Friday, March 13, 2009

Street Stories 10: Mt Albert's Carrington Road

I spoke recently to some students at Unitec -- a really wonderful experience. One of the last questions I was asked in the session was about the origins of the name for Carrington Road. I took a breath, and advised that what I was about to say was controversial: it isn't named after the surveyor Frederic Carrington. Then, I explained why.

The Auckland City Libraries Street Names Database is littered, when it comes to any mention of Carrington Road, with the same sentence: "Frederick Carrington was the surveyor for the area." This appears to be the compiler's reason for the naming of the Auckland-Onehunga Road, and later Gladstone Road, as Carrington Road from 1938 (well, only the Auckland City part. Mt Albert steadfastly kept to Gladstone until the early 1960s.) The culprit behind this belief is John Davenport's 1990 book Streetnames of Auckland. I've already recorded an error in this book before in this Street Stories series, when it came to the Shawville estate. (Unfortunately to date, in that case, it appears that the Auckland City Libraries website database remains unadjusted, though I have informed them of the error.)

The Carrington issue is a silly one, in my opinion. For one thing, here is the man himself: Frederic Alonzo Carrington. Note the true spelling of his first name: Frederic. The Street Name Database insists that Frederick Street (now part of Benfield Avenue) may have been named for him as well -- despite the difference in spelling, and that Frederick Street was never connected with Gladstone-Carrington Road ever until made part of Benfield (formerly West Street, and originally Counsel Terrace). I'm not sure where the library got the idea that Frederick Street was associated with Mr. Carrington, even Davenport can't be blamed for that one. Frederick Street originated from a 1914 subdivision of part of Allotment 59 of the Parish of Titirangi, the land all around the street owned by Mr. T. F. Lees (I wonder if his middle name was Frederick?). The surveyor was F. V. Kelly (there's another F name ...), and the plan's reference is DP 9320, for the curious. It was always wider than West Street, and still is to this day, even though they share a new name together. This was due to West Street's origins coming from the Benfield Estate subdivision of 1884, when wide roads for motor traffic wasn't contemplated.

Mr. Carrington also had little, if any, association with Auckland. His stamping ground was the Taranaki district. He died in 1901; 13 years before Frederick Street was dedicated, and 37 years before Auckland City changed the name of their part of Gladstone Road. "Surveyor for the area?" Until someone comes up with a map of the length of the road as originally laid out, and points to his name on such a map, I will continue to be extremely doubting as to the veracity of such a claim. Around the time such maps were being drafted -- he was down in Taranaki, checking out ironsands.

So ... who could it have been named after, then?

The likeliest candidate is Robert Wynn-Carrington, 1st Marquess of Lincolnshire, prominent in British politics, and a member of one of Asquith's ministries (a British Prime Minister), after whom Asquith Ave, nearby, is named). Gladstone Road, Carrington Road's former name, was in honour of yet another British Prime Minister, as is nearby Baldwin Avenue. There is also a Carrington in England as a placename, one near Manchester; Auckland City had a penchant in the 1930s for changing existing streetnames to those that came from geographic areas of the Old Country (Avondale and Waterview are dotted with them).

As long as the libray's database continues to say that the surveyor was the one honoured, copying straight from Davenport's imperfect compilation of streetnames (often as much legend and folklore as it is from hard research), the distant Mr. Carrington of Taranaki is going to continue to be erroneously associated with the road from Pt. Chevalier to Mt. Albert. There's even a portrait of Frederic Carrington in pride of place at Carrington's, the restaurant in the old Mt Albert Pumphouse on the Unitec grounds. I look on that as a fine monument to a continuing and tenacious urban legend.

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