Our founders

George Harper

Leonard Harper

We are very proud of our local heritage, and to be able to say we have been in business for over 150 years. Founded back in 1865 as Harper Pascoe, Anthony Harper came from the 1987 merger of law firms Harper, Pascoe & Co. and Anthony Polson & Co. Our name recognises our original founders, Christchurch brothers Leonard and George Harper, and Archibald Henry Anthony from Wellington.

The Harper Brothers

Leonard and George were the sons of the first Bishop of Christchurch, Bishop Henry John Chitty Harper. The Bishop and his family settled in Christchurch from England with their 12 children, just six years after the settlement of the city.

In 1865, Leonard Harper started to practise law in Christchurch. He was joined by his brother, George, who had studied law in England, and by local lawyer, Thomas Maude.  Leonard did the financial side of things, George did the court work, and Thomas was responsible for conveyancing. This worked well for a time.  

George was one of the region’s leading barristers. He had some interesting cases, including acting for the defence in the ‘severed hand’ insurance fraud case, which involved a fitter and turner called Arthur Howard. Howard was said to have drowned off Sumner Beach, and his wife advertised for a recognisable part of his body as proof of death so she could claim the life insurance. After the advertisement, a hand with a wedding ring bearing Arthur’s initials on it washed up and was ‘found’.  Unfortunately – or maybe fortunately – Howard was later found alive and well in Wellington and the hand turned out to be that of a woman.

In 1894, George and Thomas were struck off, and the firm was declared bankrupt. They were taken to court, but were found to be entirely free of any suggestion of fraudulent intent. Leonard, however, was overseas in Jersey at that time, and eventually police were dispatched from New Zealand to bring him back to face trial. The feeling about what had happened was so strong in Canterbury that he had to be tried in Wellington. The jury found him not guilty of embezzlement charges but he was struck off anyway in 1895.

Some would say that Harper & Co. were responsible for new rules laid down by the Law Society emphasising the need for the supervision of lawyers responsible for trust accounts, which led to the ultimate establishment of a guarantee fund.

Despite the aspersions cast on his name, George was still a well-respected Christchurch figure. A member of the Canterbury Law Society since 1871, he never missed a meeting. He was also on the city council, and was their honorary treasurer for almost 15 years prior to being struck off. He and Thomas Maude were readmitted to the bar in 1899.

George did many good works for Christchurch city and was on the Domains Board, responsible for maintenance of areas such as Hagley Park, their works also included the construction of the scenic road over the Port Hills.

He was recognised in a number of ways – including being awarded an OBE in 1918, having Park Road renamed as Harper Avenue in 1931, and being the recipient of the King’s Jubilee Medal in 1935. In 1937, aged 93, he received a knighthood.

George and his family were local ‘celebrities’ and were often mentioned in the ‘Sunday’s Doings’ column of a local paper, which detailed their travel plans and attendance at society events and parties.

Two of George’s sons, Eric and Robin, also worked for the firm. Eric was an All Black, an athletics champion, and a great cricketer. Sadly, he was killed on active service in Palestine in 1918. Another son, Philip Harper, articled for his father before going to Levin to practise law, eventually becoming a Judge.

Another claim to fame of the firm is that one of the founders, Thomas Maude, was the father of Sibylla Emily Maude, remembered today for her service to the community as Nurse Maude. 

Archibald Henry Anthony

Archibald Anthony founded Russell & Anthony in 1903 with fellow lawyer, Thomas Gregory Russell. 

Born in Wellington on 24 August 1881, Archibald’s father, William Henry Anthony, was 32 and his mother, Lydia Whiffen, was 31. He married Harriet Grace Rutter on 7 November 1922. 

One of his lasting achievements is the magnificent mansion, Hackthorne Gardens, which was built on the Cashmere Hills in 1928 to be his family home. At Archibald’s request, the architect, William Tengrove, built the house to emulate an Englishman’s stately residence. It was designed during the hedonistic Roaring Twenties, when flappers in cloche hats and fringing danced the Charleston, jazz was coming of age in the United States, and art deco was the flavour of the times. This classy old girl in Cashmere bears some allusions to the architectural style in her lines and decoration, from the floret designs in the cut-glass window panelling of the entranceway, to the wooden curvature of the banister.

Archibald Anthony sold the property to the New Zealand Trust Board for Home Schools for Curative Education – unusually, for the proceeds of a Capping Day procession – and in 1965 it became the Shirley and Grace Hohepa Home (named after Archibald’s daughter and wife), which provided accommodation to children with intellectual disabilities.

In 1999, new owners renamed the property Maddison on Cashmere and converted it to older persons’ residences. In 2010 the property was purchased by Serena Bailey and Michael Starling who converted it into upmarket accommodation.The property then changed hands and was transformed into hotel style luxury accommodation with nine beautifully appointed rooms and an additional twelve rooms to be built onsite in the near future.

Archibald died on 30 July 1970, at the age of 88.

Read about our name here