Sunday, October 26, 2008

Street Stories 3: Thomas Russell’s Greytown

In early 1863, a map was drawn up of a subdivision which was to be auctioned by Samuel Cochrane on behalf of Thomas Russell. Russell, better known in New Zealand history as one of the founders of the Bank of New Zealand, had purchased Allotment 64 that month from city publican Daniel Lockwood. Immediately, it was surveyed and 48 sections mapped out, along with four new streets: Blake Street, Layard Street, Cracroft Street and Browne Street (the latter alternately lost and regained its "e" over the years). The subdivision was entitled “Greytown”.

Now, it is fairly easy to see who the “Greytown” was named after: Governor Grey, at the time embroiled with the land wars of the 1860s. But why were the streets so named?

I still can’t be certain at this stage, but I have some theories for you.

Blake Street (now St Jude Street) may have been named for Lieutenant William E Blake, while Cracroft Street (now Crayford Street) could have been in honour of Captain Peter Cracroft. Both men served aboard the HMS Niger during the Taranaki period of the 1860s land wars. In March 1860 they saved volunteers and militia by attacking a Maori pa at Waireka. The settlers during the battle of Waireka were led by a Captain Brown, but the new street on the Greytown map clearly had “Browne” with an “e” on the end. I’m led to think, therefore, that Governor Thomas Robert Gore Browne might be a more likely candidate, as it was under his leadership that the Taranaki campaign began in 1860. Browne Street is now Rosebank Road.

The odd one out remains Layard Street. There doesn’t seem to be a connection in the land wars history with anyone by that name. As I mentioned in Heart of the Whau, there could be one possibility: a British Imperial hero, academically anyway, named Sir Austen Henry Layard. In 1851 he made significant discoveries regarding ancient Assyria, and was called “Layard of Ninevah”, the most famous archaeologist of his time. In the 1860s, however, after failures in politics, he was working in the Foreign Office in London.

Without access to Thomas Russell’s papers of the time, we may never know for certain why he chose these names for his 1863 subdivision, which included around half of today’s Avondale Mainstreet. But of all of them today, only Layard Street has kept its name.

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