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In the London Gazette for October 1871, there is a notice calling a second meeting of creditors in the bankruptcy of Joseph Augustus Bullock, licensed victualler of the Golden Lion Public House in Trinity Street, called by his solicitor John Bennett Ayre of 1 Bristol Chambers in Nicholas Street. The said John Bennett Ayre was the son of John Ayre who had also practised in Bristol until his untimely death in 1863 in a train crash on the Bristol to Weston-Super-Mare line.

But in 1872, John Bennett Ayre was investigated by Bristol Law Society for impersonating his Articled Clerk, Thomas Boon Clements, when sitting the Easter Term Final Examinations. This came to the Society’s attention in May and in June Ayre was struck off the Roll of Attornies by the Court of Queen’s Bench. One John Burrows then took over the firm.

It then came to light that the reason for this impersonation was that Thomas Clements had not been the most diligent during his period of Articles, having been running a business as a Fireworks Manufacturer. Notwithstanding this, and his failure to sit the Final Examination himself, Clements applied in August 1872 to be admitted to the Roll, an application objected to by Bristol Law Society. Unsuccessful on this occasion, Clements re-applied annually until 1879. Bristol Law Society even had to obtain an affidavit from the Bristol Town Clerk that Clements had a house in Nicholas Street which was registered as a Fireworks manufacturing house under the Explosives Act. 1879 seems to have been Clements’ final attempt to become a solicitor; presumably he was deterred by his intervening conviction for fraudulent trading and bribery.

John Ayre the father had moved from South Molton in Devon to Bristol in the 1830s but it is a mystery how he had time to practise. He and his wife Eliza lived in first Redcliff, then in Bedminster, and had 9 children between 1839 and 1858. John Bennett was the third son to be born. In 1851, according to the census, he and Eliza had a maid called Mary-Ann living with them. By then, Mary had given birth to two children already to John and by the next census, John Ayre had a second family with Mary in Kingsdown. By now, John and Mary had seven children in all. One wonders how much time he could devote to his practise with two families on the go at one time and 16 children in all.