 253, folio 21, p37

When he married Katherine Anne Hainworth in 1853 he was a solicitor living in Ashburton. His deceased father was Thomas Abraham, barrister at law.
Crediton parish records

He died in 1908 aged 89, and was buried at Woodland
Woodland parish records

1908. The death of Robert George Abraham, solicitor, was announced. He was in his 90th year.
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 28 August 1908 p16 col6


In 1845 'the lady of George Caunter Esq., solicitor', gave birth to a daughter.
Western Times 18 January 1845 p2 col6

For more on George Caunter see the Caunter family under People and properties.


1850. The following are listed as Attorneys in White's Directory:

Abraham and Kitson, East Street

George Caunter, East Street

William Aldridge Cockey, East Street, dep. coroner

Joseph Gribble, West Street, coroner

Robert Tucker, East Street
History, gazetteer and directory of Devonshire, William White, 1850 p466. Freely available on - Accessed 25-9-2014

The 1851 census shows 76 year old Joseph Gribble as a solicitor and coroner, living in West Street.
1851 census HO107, Piece 253, Folio 21, p34

Mr W A Cockey

When Joseph Gribble died in 1852, a vacancy occurred for the post of coroner. W A Cockey, solicitor, had been deputy coroner for some time, and was a candidate for the position.
Western Times 2 October 1852, p7 col5


Solicitors in the 1861 census: Robert Tucker, Robert C Tucker, Robert G Abraham and Henry Tozer.

In 1864 R Dobell, jnr., of East Street, Ashburton, was listed as one of the correspondents of The Law Students' Examination Chronicle
The Examination Chronicle, Jan-Dec. 1864, p111

This is possibly Robert Dobell, who in the 1861 census was the 14 year old son of Robert Dobell, a solicitor's managing clerk. At the time Robert was living with his parents and 6 siblings in East Street., 1861 census RG9/1405, folio 32, p13


1874. H. Tozer, solicitor, Ashburton, advertised that he would advance sums of money – £1500 and £700 is given as an example – on freehold and approved leasehold properties.
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 10 July 1874 p8 col5

Henry Mallaby Firth

See also The Firth family under Individual Families

Born in Cheshire, Henry Mallaby Firth was baptised in Wittan in 1852, the son of Frederic Hand and Mary Firth.

He was an articled attorney clerk in Lewisham in 1871. In 1875 Mr Firth, son of F A Firth of Cator Court, went into partnership with Mr G Caunter, of Ashburton.

He married Frances Caunter in Widecombe parish church in 1877. At the time of his marriage his residence was Cator Court, Widecombe. Frances was the daughter of solicitor George Caunter.

Wittan parish records

1871 census RG10, piece no 768, folio 44, p14

Western Times 5 March 1875 p8 col3

Widecombe parish records

Ledgers and account books for Caunter and Firth, solicitors, are held at the Devon Archives and Local Studies Service (South West Heritage Trust), ref 1164B

In the 1891 census Henry Mallaby Firth, solicitor, is shown at The Knoll, Ashburton. Forty years old, he is living with his wife Frances, three children and three servants.

In the same census Frederic H Firth, 66 and a JP living on his own means, is living at Place House. He was also born in Cheshire.

Henry Mallaby Firth died, aged 74, in 1926. He was lord of the manor of Ashburton, a governor of the Grammar School and trustee of the church lands amongst other roles.
Western Morning News 11 March 1926, p3 col5


Other Ashburton solicitors in the 1891 census are: 3 members of the Tucker family (Robert, Robert C and Robert E), Robert G Abraham and Solomon Toyer*

* Should be Tozer


In 1896 Captain S Tozer, solicitor at Ashburton, died. He was chairman of the committee for the Constitutional Club, a retired Major of the Ashburton Company of Volunteers, a one-time churchwarden and governor of the Grammar School, and the first secretary of the Ashburton Building Company. He had also been Portreeve.
Exeter Flying Post 15 February 1896 p3 col4