Thursday, April 21, 2022

Street Stories 25: Steam communication, and White Swan Road

White Swan Road in Mt Roskill. A swan's neck? Someone who kept swans? Named in honour, for some reason, of the June 1862 wreck off the Wairarapa coast? 

Uh, no.

Maybe I'll add a "not quite."

It's been a fair bit of a vexing question this, and I've asked more than a few times when giving talks about stuff that's anywhere near the road. Up to now, I really haven't had an answer.

But last night, taking another look at Henry Powning Stark's July 1858 Block 76 subdivision in Blockhouse Bay, where he'd named what is today Donovan Street as "White Swan" -- I wondered what was special about the steamer White Swan at that point in time?

NZ Map 4691, Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections

The answer came up in a few Papers Past searches. In mid 1858, the central government, then based in Auckland, had secured the use of the White Swan from the Australian owners for £6000 for two years, to provide a steam powered mail service from Melbourne to New Zealand, and connecting the provinces. They'd sent someone to England to get more ships, but the White Swan was star of the show -- and represented colonial progress. Stark would have been attracted to it as he was selling his property off with the view that it was close to the then-proposed Whau Canal.

So visions of the White Swan steaming from the Manukau to Auckland, instead of just Onehunga, would have been right at the top of his mind.

Well, fairly soon someone probably reminded Stark that the Provincial Council had already named that road Donovan Street, but the White Swan name simply shifted east, first starting from the junction with Lewis Street, then further in the last century to the Boundary Road junction. When it came time to provide numbers, the road leading up to Richardson Road was White Swan as well, and Mt Roskill Road Board started the numbers from the shopping centre.

So, yes, I now do think White Swan Road was named in honour of the ship -- when it started its service, though, not when it ended. As good a hypothesis as any. Image of ship: National Library and Te Ara.