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The Cyclopedia of New Zealand [Canterbury Provincial District]

Supreme Court

Supreme Court.

The Christchurch Supreme Court Buildings stand near the western bank of the Avon, between Victoria Street and Armagh Street. The walls of the portion used for the business of the Supreme Court are nearly three feet in thickness, and the buildings include a spacious chamber, surrounded by the usual apartments for witnesses and jurymen. There are also the offices of the Registrar and Deputy-Registrar, the Supreme Court Library, the rooms of the Judge and the Judge's assistant, barristers' robing room, and so on. The cottage occupied by the usher adjoins the main building. The Deputy-Registrar Mr. H. Lee, the clerk Mr. W. Sampson, and the usher Mr. E. W. Seager.

His Honour John Edward Denniston, Judge of the Supreme Court, Christchurch, was born at Bishopton, Renfrewshire, Scotland, on the 20th of June, 1845. He is the son of Mr. Thomas Denniston, merchant, and Helen Franch Walker, daughter of Gabriel Walker, Glasgow, and received the usual public school education. Having matriculated at Glasgow University, where he won an Entrance Scholarship, he left that ancient Foundation to join his father and some other members of the family on the former deciding to take part in the colonisation of New Zealand. They landed in Otago in 1862 and Mr. Denniston, senior, took up a run in Southland. He closed an honourable and useful life, public and private, at his son's house at Fendalton, Christchurch, in 1897. The future judge after having seen service in various capacities, including the civil service and that of the Bank of New South Wales, became a law student with Mr. W. Downie Stewart, afterwards the Hon. W. Downie Stewart, M.L.C. He was admitted to the New Zealand Bar at Dunedin by Mr. Justice Chapman on the 4th of August, 1874. For some months he practised at Wanganui in partnership with Mr. George Hutchison, afterwards a prominent member of the House of Representatives. In 1875, he became associated with Mr Downie Stewart in Dunedin and the firm was subsequently joined by Mr. Allan Holmes, son of the Hon. Mathew Holmes, M.L.C., under the style of Stewart, Holmes and Denniston, and acquired an extensive practice in Otago. Court work was undertaken by Mr. Denniston, whose name was connected with most of the important civil and criminal cases in the province In 1889, he was elevated to the Bench on the death of Mr. Justice Johnston and was sworn in by His Honour Sir James Prendergast, Chief Justice of New Zealand, in February, 1889. Judge Denniston was married on the 15th of November, 1887, to Helen Mary, daughter of the late Hon. John Bathgate, M.L.C., and has three sons and two daughters.

Mr. Andrew Roby Bloxam, Registrar and Sheriff of the Supreme Court for the district of Canterbury, Registrar of the Vice-Admiralty Court, and Notary Public, is the eldest son of the Rev. A. Bloxam, incumbent of Twycross, Leicester, England, and was born in 1839, He was educated at Charter House and Worcester College, Oxford, and arrived in Lyttelton in 1863. Two years later, Mr. Bloxam was appointed clerk of the warden's court at Kanieri, Westland. He visited England in 1872, and returned to the Colony six years later. Mr. Bloxam was appointed temporarily as clerk of the magistrate's court at Greymouth in 1879, and in the same year became deputyregistrar and deputy-sheriff for the district of Canterbury. Two years later he was appointed to his present post. As a cricketer. he represented Canterbury in the first cricket match against Otago, which was played in Christchurch. In 1898, Mr. Bloxam again visited England on leave, and was presented prior to his departure by the members of the Canterbury District Law Society with an excellent painting of himself. He is a member of the Anglican Church, and has several times served on the Diocesan Synod. Mr. Bloxam was married in 1880 to a daughter of the late Mr. Thomas Smith, M.D., of Cockermouth, and grand-daughter of Mr. Humphrey Senhouse, of Nether Hall, Maryport, and has two sons and two daughters.

Mr. Hastings Lee, Deputy-Registrar of the Supreme Court at Christchurch, and Clerk of Awards under the Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration Act, was born in Wales. In 1867 he came out to Melbourne in the ship “Great Britain,” and soon afterwards crossed over to New Zealand. For twentythree years Mr. Lee was stationed at Southbridge as clerk of the magistrates' court, etc., and in 1891, was transferred to the page 242 Supreme Court at Wellington. He was appointed Deputy-Registrar at Christchurch in 1896.

Standish and Preece, photo. Mr. H. Lee

Standish and Preece, photo.
Mr. H. Lee

Mr. Edward William Seager, Usher of the Supreme Court at Christchurch, was born in London in 1828, where also he was educated. Arriving in Lyttelton as schoolmaster on board the ship “Cornwall” in December, 1851, Mr. Seager joined the police force and became the first sergeant of police in the Canterbury district. Four years later he was promoted to inspector and after six years was appointed chief gaoler at Lyttelton. In 1868, he was placed in charge of the lunatic asylum at Sunnyside, a position he occupied for twenty-four years. Whilst inspector of police, he arrested Mackenzie the sheep-stealer, after whom the Mackenzie Country is named. He was married in 1854 to the fourth daughter of Mr. T. Coster, of Christchurch, and of seven daughters and five sons, has six daughters and three sons living.

Standish and Preece, photoMr. E. W. Seager.

Standish and Preece, photo
Mr. E. W. Seager.

The Honourable Henry Barnes Gresson, B.A., who was a Judge of the Supreme Court of New Zealand from 1858 till 1875, when he retired, was born in 1809 in County Meath, Ireland, where his father, the Rev. G. L. Gresson, was rector of a parish. Educated by private tutors and at a private school, he graduated B.A. at Trinity College, Dublin, and was called to the Irish Bar in Trinity Term in 1833. He practised his profession for some years in Dublin, but came to New Zealand in 1852, when he arrived in Auckland. Later on he moved south to Canterbury. Shortly after his arrival in Christchurch. Mr. Gresson was appointed Provincial Solicitor and Crown Prosecutor, and held the offices till 1857, when he became Acting-Judge of the southern districts, including Wellington, Nelson, Westland, Canterbury, Otago, and Southland. On the 4th of September, 1858, Governor Gore Browne appointed him a Judge of the Supreme Court of New Zealand, with the districts of Canterbury and Otago under his immediate jurisdiction. It was not only hard but hazardous work to travel in the colony in those days, but it is on record that Mr. Gresson, on his first appointment as Judge in 1857, travelled overland from Nelson to Lyttelton, 230 miles, and next year, accompanied by the Hon. C. C. Bowen, he rode overland from Christchurch to Dunedin, 205 miles. In the year following his retirement from the office of Judge he paid a visit to England, and after his return to the colony he resided in Canterbury. He was at one time a member of the Board of Governors of Canterbury College, and chairman of that body for one year. Judge Gresson was married in Ireland in 1845 to a daughter of the late Mr. Beatty, of Londonderry. Mrs Gresson died on the 11th of June, 1889, aged seventy-nine years, and Judge Gresson himself passed away on the 31st of January, 1901, on the ninetieth anniversary of his birth.

Standish and Preece, photo.Hon. H. B. Gresson.

Standish and Preece, photo.
Hon. H. B. Gresson.