Scanlen & Holderness

Scanlen & Holderness


Scanlen & Holderness, was founded by Sir Thomas Scanlen (b.1834). Scanlen first set foot in Rhodesia in September 1894. For the previous twenty years he had been one of the most prominent personalities in the Cape. He had been a Member of Parliament from 1870 to 1895 and a Cabinet Minister for much of that time. He had been Prime Minister of the Cape from 1881 to 1884 and then the leader of the opposition for five years after stepping down as Premier.

During Scanlen’s premiership, a cabinet reshuffle took place bringing Cecil John Rhodes into Scanlen’s Ministry, as Treasurer. This event created the link, which eventually brought Scanlen up to Rhodesia in August 1894. In 1894 Rhodes offered Sir Thomas the appointment of Chief Legal Officer in Rhodesia. He was made Legal Advisor to the British South Africa Company and started his own legal firm.

The firm of Scanlen and Syfret commenced business in Salisbury in October 1894. Sir Thomas was only admitted as an attorney in Rhodesia on 5 November 1894, at the first High Court Session to be held in Salisbury presided over by Judge Joseph Vincent. Sir Thomas took up full time involvement with the Chartered Company in 1898, his son, Arthur Dennison Scanlen, who had completed his law degree at Oxford University, joined his father’s firm.

James Edmund Holderness was taken on by Arthur Scanlen as a professional assistant on 1 January 1906. He had served articles with Frames and Coghlan in Bulawayo. In 1907, Holderness was invited to join Arthur Scanlen in the partnership at which time the name Scanlen & Holderness became the style under which the practice practiced.

In 1908 Sir Thomas became seriously ill with malaria and eventually passed away in Salisbury on May 15th 1912. Scanlen & Holderness carried forward the business from 1908 until the death of Arthur in 1936. Equal shares in the partnership were only achieved in 1928.

Holderness ran the firm solo until he was later joined by Rhodes Scholar, Pat Lewis, whose father had been Chief Justice and whose father was to be a Judge of Appeals, and Hardwicke Holderness and Pat Lewis. Pat and Hardwicke were to be the foundation upon which was built the next half century of legal service and practice by Scanlen & Holderness.

The practice continues today in Zimbabwe.



  • James Gavin
  • Walter Herdzik