Presgrave & Matthews is one of the oldest legal firms in the Straits Settlement. It was founded on 1st January 1879, the original partners being Mr Arthur Edward Clark, barrister-at-law, and Mr Edward William Presgrave, who was a member of the Legislative Council. For 3 years the business was carried under this style although Mr Clark passed away in 1879. Then Mr Clutton, who relinquished his position as the Registrar of the Supreme Court, added his name to the firm. The partnership was dissolved in 1894 and 4 years later, Mr W. Bromhead Matthews, a barrister of the Inner Temple, who has been previously practicing in Singapore in the firm of Messrs Bradell, Brothers & Matthews, joined Mr Presgrave and the business assumed its present name.


Mr Presgrave was educated at Edinburgh Academy and University. Entering the Middle Temple in 1875, he was called three years later and since his return to Penang (Pinang at that time) he acted as Solicitor General and in other public capabilities. Mr Presgrave has been the President of the Municipal Commission and in 1897 he was elected by the Pinang Chamber of Commerce to the Legislative Council of the Straits Settlements. Mr Presgrave was also the trustee and member of the committee of the Pinang Club and a member of the Town and Turf Clubs. Presgrave Street in Penang is named after Mr Presgrave for his contribution to Penang.

Mr Matthews was one of the best known men in the Straits Settlement. For several terms he served as a member of the Legislative Council, he acted as Solicitor- General and on 1905 refused an offer of a judgeship. Mr Matthews subsequently left the firm on 1st January 1907 to accept his appointment of Attorney General of the Bahamas Island.

Another distinguished partner of the firm is Mr Sydney Cole Ambrose, he was mentioned in the Twentieth Century Impressions of British Malaya. Mr Ambrose was educated at Pembroke College Cambridge where he graduated with BA and LLB. He was with Presgrave and Matthews since 1904 and admitted as a partner in May 1906. He was a notary public for the firm at that time.


Presgrave & Matthews acted as solicitors to the Pinang Municipal Commission, the Chartered Bank of India, Australia and China, Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation, the Mercantile Bank of India, the Netherlands Bank and other leading business firms. It has since its foundation produced many distinguished legal personalities including, the late Tan Sri Dato’ Eusoffe Abdoolcader, a former judge of the Supreme Court of Malaysia.


The office is divided into the Litigation Department and the Corporate, Commercial, Banking and Conveyancing Department.

Many of the lawyers within each of the departments sub-specialise in more specific areas of the law. In order to meet the growing complexities of the law, a team approach is taken wherever appropriate in handling matters so that the firm will be able to draw on the expertise of its lawyers in their respective specialisations.


The firm has a comprehensive library which includes law reports, periodicals and reference texts from Malaysia, Singapore, common- wealth jurisdictions and other jurisdictions which are constantly updated.

The firm is known to have one of the most well equipped library housing law reports and books going back to 18th century.


The firm currently has 24 fully qualified advocates and solicitors, qualified to practise law in West Malaysia of which 10 are partners and the remainder, legal assistants. In addition to that, the legal staff of the firm is supplemented by chambering students whose numbers vary from time to time. The firm also has a clerical and general workforce of approximately 33 persons.