Gaby Hardwicke looks back to cases from the Ripper era.

David Young, Senior Partner at Gaby Hardwicke
David Young, Senior Partner at Gaby Hardwicke

History buffs will be buoyed to read that reports of local court cases from the Victorian era are being released online along with other items of local historical interest. Their publication is part of the 125th year celebrations of Sussex law firm Gaby Hardwicke Solicitors, which was founded in 1889.

Only a year after the infamous ‘Jack the Ripper’ killings, Britain was a very different place in 1889, and this is reflected in the often bizarre nature of local court cases. Alongside the familiar occurrence of burglaries and assaults, quirky cases involving speeding ponies, drunken horsemen, unlicensed hawkers, rogue railway porters and animal theft were regularly heard in the local courts.

The archive also sheds light on the serious issue of social deprivation at a time when poverty was widespread, often leading to the workhouse. Sadder cases include a woman charged with keeping her child from school because she couldn’t afford to buy him boots, and a girl charged with begging alongside her mother, who was charged with causing the child to beg.

Elsewhere in the new ‘125th year’ section of Gaby Hardwicke’s website are extracts from wartime letters about local bombing (including the 1940 bombing of Gaby Hardwicke’s Hastings office), reminiscences from solicitors and employees from days gone by and profiles of the firm’s key former partners, among them some well-known local figures.

David Young (pictured), Senior Partner at Gaby Hardwicke, said: “History and a sense of place are important to all of us. Over the years, Gaby Hardwicke has been an important reference point and resource for the whole community and I am delighted with the positive feedback we have received from those with whom various episodes and personalities in the firm’s colourful and rich history have resonated so loudly. We are immensely proud of our unique heritage.”

The material is available online at