Today, rather than highlight the poor chap who lost his life in France, I thought I’d write more about his family. Naturally I’ll include him as well given he was a major part but not just the fact that he died being a hero.
Alan was, I think, headed for great things. His father was a successful solicitor and his brother was headed the same way but, following his own life, he decided to study chemistry. For reasons I guess we’ll never know, he went to Germany to study, at Freidburg University.
All was well until war was declared and Alan figured the best idea was return to Britain. He had a chance to finish his studies at Cambridge (Caius College) but, instead, he decided his country needed him more. He joined up, was sent over to France, was wounded, recovered and was promoted to Captain then temporary Area Commandant before being shot and killed in 1918, just over 100 years ago.
Of course, Alan Crundwell did a lot more than that. According to the men who served beside and under him, he was a hero who would always be the last out of a battle, making sure the men under him were safe without a thought for his own safety. In fact, the only reason he was shot on the day he was was because he found out that his old battalion was a bit short of officers and so he went and joined them rather than leave as his orders dictated. An extraordinary man.
His father, as I said, was a solicitor. Born in 1858 near Tunbridge Wells, Ernest Crundwell was the second son of a tanner. In 1881, at the age of 22, he was living in lodgings in Clapham, working as a Solicitor’s Clerk. By 1884 he’d met Henry Potter, a Farnham solicitor, and gone into partnership with him. The firm became Potter and Crundwell, then Potter, Crundwell and Bridge.
Ernest’s first son, also called Ernest, followed in his father’s footsteps and became a solicitor, clerking under his father. Though interrupted by the war, Ernest junior managed to survive and returned to Farnham and his father’s law firm.
Moving along to 1922 and Ernest junior, at the age of 33, decided to marry. Enid lived in Farnham, the daughter of a school inspector. His father, Ernest senior died three years later at the age of only 66.
Somewhere along the line, Ernest junior had a son who followed the family into the law firm but the trail is a bit too cold to follow much further. Fortunately I discovered the Farnham law firm of Bells. They are the latest incarnation of Potter and Crundwell and purport to be one of the oldest law firms in the world.
Their headquarters is now in South Street, a building designed by the same man, Edward Mountford, who designed the Old Bailey. The beginnings of this old Farnham law firm predate the building, which was completed in 1890 on the instigation of Henry Potter, Ernest’s (senior) long time partner. The beginnings can be found in 1768…which is a long time for any firm, law or otherwise.
And they are still thriving, holding something like 5,000 wills in their basement…which is a huge chunk of the population of the town.