Geoffrey Grant, who led the firm for 40 years from the late 1950s until his retirement, sadly died in 2019. His daughter Emma has provided this obituary which contains important information about the firm’s more recent history.
Geoffrey Clive Goldstone (as he was called then) was born on the 7th August 1932 in Wallasey Merseyside. He was the youngest of three siblings and lived with his parents and brother and sister above his father’s surgery in Wallasey. His father was a GP, and his mother was an optician and one of the first women to enter the profession in the early 1920s.
Geoffrey was seven when war broke out in 1939 and in August 1940, a couple of days after his eighth birthday, Geoffrey with his mother and two siblings left Liverpool and sailed to America. The reason they were leaving was the fear of invasion and the consequences this would have on the Jewish population. His father couldn’t leave because, as a doctor, he was in a reserved occupation.
On arriving in America, they stayed with a very kind and generous Methodist family in New Jersey. They were barely in America a year, however, when due to Geoffrey’s brother Clifford’s delicate health they moved to the much warmer Barbados. On 7th December 1941 the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor resulting in America joining the war. This meant that Britain was no longer under threat of being invaded and Geoffrey’s mother made the decision to return home. After an extremely perilous journey, during which Geoffrey and his siblings were told by their mother to keep their boots on at all times, in case the ship was torpedoed, they arrived home in May 1942.
On his return, Geoffrey went to Wallasey Grammar School for a couple of years before joining his brother at Liverpool College at the age of twelve in 1944. At school Geoffrey particularly excelled at English and won a few literature prizes before leaving school in 1949 having taken his Higher School Certificate (the equivalent of A levels) at the age of sixteen.
Geoffrey started his degree in law at Liverpool University in 1949, shortly after his seventeenth birthday. He enjoyed university life immensely and while at university he became involved in a large number of activities, including in particular student journalism. He also put together a university jazz band.
He was articled from 1952 to 1955 to a firm of solicitors in Liverpool called Layton and Co, which was one of the larger firms in Liverpool at that time. The last six months of his articles were spent studying for his solicitors’ finals in London. He worked very hard for these and passed with honours, which was a comparatively rare achievement.
While he was in his final year at university he met Valerie Globe (who was in her first year studying law at Liverpool University) at a wedding. They were married on the 8th February 1956 in Liverpool and after a short time in Wallasey, they moved to Bexleyheath in South London, as Geoffrey had found a job working for Bexleyheath Council. While he was working at Bexley town hall, Valerie attended the six-month Solicitors final course at Gibson and Weldon law tutors. They didn’t stay long in Bexleyheath, and in August 1957 they moved to Golders Green, where they stayed for six years; during those six years their first two daughters were born. In 1963 they moved again to Dulwich and their third and youngest daughter was born in 1966.
Geoffrey soon became disillusioned with local authority work, and started looking for an opening in private practice. His brother Clifford (who was a partner in a firm in Eltham) introduced him to a solicitor he knew called Norman Fedrick; Mr Fedrick needed someone to look after an old run-down practice in Greenwich he had bought for next to nothing, as he didn’t have time to run it himself. So in August 1956, Geoffrey left Bexleyheath Council and started a new job at Saw & Sons in Trafalgar Road in Greenwich.
Geoffrey found the practice to be more or less dormant. The last active proprietor of the firm was Mr Robins, who had died in 1949. The firm had been left in the hands of his son who was articled there, and an elderly semi-retired solicitor called Mr Lancashire. Young Robins, as soon as his father died, transferred his articles to a firm in town, leaving no-one there except Mr Lancashire. It was a non-practice, but with some history and quite a lot of wills in the safe and potential.
Norman Fedrick sold Geoffrey a half share of the practice for a small sum, but within a year or two Geoffrey decided he wanted to be his own boss. In 1959, Geoffrey bought Norman Fedrick’s half share so that he owned the whole practice.
Geoffrey’s wife Valerie was appointed a partner at this point and, although she didn’t work full time at the office, she started helping straightaway doing the bookkeeping. He employed a secretary and, as Mr Lancashire had by this time left, that was all the staff he had. He initially ran the practice on his own, practising in all areas of law except criminal law, although some years later his wife Valerie joined the firm full time and he also took on a partner (Nicholas Gregory) to do litigation and family law matters. Later more partners and staff joined the firm, (including Gill Jordan, the daughter of Jim Meader, the Town Clerk of Deptford and Charles Paske). Geoffrey’s particular specialties were company and property law.
In 1961, it was decided that a local law society should be formed in South London and local solicitors were invited to join a steering committee to get it going. Geoffrey joined that steering committee and became very involved with the South London Law Society when it came into existence in 1961 and through it with various activities of the Law Society itself. From being a member of the steering committee, he went on to become Secretary of the Society and as the years went by the Vice- President and ultimately President (and then Secretary again!).
Among his many Law Society activities was the Solicitors Benevolent Association. This involved attending meetings and also occasionally visiting beneficiaries within the South London area. Later in his career, he became a member of a Law Society special committee certifying other solicitors’ bills. His involvement with the South London Law Society reached a particularly high point when he met the Queen in 1975 during the Law Society 150th anniversary celebrations.
While President of the South London Law society, Geoffrey did quite a bit of broadcasting mainly on the radio (although he did once appear on Nationwide on TV) in order to give the Law Society’s views on various topics, such as whether or not solicitors should charge scale fees for conveyancing. He also appeared on “You and Yours” on BBC Radio 4, where the topic under discussion was “Gardens and the Law”, as well as doing a weekly session on LBC with two other London solicitors, each of them covering a different field.
Geoffrey’s ambition had originally been to become a journalist, as he enjoyed writing so much. Although this ambition was never realised as a full time career, he was on the editorial board and wrote some humorous articles for the Law Society’s Gazette.
The practice survived and grew throughout the 1960s and early 1970s. Towards the end of the 1970s, Grant Saw and Sons were appointed solicitors to the Greenwich Building Society, which gave a much-needed boost to the firm’s conveyancing department at that time. Valerie very largely organised the whole system and streamlined it with standard forms of various kinds (pre-computerisation of course). Gill Jordan took over most of the work with the help of a legal executive.
Geoffrey joined the board of the Greenwich Building Society and eventually became chairman, a position he held for three years and during that time it was a very important part of his life.
Geoffrey left the partnership in 1998 at the age of 66; but he carried on working for the next five years as a consultant, nearly full time to begin with, but gradually easing off. By August 2003 he had downed tools more or less completely and retired, leaving others to carry on running the practice.
As well as a solicitor Geoffrey was a very keen and able musician. He played both clarinet and saxophone in various amateur and semi-professional dance bands, both in South and North London. When retired, he also joined a professional dance band, called the Nick Ross Orchestra, which involved travelling around the country. When he retired from legal practice, he decided to teach the saxophone and clarinet and he undertook a 12-month Certificate of Teaching course at the Royal Academy of Music and took on quite a few private pupils. In latter years Geoffrey found playing his instruments more and more difficult as his health deteriorated and one of the most difficult things he found about old age was giving up his instruments.
Although he had to relinquish his music, he was able to pursue other interests in the last few years of his life. He was an avid reader and had an extensive general knowledge, particularly in geography and history, as well as having a love and interest in animals and natural history. He was above all a family man and remained interested in his children’s and grandchildren’s lives right to the end.
The last five years of his life, after losing his wife Valerie after 57 years of marriage, were not easy for him, and his failing health – particularly over the last couple of years – made life difficult for him. The loss of mobility during his last three months meant that he lost his independence. Even then he submitted to being looked after with a patience and forbearance which for such a dignified man can’t have been easy.
Geoffrey was liked and respected by everyone he met, and even those who only knew him for a very short time felt affection for him.
Having lived a happy and fulfilled life he died on the 4th April 2019.