Nelson Historical Society Journal, Volume 2, Issue 1, 1966
[Some Notes on Their Origin]
These notes on the origins of some of the early Nelson street names have been compiled mainly from old Examiner files and an early lithographed map of Nelson showing streets and sections in 1842. A copy of this map was presented to the Nelson Historical Society by the late Chas. Kidson, the City Engineer, and it now hangs at Isel. It was signed by Fred Tuckett, the Chief Surveyor, and dated April, 1842.
While there are references to early names in most books dealing with the history of Nelson there is very little definite evidence on who named the streets and why the names were chosen. A great many of the decisions made must be based on surmise although it is possible that diaries, letters and other documents may yet come to light giving more accurate knowledge.
Once Wakefield had chosen the site for the town of Nelson, he lost no time in setting his surveyors and labourers to work marking out the sections and streets. The naming of the streets came later, in March and April, 1842.
An entry in Wakefield's Diary, for December 30th, 1841, indicates that he had examined the site of the town and approved the map made by his surveyors. The streets and boundaries of sections were then marked out with the stakes and pegs cut from the bush in the Wood area. For weeks before this the company men had rowed from the Port daily, "up the river to the Wood" to cut the stakes from the dense stands of matai and rimu which covered the Wood area and filled the Maitai Valley.
While they were doing this the surveyors in their little office on Church Hill were busy preparing the plan of the streets and sections which Wakefield mentioned in his diary. Wakefield is said to have erected a pole on Church Hill as a base for his survey and from this to have set off the first two streets at right angles—Trafalgar Street and Nile Street. The first two streets in the central block of the town were laid out parallel to these, where possible, as you can see by looking at a map of the city. If Wakefield's pole was exactly at the point where the centres of Trafalgar and Nile Streets interesect, I imagine that its position now lies on top of Church Hill and under the floor of the Cathedral.
Another block of streets mapped out at the same time, ran off at a south-westerly angle to fit in with Waimea Road and Toi-toi Valley which lay in that direction.
It is hard to visualise the streets as they looked in 1841 but from early drawings by Heaphy and Saxton in the next years they appeared to be grass tracks. These were soon worn down to clay page 4tracks where traffic was busy although a few were never developed and appear on the later maps as paper roads. The sections themselves were covered with bush, fern, flax and toe-toe so that popular names given by the settlers to these still remain in current use—Toi-toi Valley, the Brook, the Wood, the Maitai, Manuka Street, possibly, but thankfully, not the Mudflats.
Toi Toi Valley and the tidal area at its mouth, generally known as the Tideway, presented a serious obstacle to the early road makers, as the whole of this area was daily under water from the tide or, at times, from the streams that flowed down Toi-Toi Valley, Washington Valley or the Waimea Road. Travellers from the Port had to cross this Tideway near Saltwater Bridge or else, using the Washington Valley route, to skirt the water and mud by going up to Parere Street. The water could be forded near the Saltwater Bridge and this must have been a common procedure until the bridge was built later in 1842.
An advertisement in the Examiner in 1842 reads: "W. Bishop, Chemist and Druggist, at his tent, Haven Road, near the Ford."
Wakefield realised the necessity for a bridge from the first and lost no time in commencing the preliminary works—a causeway built out from both sides of the Tideway and curving up towards Bridge Street, as seen in Heaphy's drawing. The curve in the road is there still in Haven Road where it passes Anzac Park, Rutherford Street, Vanguard Street and Wakatu Lane, and its starting place—the grog shop at the corner of Haven Road and Hastings Street must have been where the Globe Hotel stands today.
The short bridge over the gap in the causeway lasted till 1894 before it finally collapsed and the bridge under the roadway today is probably in the same place. Wakefield was very perturbed at times at the slowness of the labourers working on the embankment but found out later that the grog shop was the main cause. His diary entry of Saturday, January 1st, 1842, reads, "Not much work done on the embankment for a bridge over the tideway, as it is in the neighbourhood of a haunt of people who have established a grog shop. They came from Port Nicholson in the 'Eliza'."
The bridge was finally built by Mr. W. Brown, contractor, in October, 1842, at a cost of £130. It is mentioned many years later by a visitor to Nelson called Hodder, who took a bus from the Port, passed the warehouses of the merchant princes at Auckland Point, the shipbuilding yards and crossed the Saltwater Bridge which he considered a very plain and unsubstantial affair.
As the immigrant ships had to anchor in the deep water at the Port about two miles away from the town the settlers were left to find their own way there as best they could. There were two ways page 5of doing this. One was persuade someone to ferry you and your goods in a small boat up the harbour to a spot handy to the town. The passengers from the Lord Auckland in February, 1842, were taken in the ship's boats and hence the name given to Auckland Point, the spot where they were landed and where they set up the first depots and warehouses. Soon this became a regular landing place for goods with Otterson's jetty, the public crane, and various buildings—shops, houses and warehouses covering the flat area there. If you look at the names of well known Nelson businessmen who started there you see such names as Empson, Patchett, Wilkinshaw, Fell, Otterson, Morrison, Sclanders and many others. It was not till later, after the bridge was built and the sections in town allotted, that the business centre of Nelson shifted to Bridge Street.
The other way of getting to Nelson was by walking, either by Washington Valley or along the road at the edge of the Haven. Nowadays of course very little traffic goes over Richardson Street, Washington Valley to town but this was not always so. Sarah Higgins who landed in 1842 tells of the Washington Valley route in her diary: "When we were put ashore there were a lot of men who had come before, picking the hill at the beach making a road. My father asked them where the Barracks were for the immigrants. They told us to go over the hill and down what is now Washington Valley. Then we had to go through flax and a lot of mud and we got round to where the church is now on the hill."
Sarah Higgins was Sarah Sharp when she came to New Zealand and married Sydney Higgins seven years later. Their son, George Higgins of Spring Grove wrote down what his father remembered of the first day in Nelson and this reads almost the same as Sarah Higgin's story. "The track was over the Port Hills, down Washington Valley, through fern, flax and toi-toi to the hill where the cathedral now stands. At the Company's depot on Church Hill we were given rations and told to build ourselves a hut, and after that to help in constructing a road from the Port to the town."
The Barracks at the Port were at the foot of Richardson Street and from there the road led up Richardson Street, down Washington Road, up Toi Toi Valley as far as Parere Street and then round the end of the hill across to Church Hill.
As late as 1846 the swampy area at the junction of Washington and Toi-Toi Valleys was still so extensive that a report in the Examiner of 23rd May, tells of the loss of a little child in the swamp at the back of Washington Road. The child was lost on the 15th May and the body was not found until 21st May by two boys looking for some cows.
No wonder Captain Wakefield had decided from the start that page 6a road along the edge of the harbour was a necessity! It was pushed forward with all speed but it took a year in building and many years before it was a safe road. The first road was probably along the highest part of the beach and built up with spoil from the hillside. The only flat area was at Auckland Point and for the rest of the way the road had to be cut into the foot of the steep cliffs and hills bordering the harbour. In September, 1842, a very high tide carried away a considerable part of the embankment of the Company's road to the Port.
A man called Pratt who wrote a book called "Colonial Experiences,' tells of his first day in Nelson and records how he travelled along this road. He came ashore in a small boat but fell in the water while he was jumping ashore. He writes: "There was a large quantity of luggage and considerable difficulty was experienced in removing it from the landing place to the immigration depot at a distance of about two miles as there were no carts or carriers available for this purpose. After some delay a hand cart was procured.
"The road was newly made and from the absence of wheeled vehicles, very rough, my Wellington boots very thin, and soddened with sea water, my hands and muscles very soft, and moreover the temperature was about 95 degrees in the shade and the intense glare of the sun being reflected from the white road made the heat almost insupportable. E. took the lead with the truck while I laboured behind.
Not having expected a job of this kind, I had landed in holiday costume under the vague impression that it was or it ought to be a gala day and my position in the rear of that truck, wearing a black cloth cut-away coat and a bell-topper, must have been exceedingly picturesque and amusing to the onlookers as indeed their broad grins amply testified during our progress along the road."
The settlers had their choice between the mud of Washington Valley and the sandy road around the Haven. Archdeacon Ault, in his book, "The Nelson Narrative," mentions Saunders and his friends taking three weeks to wheel their goods along this road from the Port to their camp on the banks of the Maitai, probably using a wheelbarrow.
Nevertheless in September, 1843, Colonel Wakefield, reporting to the New Zealond Company said that "the best road in New Zealand connects the town of Nelson with the Port."
By March, 1842, everyone was ready to name the streets of the town, for, according to Broad, great interest was being taken in the probable names of the streets of the town. There were meetings and discussions, public meetings were held and a Committee was appointed at these meetings to find out what names people con-page 7sidered suitable for the streets. The Street Naming Committee was formed consisting of Captain Wakefield, Captain England, and Messrs. Graham, Greaves, Jenkins, MacShane, Otterson, Valle, Patchett, Richardson, Sclanders, Stephens, Thompson, Tuckett, Tytler and Young.
The Committee held three main meetings in March and April which were duly recorded in the Examiner and gave us names for practically all the main streets of Nelson. In most cases these names have been retained until the present day, apart from some changes in spelling occasioned mainly by the settlers' unfamiliarity with Maori pronunciation. A few of the names chosen were never used or have long been forgotten.
The first meeting of the Street Naming Committee was held at the Surveyor's office on Church Hill on March 24th, 1842. Those present were Captain Wakefield, Captain England, Messrs. Graham, Greaves, MacShane, Patchett, Richardson, Stephens, Thompson, Tytler, Valle and Young. H. A. Thompson was in the chair.
It is probable that several parties had decided on some of the name beforehand and this led to some preliminary skirmishes before approval was given to any list.
Mr. Young moved a motion, which was seconded by Mr. Valle, that,
"The principle of choosing names with a view to paying compliments to individuals ought to be repudiated.'
An amendment was moved by Mr. Graham, and seconded by Captain Wakefield, that,
"The Committee proceed in the first instance to choose names to commemorate the career of Nelson and that the succeeding names be at the discretion of the Committee."
This was carried by 6/5. Very close, and Young's motion was shelved although he seems to have gained some support.
A second motion was then moved by Mr. Richardson and seconded by Mr. MacShane to the effect that,
"No names be selected which will serve to perpetuate the recollection of Copenhagen."
Evidently Nelson's behaviour at the Battle of Copenhagen still rankled in the minds of some Englishmen who considered that the Danes had received shameful treatment. By most Nelsonians today, I suppose the whole episode has been forgotten. The meeting was definitely against this motion and an amendment was moved by Mr. Greaves and seconded by Mr. Graham, that,page 8
"The reserve for the Barracks and Parade Ground be called Copenhagen Mount."
This was carried by 8 votes to 3. Unfortunately for its supporters this name soon fell into disuse and most people today have not even heard of it.
The following names were then adopted, not all of them being names of streets.
Trafalgar Square, Trafalgar Street North, Trafalgar Street South, Nile Street East, Nile Street West, The Hallowell Cemetery, The Haven Cemetery, The Market, The Fish Market, The Cattle Market, Mount Rintoul, The Arrow Rock, Green Point, Fifeshire Island, Fort Bastia, Fort Calvi, Aboukir Battery, Aglionby Point, The Heights of Agamemnon, Victory Square, St. Vincent Street, Vanguard Street, Hardy Street, Collingwood Street, Copenhagen Mount, The Haven Road, Bridge Street, Waimea Street, Cook's Bluff.
Fate has dealt rather harshly with these names as nearly a dozen have been completely forgotten and it is doubtful if some were even used at all. But I will give the next two lists before commenting on them.
The Street Naming Committee met again on March 31st, 1842, in the Surveyor's office with H. A. Thompson in the chair and J. Greaves as honorary secretary. The following were approved:
Washington Road, Mount Vernon, Burnham Thorpe, Bronte Street, Santa Cruz Street, Scotland Street, Halifax Street, Alton Street, Tasman Street, Van Dieman Street, Wellington Street, Russell Street, Stanley Crescent, Brougham Street, Mary Anne Street, Auckland Point, Bolton Roads, Mill Street, Mount Street, Brook Street, Maitai Road, Manuka Street, Weimea Road, Ngati Tuma Street, Ngatiawa Street, Kafia Street, Tepea Street, Emanu Street, Towai-towai Street.
Of this selection of names, three only have disappeared—Burnham Thorpe, Bolton Roads, and Santa Cruz Street—although Mary Anne Street was renamed and the name was discarded for years until just recently. The supply of Lord Nelson names seems to have been running out—three only occurring in this list—Burnham Thorpe, Santa Cruz and Bronte. The others are a mixed bag and in this connection, readers will recall with interest, the statement in Ruth Allan's "History of Nelson," that Stephens, one of the Naming Committee, claimed credit for the native and descriptive names.
The third meeting of the Street Naming Committee was held a week later on April 7th, 1842, and duly recorded in the Examiner of 9th April. At this meeting Robert Tod was in the chair and J. Greaves again the secretary. The following names were adopted:page 9
Shelbourne Street, Hampden Street East, Hampden Terrace, Hampden Street West, Franklin Street, Britannia Heights, Wakefield Quay, Motuaka Street, Takaka Street, Parere Street, Hastings Street, Jenner Heights, Cleveland Hills, Erin Street, Waikatu Street, Totara Street, Gloucester Street, Shakespere Walk, Grattan Street, Milton Grove, Cambria Street, Weka Street, North Road, Tory Street, Moutere Road, Murphy Street, Malvern Hills, Grampian Hills, Roseberry Hill.
The supply of names commemorating Lord Nelson seems to have run out and I can find only two which might have some connection—Britannia and Franklin, but even these have alternative sources.
This is the last we hear of the Street Naming Committee and nothing more issued by them has been published in the Examiner so I suppose we can conclude that they went out of existence.
Some of the names they adopted were in existence previous to this—Mt. Rintoul, Aglionby Point, Arrow Rock, Nelson Haven, and possibly Alton, occur in Wakefield's diary of 1841, and others of the names were used in Wellington or New Plymouth, by the New Zealand Company. Aglionby, Weka, Auckland, Bolton, Britannia, Brougham, Burnham, Cleveland, Fifeshire, Franklin, Manuka, Murphy, Ngatiawa, Ngati-tama, Rintoul, Stanley, Tasman, Tory and Washington occur in Wellington.