About Hewitson & Harker Solicitors

Hewitson & Harker Solicitors has provided legal services to the communities
in south east Cumbria for over a century.

BuildingIts strong, community-focused ethos was forged in the post-War years by the late Geoffrey Harker, who rebuilt the practice after returning from service with the Chindits in Burma during the Second World War. Geoffrey was immersed in Kirkby Stephen’s political, cultural and sporting life; a tradition which members of the current practice continue to observe.

Hewitson & Harker acts for a range of clients across a wide spectrum of legal disciplines, specialising in trust work, tax and care home fee planning, the preparation of Wills, domestic and commercial conveyancing and agricultural matters. The practice takes great pride in the fact that it has acted for generations of clients and that, in a rapidly changing market place, it continues to offer old fashioned values in its delivery of services, such as putting the client’s interest above all others, guaranteeing that work is carried out by someone with expertise in the matter concerned, and, always, discipline and conscientiousness. As a consequence, clients will be ensured value for money. It goes without saying that our members of staff are always on hand to deal with each and every enquiry and to give clear, precise and accurate advice.

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Hewitson & Harker is located in one of the most rural parts of England and Wales and as a consequence has acquired particular expertise in agricultural matters. We act in the sale and purchase of farms, for both landlords and tenants in the negotiation of farm business tenancy agreements, in the preparation of partnership agreements as between business partners and in giving precise and up-to-date tax planning advice. We work closely with land agents, accountants, planning consultants and others in order to give our farming clients the best possible range of services.

Members of the practice were heavily involved in the preparation of the recently implemented Upper Eden Neighbourhood Development Plan, which is capable of having a profound affect on rural land use. Since its coming into force, the practice has also worked closely with the local planning authority in the preparation and implementation of Section 106 Agreements under that plan and continues to strive to make it effective for clients and the Upper Eden community as a whole.

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Residential Conveyancing

The buying and selling of domestic properties is something fraught with difficulty and is increasingly subject to changes in legislation and regulation. The purchase of a house or flat is probably the biggest financial undertaking we are likely to make during our lives and, as such, you want to be certain that you are in safe hands. We can guarantee that here at Hewitson & Harker, given our many years experience in the domestic conveyancing market, if you instruct us, you may be assured that your transaction will be dealt with by someone who has a sound and up-to-date knowledge of the relevant law and procedure.

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Commercial Conveyancing

Kirkby Stephen is the economic heart of the Upper Eden Valley and, as such, contains a host of retail, catering, service sector, light manufacturing and warehouse and distribution businesses. Hewitson & Harker has, for many years now, acted both for the sellers and purchasers of businesses and business premises, as well as landlords and tenants. Knowing the local economy and its changing trends gives the practice real insight into the needs of clients who wish to start up in business or take over or purchase existing businesses. We will be delighted to discuss your requirements and objectives in any commercial conveyancing transaction and offer advice and assistance throughout what can often seem a daunting and tortuous process.

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Making a Will can be a daunting prospect. It forces us to contemplate the inevitable and is often, therefore, something we delay doing or indeed avoid doing entirely. To do so, however, would be a mistake. Dying in the absence of a Will (intestate) can give rise to costs and heartache on the part of your family at a very difficult time, all of which may be easily avoided. Making a Will means that you may be sure that your property, money and possessions, may be inherited after your day by the people you would wish to inherit. It represents a clear statement that you have considered the needs of your family and others. In addition, it represents an opportunity to consider matters such as Inheritance Tax in a clear and definitive way.

A Will, therefore, represents one of the most important commitments you are likely to make in life and its terms should be considered carefully and professionally. Here at Hewitson & Harker we have Solicitors who have many years of experience in the preparation of Wills and can guide you through the intricacies clearly and sensitively. Some are members of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners, which represents a guarantee of quality and high professional standards. If you instruct us, we will make sure that you are guided through the process with great care and expertise.

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Care Home Fee Planning

As we live longer as a society, we are forced to contemplate how we might wish to spend our later years. Rare is it nowadays to find someone who is not touched and affected by the consequences of growing old – whether directly themselves or, indirectly, as a consequence of witnessing the effects of ageing on a close relative or friend.

The care we would wish to receive as we age and, with it, the financial consequences of seeking and obtaining such care are significant matters and here at Hewitson & Harker we have the experience and expertise to guide clients through the complex and varied considerations involved in a clear and sensitive way. Those considerations may appear bewildering, but, with the guidance and assistance we can offer, they may be made much more manageable and less daunting.  

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Inheritance Tax Planning

Given the way in which the value of our houses has increased over the course of the last generation, the prospect of our having to pay Inheritance Tax on our deaths has became a much more pressing concern than once it was, especially in circumstances in which successive Governments have refrained from increasing the threshold above which such tax becomes payable.

Consequently, when considering how best to organise our property and financial affairs in order that the impact of our deaths on our families may be minimised, the possibility of a tax liability is something we must now frequently consider.

Hewitson and Harker has a wealth of expertise in the area of Inheritance Tax planning and can help clients concerned by the possibility of their having to pay tax to work through the complexities and subtleties of the current tax regime in order that their affairs may be well ordered and the consequences of their owning assets that may make a tax liability possible fully understood.

Moreover, working in an area shaped by farming, we have acted for farming families for many years, for whom, together with succession, tax planning is a major concern.

We work closely with accountants, independent financial advisers and others interested in protecting a client’s interests so that, when they instruct Hewitson and Harker to advise on tax planning, a client may be assured that they receive the best possible and up-to-date advice available.

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Lasting Powers of Attorney

Because it is impossible to anticipate what might happen in life, Hewitson and Harker Solicitors can help you plan for the unexpected. If you want to set out in advance how you would like decisions about your financial affairs and/or welfare to be made should you become unable to make those decisions for yourself, we are here to offer all appropriate advice and guidance.
A Lasting Power of Attorney is a legal document under which you may appoint someone you trust as your Attorney and whose role it will be to make decisions on your behalf. Attorneys may do so when you no longer wish to or when you lack the mental capacity to do so.

A Lasting Power of Attorney is a safe way of maintaining control over decisions made for you. It allows you to plan in advance the decisions you would wish to be made on your behalf if you lose capacity, the people you would wish to make those decisions and how you want them to reach their decisions. Here at Hewitson & Harker we have the knowledge and expertise to guide you through the process of creating and, where appropriate, registering Lasting Powers of Attorney, both for property and financial affairs and for personal health and welfare.

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Probate & Administration of Estates

The loss of a loved one is inevitably a very distressing time. At a time when all you want to do is come to terms with your loss, you are likely to be faced with myriad formalities and procedures in order that you may deal with your loved one’s affairs. The vast majority of people have little experience in administering an estate and the various processes and procedures can be confusing and daunting. How do you, for instance, settle the deceased’s tax affairs or pay any debts? Do you need to arrange for valuations of the deceased’s assets or apply for a Grant of Probate, track missing beneficiaries or administer ongoing trusts, calculate Inheritance Tax and liaise with H M Revenue and Customs?

Whatever degree of assistance you need, we can ease the burden for you. We have many years experience acting either as Executors appointed under a Will or, alternatively, as advisers to the appointed Executors.
We also have expertise in dealing with intestate estates, where the deceased has made no Will and advice is needed on the various issues which arise.

Whatever your concerns, at this, the most difficult of times, we can offer all the advice and assistance you might need.

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In the Community

Like many businesses in the Upper Eden Valley, Hewitson & Harker is proud to immerse itself in community life. In addition to the various voluntary roles that its members of staff fulfil in Kirkby Stephen and the surrounding area and its involvement in and sponsorship of, local events and sporting fixtures, the practice has sought to assist a number of local organisations in achieving their goals. For many years now, it has worked closely with local sports clubs, youth groups and charities in dealing with, among other things, various constitutional and licensing matters.

Members of staff have also happily given their time to negotiate with the District and County Councils over the future provision of vital local services, such as the local Tourist Information Centre (now the Upper Eden Visitor Centre) and the town’s Community and Council Centre.

Here at Hewitson & Harker, we believe that it is important, not only to work in the local community, but also for that community. Towns like Kirkby Stephen and the neighbouring communities they serve – small, rural and isolated – cannot function sustainably unless everyone does their bit. At a time when such communities receive limited support from the public sector on account of budget cuts and the loss of key services, it is only through the hard work and dedication of local people that towns like this can deal with all eventualities. Hewitson & Harker is very pleased to be playing its part in those efforts.


At Hewitson & Harker, we are committed to transparency about our pricing structure. We are proud to offer high quality work, carried out by experienced professionals, while seeking to be competitive in a market which is becoming ever more price sensitive. Please refer to our pricing structure for further details about some of the key areas we practise in. Should you consider using our services, we always recommend contacting our office for a bespoke quote as we are all too aware that each different matter is different and clients' needs can vary widely.

Conveyancing PricingProbate Pricing

Our team

Alex Birtles

Alex specialises in domestic and commercial conveyancing transactions, all agricultural matters and the preparation of Trusts and Wills. He is a member of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners and of the Agricultural Law Association.

Alex has been with the practice since 1999. He has a Ph.D from the University of Nottingham and has taught, both at Nottingham and, as a Tutorial Fellow, at Lancaster University, the latter in International Law and International Humanitarian Law.

He is a Kirkby Stephen Town Councillor and served as Chairman of the Council between the years 2005 and 2009. He is a former chair of the Upper Eden Community Plan Group and was instrumental in the plan’s preparation. Currently, he chairs the board of directors of the Upper Eden Community Interest Company, the principal purpose of which is to oversee the day-to-day running of the town’s Visitor Centre, Alex having negotiated the lease of the premises from Eden District Council. Latterly, he has been involved in the preparation and implementation of the Upper Eden Neighbourhood Development Plan.

He chairs the Management Committee that oversees the running of the Kirkby Stephen and Upper Eden Community and Council Centre and is Chair of Upper Eden Future, the local economic development group.

Alex served as President of the Westmorland Law Society between the years 2011-2013.

Katherine Cooper

Katherine assists Alex Birtles in all aspects of conveyancing, including residential and commercial sales, as well as agricultural property sales.

Karen Morrison

Karen deals with all the financial aspects of the company. Karen is AAT qualified and has over 15 years experience of working in accounts. She is a trustee of the Brough Memorial Hall through her involvement with Brough Toddler Group.

Contact us

T: 017683 71534

E: law@hewitsonandharker.co.uk
F: 017683 71322

22 Market street, Kirkby Stephen, Cumbria, CA17 4QT
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STEP, Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners

  • Registered in England no. 4511265
  • Hewitson & Harker Ltd is Authorised and Regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (383204)