In 1857, Canterbury founded law firm Duncan Cotterill was opened in Lyttelton by Thomas Smith Duncan (pictured).
Duncan, a Scottish lawyer by trade, started his Canterbury life as a bit of a rascal, having fled his homeland with a young charge of his employer. They ran away together to the village of Gretna Green and had a quickie marriage ceremony.
The newlyweds arrived on the ‘Randolph’, the Canterbury Association’s second ship. Although the law was all Duncan knew, he had no plans to practice while in his new life. The pair purchased twenty hectares in Decanter Bay on Banks Peninsula and ran a dairy farm. They only lasted five years before moving to Lyttelton. Soon after his arrival, he opened his own law firm.
Around this time, Duncan’s future law partner, Henry Cotterill, was just a toddler. He was later educated at Christ’s College and became a lawyer in 1878. A year later he became a partner of Duncan and remained so until his death in 1943. The family tradition was continued by Cotterill’s son Denis, who was also a partner until his own death in 1978.
Duncan Cotterill’s first Christchurch home was situated in ‘The Lordship’s Hotel’ on Lichfield Street. Unfortunately for ‘The Lordship’s Hotel‘ building that served as a pub of SOL Square – in one of Christchurch’s busiest social settings – it did not survive the 2010/2011 earthquakes.
As Duncan worked as a Crown Prosecutor, the family moved into ‘Strowan’, a property on Papanui Road, built by Sir Thomas Tancred. After the Duncans, the property was owned by George Stead who turned it into one of the most beautiful properties in Christchurch. When George died while enjoying the races at Riccarton Raceway, his wife Lucie eventually sold the property in 1918 and the house became and remains the central hub of what is now St Andrew’s College.
Today, with five offices nationwide, with over eighty lawyers employed, history proud 157 year old Duncan Cotterill has survived the Canterbury earthquakes, moving into a brand new building on Victoria Street in 2014.
“Our history is important to us. The partners of the past laid down the core values that continue to bind us all together…we marry our heritage with a forward vision.”