| The Streets of my city, Wellington New Zealand, |
by F. L. Irvine-Smith. (1948).
Part Two : Chapter One
|Contents: a letter | Part One chapters: 1 | 2 | Part Two chapters: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 |
Part Three chapters: Intro | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | Appendix
Where lies the land to which the ships would go?
Far, far ahead, is all her seamen know.
And where the land she travels from? Away
Far, far behind, is all that they can say.
A. H. Clough
TO BEGIN with our Ship Streets. There are not a few whose names commemorate the vessls of the New Zealand Company that brought the earliest pioneers to our shores. Consider the following list.
"Duke of Roxburgh"
"Glenbervie" (Store Ship)
September 20th, 1839.
January 4th, 1840.
January 22nd, 1840.
January 31st, 1840.
February 8th 1840.
March 7th, 1840.
March 7th, 1840.
April 10th, 1840.
August 29th, 1840.
February 18th, 1842.
Oriental Bay, Oriental Parade.
Brougham Street may be named after the "Brougham," a store ship despatched from London February 16th, 1840, though, since there are also streets of the same name in Nelson and New Plymouth, it may be named after Lord Brougham (1778-1868), Lord Chancellor of England, the author of "An Enquiry into the Colonial Policy of European Powers" (2 vols., 1803). He was known as a keen sympathiser of the anti-slavery movement and was the close friend of Wilberforce. On the second trip to the colony of the "Brougham" she brought the artist, Mr. Brees, and returning (May 5th) to London with a full cargo of oil and whale-bone, took Captain Chaffers, who had been independent enough to sign the petition for Captain Hobson's recall, and whose services as Harbour Master of Port Nicholson had been declined by the Government.
Connected with early vessels we saw also Barnett Street, after Captain Barnett of the cutter "Lambton" that entered Port Nicholson in 1826 and Herd Street after Captain Herd of the "Rosanna" that accompanied the "Lambton." It was Captain Herd who wrote on entering Port Nicholson in 1826, "Here all the navies of Europe might ride in perfect safety" (war years excepted). Captain Herd had seen New Zealand before, in fact, in the good ship "Providence" he had come as long ago as 1822, seeking spars at Hokianga. In 1827 the warship "Warspite" passed through Cook Strait and Mana Island was once known as Warspite Island. Chaffers Street is called after Captain Chaffers of the "Tory" which reached our shores in 1839 (q.v.). He too had seen New Zealand before when, as Captain of H.M.S. "Beagle," he visited the Bay of Islands in 1834.
The source of the names of Britomart Street, Stanley Street and Lavaud Street may be readily gathered from the following extract (1) :-
"In July, 1840, a French frigate, 'L'Aube,' commanded by Commodore Lavaud (2) put in at the Bay of Islands and was hospitably received by Governor Hobson and his staff. The rumour being current that she was on her way to Akaroa to take possession of a land purchase there, Captain Hobson dispatched Captain Stanley in H.M.S. 'Britomart' ostensibly to convey magistrates to Wellington, but in reality to make assurance of British sovereignty at Akaroa doubly sure. Captain Stanley landed at Akaroa on August 11th and hoisted the British flag three days before the arrival of the French frigate."Owen Street too, is said by some to have been named after Captain Owen Stanley of the "Britomart," though others attribute the name to Professor Richard Owen of London, the leading anatomist of his day, to whom in 1839 Dr. Rule, then on a visit from Sydney, brought a piece of bone, "the femur of a huge bird called by the natives of New Zealand the Moa," (3) which he had rcceived from a Sydney resident named Harris who at one time lived among the Maoris in the Poverty Bay district. Professor Owen's subsequent work, published in the following year and entitled "Memoirs of the Extinct Wingless Birds of New Zealand," attracted widespread attention and quite possibly may have led to the naming of this early Wellington street. The bone in question is one of the rarities of the Natural History Museum, South Kensington.
To go back to still earlier history, the first European to sight our shores, Abel Tasman (1642) is commemorated in Tasman Street, while the rising ground to the west of Tasman Street, known as Mount Cook, perpetuates the name of the readiscoverer of our Dominion (1769), Captain James Cook. It is difficult for the present generation to think of Mt. Cook as justifying such an appellation but old pictures of Wellington show it almost as sharply conical as Mt. Victoria. Fully a third has been removed in the past for brick-making, and for many years a red brick gaol defaced this commanding spot now occupied by the Dominion Art Gallery and Museum and the City Carillon Tower.
Fittingly looking out upon the blue waters of Cook Strait, through which the "greatest of all sailors" more than once made his way, though he never entered Port Nicholson,(4) are two newer streets in the Lyall Bay area - Endeavour Street (formerly Cook Street) and Resolution Street, so called after Cook's two vessels of that name.
In his first voyage (1768-1771) in which he re-discovered our islands, Cook sailed alone in the "Endeavour"; in the second voyage (1772,17515) in the "Resolution," and in his third voyage (1776,1780) again in the "Resolution," but having run aground during his first voyage, in the two later voyages for greater safety he was accompanied by a second vessel - in 1772 the "Adventure" (Captain Tobias Furneaux) and in 1776 the "Discovery" (Captain Clerke). Great names for a great purpose. Well might it be said of Cook, "His life was as stirring as the heroic names of his ships - 'Endeavour', 'Resolution', 'Adventure', 'Discovery'. (5)
A reminder of the Colony's first governor is to be found in the name of Herald Street and Herald Terrace after H.M.S. "Herald" which reached the Bay of Islands from Sydney, January 29th, 1840, with Captain Hobson and the official party on board. Later the "Herald" was the first British warship to enter Port Nicholson.
Panama Street recalls the days when the fastest mails from England came by the Panama route. Here were situated the offices of the Panama Mail Service, 1866, hence the name.(6) The General Post Office is now erected over the old site.
Fifeshire Avenue recalls the fact that the first Nelson emigrant vessel to arrive at Port Nicholson was the "Fifeshire," which left a week later for Nelson, entering the harbour February 1st, 1842, the date subsequently taken as the Foundation Day of the Nelson settlement. On leaving Nelson she was wrecked at the harbour mouth.
What is sometimes alluded to as "Wellington's First Mail Boat" is a Maori canoe over a century old, the remains of which are now in the Dominion Museum. It was the mail canoe used in 1844 by the Hon. W. B. D. Mantell, F.G.S., the first Postmaster of Wellington, for going out to meet the sailing-ships and bring mails ashore. The first Wellington Post Office stood where the Citizens' War Memorial now stands and was destroyed by fire in 1842. It is to be regretted that there is not a prominent city thoroughfare to commemorate the services of this active and many-sided pioneer, but that is a regret that would apply to a good many more than Mr. Mantell. The suburb of Miramar now has a Mantell Street.
One of the newer sea-front streets is Cable Street, a name which possesses a nautical touch, inasmuch as Wm. Cable, whom it commemorates, was in 1905 Chairman of the Wellington Harbour Board. Mr. Cable came to New Zealand in 1869 and took up his first appointment in Port Chalmers. From this he became engineer in the Union Steam Ship Company, but in 1878 came to Wellington to manage the Lion Foundry for E. W. Mills. Three years later he became managing partner and in 1883, on the retirement of Mr. Mills from the foundry, it became, as it still remains, one of the leading foundries of the Dominion, that of Cable and Co. This was the firm that made the chimes (7) for the Post Office Clock. One of the deprivations of the city during war years was the closing down of these musical chimes, which hourly wafted north or south at the wind's behest the invocation of its citizens: -
Lord, be our guide,
And by thy power No foot shall slide.
Mention of the Post Office recalls the fact that that the slot-stamp-vending machine, in universal use today throughout the world, was mainly the outcome of the inventive resource of a Post Ofice official of our own city, Robert J. Dickie, now a resident of Auckland, who in 1891, joined the Wellington post and Telegraph Department, remaining there until his retirement in 1931.
A subsequent partnership with J. H. Brown of Willis Street resulted in the construction of the first working-machine, produced by W. Andrews, Engineer, Tory Street, under patents issued in the name of Dickie and Brown. In June, 1905, such a machine was placed at the entrance to the old Post Office, Customhouse Quay, and its successful trial was followed by a visit in 1905 of Mr. Dickie to San Francisco to complete the U.S.A. patent and another in 1907 of Messrs. Dickie and Brown to London, where a strong financial company had been formed to manufacture machines. In this year the first such machine to be used in England was installed in the British House of Commons, around day indeed for the two Wellingtonians.
Think, then, when you pull the next stamp out of a machine, of a citizen of whom any city in the starry universe might justly be proud.
Early happenings are recalled by the name of Minerva Street (S.1.) after the ship "Minerva" in which Edward Gibbon Wakefield embarked from Plymouth, October 12th, 1852, and reached New Zealand at Lyttelton on February 2nd, 1853. He was accompanied by the second son of his sister, Mrs. Torlesse, and as well as bringing his favourite dogs, brought some pure-bred stock for Canterbury Province.
Clyde Quay, trodden by every early Wellington foot, and now absorbed into Oriental Parade, was a reminder of the ship "Clyde," wrecked on the way from Wanganui to Wellington and beached at Kaiwharawhara. This busy thoroughfare followed the shore-line from Kent Terrace to Fitzgerald Point. In it were situated the Te Aro Baths, built and owned by Henry Meech,(8) an arrival by the "Oriental" in 1840, and presided over for many years by himself and his wife. Needless to remark, those were not the days of "mixed bathing." Ladies: 9 am to 2 p.m.; Gentlemen: before and after. Nevertheless, one fine day, as the story goes, a clerical gentleman with a penchant for astronomy, plus a good glass, when "stargazing" from the surrounding heights, was dismayed to behold a lady! Out of hours!! All in !!! There followed an indignant letter to the newspaper, but the editor was not to be drawn. "We are of the opinion," said he, "that what the gentleman saw was merely - a Transit of Venus." Are such editors extinct?
Mr. Meech also goes down to posterity as possibly the first Wellington pioneer to rear fowls in the setthent in 1840. No little happening. In spite of the old adage that "Fowls are the only animals to die in debt," it was not long before household poultry runs became the order of the day. To many a country-bred settler it must have been sweet music to be awakened once more at dawn by the crowing of the family chanticleer.
Passing to the period of the Great War (1911-1918) Fryatt Quay is called after a naval hero of the war, Captain Fryatt of the British steamer "Brussels," which ran between Harwich and Rotterdam. Captured and tried by a German court-martial on a charge of having attempted to ram a German submarine, he was shot at Bruges on July 28th, 1916. In E.4. we have a Bruges Avenue.
Connecting Fryatt Quay to Waterloo Quay is Cornwell Street, commemorating another naval hero of the war, Jack Cornwell, a boy of sixteen years, serving in H.M.S. "Chester," who was mortally wounded when working his gun at the Battle of Jutland, but stuck to his post till the action was finished. His widowed mother was presented by the King with the posthumous V.C.
Sturdee Street, formerly Quin Street, earlier still, Maori Row, is now named after Admiral Sturdee, the victor at the Battle of Falkland Islands, one of the chief naval engagements of the Great War. This was fought on December 8th, 1914 between a British squardron under Admiral Sir Doveton Sturdee and a German squadron under Vice-Admiral Graf von Spee. The battle was a decisive victory for the British, and as a result, German cruiser warfare collapsed. Mr. Morton Quin was one of the first eight City Councillors elected for 1870-71.
Speaking of war-vessels, Hood Street, altered July, 1925 from McKenzie Street, commemorates the visit of the British Special Service Squadron in 1924, when on April 14 th, H.M.S. "Hood," accompanied by H.M.S. "Repulse" and the Australian vessel "Adelaide," arrived at Wellington and remained until May 5th. During this time thousands of people took the opportunity of inspecting the "Hood" which, with its displacement of 47,500 tons, was the largest battle-cruiser in the world. In World War 11 it was sunk by enemy action off the coast of Iceland.
In the following year (August, 1925) the largest fleet of naval vessels ever seen till then in New Zealand arrived in Port Nicholson. This was an American fleet consisting of the flagship "Seattle," three battleships, five cruisers, twentyfive destroyers, two tenders, two mine-layers and four auxiliary vessels. There were over twelve thousand men and officers in port, and the forty-two vessels made an unforgettable spectacle.
1. "History of New Zealand" (Shrimpton & Mulgan) p. 91.
2. For many years Lavaud Street was mis-spelt on its name-plate as "Leraud" Street.
3. "The Discovery of Dinornia," by T. Lindsay Buick, C.M.G. F.R.Hist.S.
4. The nearest Captain Cook came to Port Nicholson was to anchor a mile from Barrett's Reef.
5. Sir R. Newbolt.
6. H. Fildes, "Dominion," October, 1927.
7. Devonians mag recollect that Wellington chimes are the same as those of Bideford.
8. Henry Meech, who died in 1885, was the senior partner in Meech, Oxenham & Whitley, shipwnghts, Wellington.