Sunday, October 26, 2008

Street Stories 1

These were originally written in 2005, I think for the Spider's Web newsletter in Avondale. I've done some updating reflecting information gathered since then.

Street names help us define where we live. In some cases, though, they are of more meaning than we think.

Take Henry Street. Along with Walsall Street (once known as Walton Street before the early 1930s), this is a memorial to Henry Walton (1815-1898) who owned the land called Roberton today. In 1838, he and his brother Charles arrived in Sydney, then journeyed to New Zealand, soon forming partnerships with Thomas Elmsley (who bought land at the Kaipara and Maungatapere) and William Smellie Grahame, a Scottish trader in Auckland from the 1840s. It is said that Charles and Henry Walton were the first in the Whangarei District to import sufficient men, stock and machinery to stock a complete farm there in 1840. Among Walton's achievements in this country: mediating between Sir George Grey and all Northland chiefs in 1862 over a major land dispute, election as a member of the Legislative Council in 1863 and appointment as Auditor of the Bank of New Zealand.

Roberton Road itself is named after John Roberton (c.1829-1894) who helped his friend Henry Walton from the mid 1880s until his death in organising the subdivision and sale of Walton’s Estate. Sometime from 1866 to the early 1870s, Walton decided to retire and leave the colony to return to England in retirement. He resigned from the Legislative Council in 1866, but still retained land holdings which would have needed a New Zealand resident agent to manage on his behalf. Walton appointed John Roberton as his attorney.

Walsall Street is one of several in Avondale and Waterview that lost their original names (and their meanings) in the early 1930s as Auckland City Council rationalised the multiplication of names within their (then) boundaries. Walton Street in Remuera had more residents – so ours had to change. In the main, new names were chosen randomly, with the common pattern being those which started with the first few letters of the old name.

Six Avondale streets once commemorated, by their designated names, the age of derring-do out there in the glory days of the British Empire – before World War I. The number of mute memorials to once celebrated British commanders now stands at three – Methuen Road, Cradock and Powell Streets, the rest having had their glorious designations changed over time.

Travel along Tiverton Road, across the roundabout which in a couple of years (according to plans drawn up) will become a set of traffic lights, then head down Wolverton Street towards New Lynn, and you journey down the two roads once known as Garnet Road (Tiverton) and Wolseley Road (Wolverton). Alas, these roads had their names changed during the early 1930s Auckland City Council reform of street names across the city. I’ve wondered as to the reason why a name which came to be synonymous with a popular make of 20th century motor vehicle should be next to one for a precious stone. I still have no firm proof – but the leading candidate for a theory as to why is Garnet Joseph Wolseley, 1st Viscount Wolseley of Cairo (1833-1913). His career was a long one in the British military, and can’t be totally described here; suffice to say, he was involved in action in the Sudan and Egypt in the early 1880s, around the time both roads would have been formed for settlement, and tried in vain to come to the relief of General Gordon in Khartoum.

Travelling further north along Blockhouse Bay Road you come to Methuen Road. In 1903 this was the centre of Methuen Hamlet, one of the workers’ homes settlements devised around the country by the government to encourage settlement by offering sites with low mortgages to working class folk, within easy reach of the railway station (much like one of the intents of the Avondale’s Future Framework today, ironically enough). The road once terminated abruptly just east of Bollard Avenue, and is named after Paul Sanford Methuen, 3rd Baron Methuen (1845-1932), best known for his exploits as a British commander during the Boer War (1899-1902).

Also along Blockhouse Bay Road, you find the other Imperial history survivor: Powell Street, named after the more famous Sir Robert Baden-Powell, 1st Baron Baden-Powell (1857-1941), who became a hero throughout the old Empire for withstanding the Siege of Mafeking (1900) during the Boer War. Much later, after Powell Street (along with half of Cradock Street, part of the Cradock Hamlet, another workers’ settlement) was named, he founded the Boy Scouts movement.

The fifth street was Kitchener Street, centre of the Kitchener Hamlet (completing the set of three such settlements in Avondale), but we now know this road by the name Holly Street. The hamlet and road was in honour of Horatio Kitchener, 1st Earl Kitchener (usually referred to as “Lord Kitchener”) (1850-1916) who also, like Garnet Wolseley, served in the Sudan during the 1880s, as well as the Boer War, like Lord Methuen and Baden-Powell, shortly before Kitchener Hamlet was created. His face is the most well-known of all the commanders in this article, as the moustached stern visage pointing a finger at prospective recruits from the famous “Britons, [Lord Kitchener] Wants YOU!” posters of the First World War.

The sixth is Cradock Street, often misspelled Craddock because the latter just looks better somehow, I suppose. But the fighting Cradock brothers, any one of whom could be the reason behind Cradock Hamlet's name, would probably take issue with such arbitrary adding of letters to their family name. There are three brothers likely to be memorialised in the Avondale placename: Major Sheldon Cradock (1858-1922), who served in the Boer War and World War I with distinction; Lt. Col. Montagu Cradock (1858-1929, noted for campaigns both in Egypt and South Africa (and author, in 1904, of a now rare book called Sport in New Zealand, all about our abundant fish & game, shooting, horse racing, yachting and polo -- he's the front runner, I'd say); and Sir Christopher Cradock (1862-1914) who rose to the rank of Rear Admiral, served in the Sudan and China, and was later killed in action during the battle of Coronel. Take your pick.

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