The firm’s history begins with one man, Edward Tennyson Conolly (1822 – 1908). Conolly was the first president of the Marlborough District Law Society and he arrived in New Zealand at a time when “law and order” was only just becoming established.
Conolly had been practising as a barrister in England for 13 years by the time he, his wife Emily and their seven children embarked on the arduous voyage to New Zealand. The family arrived in Picton in 1865 and Conolly promptly set up a legal practice that became widely respected. Pre-eminent in his distinguished career, he became a member of the Legislative Council for New Zealand, was Attorney General for New Zealand and was appointed Supreme Court Judge, Auckland. Conolly moved to Auckland in 1889, leaving his practice in the hands of his son, John Conolly.
John entered the practice in 1881; by the time he took over from his father the firm had established an office in Blenheim.
In the early 1920s the firm’s partners made plans for the construction of a suitable building in High Street – by the time the firm moved into the smart new premises it was known as Burden, Churchward and Reid.
The new building, Temple Chambers, was completed in 1925 and at the time, was bigger than required so the firm leased the upstairs rooms to several tenants. One of these was a dentist whose patients could occasionally be heard groaning by the office staff downstairs when things became painful during dental procedures!
During the Second World War years the firm was signatory to a “Basis of a Federation of Agreements” with other legal practices around town. This was the only way to try and maintain a fully functioning operation when key staff members were away on active service. It detailed the manner in which clients would be shared and income divided in order for the participating practices to survive. Ultimately clients were lost as the firm had a significant number of partners absent; it took years to rebuild the practice to its prominent position within the province.
The firm has grown considerably over the latter part of the 20th century and this has necessitated major changes to Temple Chambers.
In 1983 the first major rebuild occurred when the firm, then called Lundon Radich Dew, bought the magnificent old ANZ building next door to Temple Chambers. Ian Athfield of Athfield Architects was contracted to incorporate architectural elements of this condemned building into an expansion of the Temple Chambers premises. The result is a lasting reminder of another of Blenheim’s fine old buildings.
By 2003 further major renovations and extensions were required and local architect Tim Barton made further complementary changes to the building.
One design feature not easily remedied was the overall height of the Temple Chambers from the road – in the 1920s a fear of flood meant many new buildings of the day were built with floors above flood height.
The firm has continued to grow, and has a history as interesting as the cases it has pursued for clients through the courts. One of the most notable cases of recent times was that surrounding the sinking of the Mikhail Lermontov, a cruise ship that ran aground off Cape Jackson in 1986.