Thomas Clark founded the practice in 1779 and was later joined by Lewis Gilson. Clark and Gilson acted as notaries and as ship and insurance brokers at their City of London offices. Gilson later practised on his own at 62 Lower Thames Street where he was joined by his son, Lewis Gilson junior. The two Gilsons also carried on a business as shipping agents. Kent’s London Directory for 1827 describes them as “agents to the Margate steam vessels”.

The firm owes its name to Henry Cornfoot Cheeswright, Lewis Gilson junior’s nephew. Henry Cheeswright was granted his notarial faculty in 1838 and went into partnership first with his uncle and later with his son, Frederick Cheeswright, with whom he ran the firm from offices in St. Dunstan’s Buildings, Eastcheap. The practice remained here until the buildings were destroyed by a direct hit during air raids in 1940.

St. Dunstan’s Buildings were opposite the Custom House by Billingsgate Market where shipmasters reported on their vessels’ arrival at London. The Cheeswright partnership was the nearest and most convenient firm of notaries public for masters intending to enter protests in respect of their voyages, and thus the firm’s connection with the London marine market grew.

In 1931 Cheeswright and Casey, as the firm was then known, amalgamated with another notarial firm, Duff Watts and Co., which had been founded in 1771 by a Scot named William Dunbar. In 1780 William Dunbar became a Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Scriveners, the livery company founded in 1373 to which many London notaries belong.

By 1958 the firm was known as Cheeswright, Murly & Co. and had a sole partner, W. F. Murly. It has since expanded, building on the foundations of its long connection with the world of shipping laid by Thomas Clark back in the 18th century.

Despite its maritime connection Cheeswrights - as the firm has been styled since 1990 - has always maintained a general notarial practice and over recent times this has become an increasingly important part of its business.