New judge poised to hit the waves

17:00, Aug 21 2014

Taranaki's new Judge Chris Sygrove can boast an impressive tie to Taranaki - he is a grandson of this country's celebrated architect James Walter Chapman-Taylor.

"My mother Ella Chapman-Taylor was his daughter," Judge Sygrove says in an introductory interview with the Taranaki Daily News yesterday.

The judge, with warrants to preside over Family and District courts and jury trials in Taranaki, says the local court staff have already termed him a "hybrid".

In Wellington his practice in his first two decades was a mix of crime and family work.

"Then I got out of crime because crime doesn't pay," he quipped.

In the last five years, he moved into a sole practice working exclusively in family and relationship property work, wife Robyn working as his PA.


The judge was born in Lower Hutt where his father was a builder. When he was four the family shifted to the Bay of Plenty after his father bought a dairy farm first at Oropi and then at Wakamarama.

Schooled at Tauranga Boys' High School, he is proud to report that 50 years ago it was his school which was the first in the country to introduce surfing as a sport.

As a keen surfie, he was first to join up and still has salt in his veins. "The last board I rode was eight foot six."

He moved on to University of Auckland law school, finishing his examinations in Wellington.

The judge is first to admit he knows little about Chapman-Taylor, credited as being one of this country's most important domestic architects.

Wilkie's Castle, at Wai-iti in North Taranaki, is one example of his work.

Chapman-Taylor was born in England in 1878 and died in 1958. His family farmed in Stratford.

While neither the judge nor his children have become architects, three have followed in their own father's footsteps and became lawyers.

Looking out the windows of their "lovely" Strandon home yesterday morning he was more than impressed at the early morning surf peeling off barrels in a stiff sou'easter.

"The Fitzroy break has to be the best-kept secret," he says. But he'll wait till the summer weather to get back in the waves - maybe with a paddle-board.

Meanwhile, his wife, a keen equestrian, is working on getting herself back into the sport in Taranaki.

Taranaki Daily News