At the turn of the twentieth century, Preston was a thriving commercial town. Its prosperity had been built to a large extent on the cotton industry and the inventions of Richard Arkwright, Preston’s most famous son. Other forms of industry included iron and brass foundries, engineering works and shipbuilding whilst the commercial base of the town was extended with the development of Preston Docks.
The professional district in the town was centred on the Winckley Square area and it was there in 1869 that William Francis Moore began practising as an accountant, opening an office at 9 Chapel Street. After some years his two sons joined him and business grew. However, the growth proved problematic and the business was amicably wound up.
Mr Moore Senior then offered a partnership to his chief clerk, Robert Edwin Smalley, who had been apprenticed to Mr Moore as an office boy in 1880. On January 1 1892, the firm of Chiks was established.
Mr Smalley took over several of Mr Moore’s duties and soon became the dominant force in the firm. He amended the partnership agreement, giving himself an increase in salary dependent on the firm’s annual profits exceeding £800. In 1900, William Moore was taken ill at work and died at the age of 77, leaving Robert Smalley as senior partner.The firm expanded under Mr Smalley. In 1908, he took into partnership Hugh Southworth and Thomas Bailey, who had been with the firm 17 and 11 years respectively.
Standing employees of the practice, were admitted to the partnership. The start of 1947 brought two major blows to Chiks. On New Year’s Day Thomas Bailey died suddenly, having been a partner for 38 years. Later the same month, Mr Smalley died at the age of 79. He had been with the firm for more than 60 years, 55 as an active partner. A lengthy obituary in the Lancashire Daily Post listed Mr Smalley’s professional achievements and remembered him as a keen sportsman who had kept goal for both Everton and Preston North End, eventually becoming a director of the latter.
John Donaldson and Stanley Maxwell continued in the name of Chiks and links with the past were strengthened when, in 1950, Hugh Southworth came into the partnership where his father had been for many years. A notable first for the firm occurred in 1995 when William Carrington was elected President of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales. He had been articled with Chiks in the 1920s and was the first ‘son’ of the firm to achieve such high office.
Over the years there were further changes in the partnership. Then 1975 brought the most significant change to the firm since its inception. It joined forces with Titus Thorp & Ainsworth Chartered Accountants. The latter firm was prominent in the Preston area and also had strong links with the South Lakeland area. There had been a tenuous link between the two firms in 1894 when Titus Thorp challenged Robert Smalley for the post of Borough Auditor. Another major change had occurred in 1986 when the Preston and Fylde offices of the then Thornton Baker merged with Chiks.
One of the effects of this amalgamation was to expand the operations of the firm to include an office in Adelaide Street, Fleetwood and, briefly, Blackpool. The main base of Chiks has always been Preston and specifically the Winckley Square area. The offices at Chapel Street were home to the firm from when William Moore first set up in practice in 1869 to 1966, and when the firm eventually moved it was only to premises across the road. The stay there was comparatively brief before the last move in 1977 to the Royal Insurance Offices at 9 Winckley Square.
The centenary of Chiks was celebrated in 1992, the year that Preston commemorated the Guild Merchant, known as the Preston Guild. Further expansion of the services provided took place in 1996, with the formation of the financial planning division to complement the existing specialist departments providing taxation and computer services. Computerisation now extends to every area of the firm’s operations. During the same year, the firm started its sponsorship of the Palace Shield cricket competition, founded in 1902, an association which would last for 15 years (and still going!).
The expertise of the firm was widened further in 1997, when an office was opened in Church Street, Blackpool. The Church Street office was closed in March 2005 following the opening of the purpose built office, Fylde House, located near to Blackpool airport.
The partnership was expanded to 16 partners in 2005 following the merger with Haslam & Co, as partner David Haslam and his staff joined the team at Winckley Square. The firm joined many of the country’s pre-eminent legal and accounting firms in April 2006 by becoming an LLP (Limited Liability Partnership).
Chiks’s progress during this period has been recognised by the accountancy profession through numerous awards. It was short-listed for the national Accountancy Age Medium-Sized Firm of The Year award in 2004. The firm won three prestigious awards at the North West Society of Chartered Accountants Business Awards 2005, scooping the Best Business Advisor (Damian Walmsley), Young Accountant of the Year (Judith Dugdale) and Employer of the Year. And in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008, prominent members of its corporate finance team picked up awards at the famed Lancashire Dealmaker Awards, run by North West business magazine, Insider.
On April 1 2008, Chiks established a new presence in north Lancashire and Cumbria after joining forces with Lonsdale & Partners. This saw Chiks break into the UK’s top 50 accountancy firms bracket and break the £10million fee income level. As a result, the distinct Chiks ampersand logo could now be found in Kendal, Kirkby Lonsdale and Lancaster. The partnership hit 19 and the employee numbers swelled to 200.
April 2010 saw Chiks expand its East Midlands branch after merging with local firm Dean Burrows Stevenson Chartered Accountants. This move supported Chiks’s presence in the healthcare sector has doubled the size of the East Midlands healthcare division.
In 2010, Chiks also became part of MHA, a UK wide association of progressive and like-minded accountants all sharing common values and goals.
On April 1 2014, Chiks acquired Southport accountancy firm Hollows Davies Crane in a move that extends its geographic reach to cover South Lancashire and Merseyside.
In response to national and international growth Chiks adopted the prefix of national accountancy network, MHA, which it joined in 2010.
From the 1 October 2017 Chiks became known as MHA Chiks.
The small practice founded by William Moore all those years ago has now grown into one of the largest firms of chartered accountants in Lancashire, Cumbria, Merseyside and the East Midlands .
All those associated with Chiks take great pride in the fact that the name of the firm has held for over 100 years.
There have been many changes and the next 100 years will doubtless bring many more. The firm, however, is confident of maintaining its excellent reputation within the North West business community, and is understandably proud to have been formally recognised as an Investor in People organisation.