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 The Old Waterfront, p 48 The Streets of my city, Wellington New Zealand,
by F. L. Irvine-Smith. (1948).

Part Two : Chapter Eleven
Mainly Women

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

What is civilisation? I answer, the power of good women.

AS MIGHT BE expected, few of the city streets are named after women. Company promoting and city administration do not as a rule lie within the scope of women's activities, and early Victorian women were by no means addicted to public life. The streets so named have mostly arisen in later years, where the head of a family has cut up his town property and sought the necessary nomenclature within his home circle.

Victoria Street is of course an exception. It is rare to find an English-speaking settlement without its Victoria Street, a symbol of Imperial unity, so to speak, as was the royal bearer, who reigned, the Empire's godmother of place names, par excellence, for sixty imperialising years. Wellington remembers the Queen in Victoria Street, Mount Victoria (648 feet), Victoria University College, Queens Wharf, the first pile of which was driven April 28th, 1862, Queen's Park (N.1) , Queen's Drive, Balmoral Terrace, Regina Terrace (altered from Hospital Terrace, 1925), and Queen Street.

But sonorous as such names are, there came a time when the city really grew too Victorian for the harassed Fire Brigade officials.
Accordingly :-

Victoria Street (W.3) became Shirley Street.
Victoria Road (N.5) became Nicholson Road.
Victoria Road (E.1) became Robieson Road.
Victoria Road (E.1 and 2), became Alexandra Road.
Victoria Terrace (S.W.1) became Connaught Terrace.
Victoria Avenue (E. 1) became Albany Avenue.
Victoria Place (C.2) became Cumberland Place.

Our next Queen is commemorated in the above-mentioned Alexandra Road. The mountain ridge, running from Island Bay to Roseneath with its three peaks of Mt. Alfred, Mt. Arthur and Mt. Victoria, known to the Maoris as Te Ranga-a-Hiwi, is crossed at its lowest point by Constable Street, and from here the City Council has constructed, for the ascent of Mt. Victoria, this scenic road called now after the consort of Edward VII.

Our present Queen and her family are commemorated in a large block of land in E.5, cut up in 1927 by Mr. Jas. Stellin. This area, in commemoration of the visit in that year of the Duke and Duchess of York, was named Strathmore Park and the Governor-General, Sir Charles Fergusson, at Mr. Stellin's request, kindly consented to name the new streets. His Excellency selected names from the Bowes-Lyon family as follows: -
Strathmore Avenue. Kinghorne Street. Cavendish Square. Bentinck Avenue. Elphinstone Avenue. Tannadyce Street. Streatlam Crescent. Glamis Avenue.
the sources of which will be readily recognised upon ascertaining that : -

  • (a) The Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne (1855-1945) father of our present Queen, married Cecilia Nina, daughter of the late Rev. Charles Cavendish-Bentinck.
  • (b) His eldest daughter, Lady Mary Frances, in 1910 married the 16th Baron Elphinstone.
  • (c) The third earl, Patrick, in 1677 became Baron Glamis, Tannadyce, Sidlaw and Strathdichtie.
  • (d) The thirteenth Earl, Claude, in 1824 was created Baron Bowes of Streatlam Castle.
  • (e) The family seat in Scotland is Glamis Castle.
  • Margaret Street (N.2) and Rose Street (N.2) at first sight might suggest further "royal" names, but for many a year before the advent of our younger princess, these streets re-echoed to the passing of Wadestown footsteps. Margaret Street, laid out in 1880, was originally named for different lengths, Regent Terrace and Princes Street, these names persisting until 1915 when a change was considered to George Street, after a resident of the street, George Boutflower Davy (1836-1929), Chief Judge of the Native Land Court and sometime Registrar-General of Land, but owing to confusion with George Street (N.I), the name was changed to that of Margaret Street, after Mrs. Davy, nee Miss Margaret Liddell. Rose Street, a much newer street, laid out in 1897, was named after a former owner of the land, Mrs. Rose Woodward.

    While dealing with royalty, mention may be made of Kent Terrace, after the Duke of Kent, father of Queen Victoria, and Cambridge Terrace, after her uncle, the Duke of Cambridge. These two terraces form the right and left sides of what is one of the finest thoroughfares in the Dominion, occupying the site of an early project of the settlement, namely, the construction of a canal to lead from a proposed dock, now the Basin Reserve, to the sea. But man proposes. The great earthquake of 1855 raised the coast-line in the vicinity of Wellington several feet, and the movement transferred the dock site into dry land, leaving the Basin Reserve, and incidentally the dock scheme, high and dry. Auckland grinned.

    As the result of the earthquake, the Provincial Council in 1857 acceded to a petition to set aside the "basin," as the swamp was called, for a public park. Dock Street, bordering the south side, was accordingly changed to Rugby Street. The clock in the grandstand of the Basin Reserve was the gift in October, 1890, of the family of the late Mr. Edward Dixon, cordial manufacturer and enthusiastic supporter of cricket, and one of the city's most public-spirited citizens. The clock is now transferred to the new pavilion.

    The most imposing structure in Cambridge Terrace is that of St. Patrick's College, the first Roman Catholic College in New Zealand, founded March 16th, 1884, by Archbishop Francis Redwood (1839-1935) who also selected the college motto "Sectare Fidem" (Follow the Faith). Adorning the facade is a large figure of St. Patrick presented by the Archbishop of Armagh on the occasion of a visit to Ireland by Archbishop Redwood.(1) The first Rector of St. Patrick's was the Very Rev. Felix Joseph Watters, S.M., D.D. of Dublin University, who retired in 1898 and returned to Ireland where he was killed whilst ministering to the wounded during the Dublin rising of 1916. The present rector (1948) is Father Bourke, a grandson of one of the city's pioneering families.

    A much earlier foundation was that of St. Mary's Convent, erected in Thorndon by Dr. (afterwards Bishop) Viard and opened September 8th, 1850, the boys' portion being opened in the following year. The girls' school was at first under the card of "a group of devout ladies," but was taken over in 1861 by the Sisters of Mercy, the former teachers joining the order. Ever since its inception it has been renowned for its teaching of music and singing.

    Yet another of the numerous sons of George III is commemorated in the name of Sussex Street, after the Duke of Sussex, whose only claim to the compliment seems to have been an interest in attending the farewell dinners given by the New Zealand Company to the departing emigrants. It is on record that the royal Duke attended several of these - grim enough gatherings in all conscience, in spite of the kindly interest of the Company, where notables on occasion practised public speaking on tight-lipped unlistening men and women taking their final plunge into the unknown, oblivious to all save the irrevocable step which lay ahead. Just as well at times. On the departure of the "Bengal Merchant" from Glasgow, it is recorded that the principal speaker (obviously not an intending colonist) burst into verse as follows:-

    On Zealand's hills, where tigers steal along,
    And the dread Indian chants a dismal song,
    Where human fiends on midnight errands walk,
    And bathe in brains the murderous tomahawk,
    There shall the pocks on rhyming pastures stray,
    And shepherds dance at summer's opening day.
    It might [be] thought at first sight that Regent Street (S.1) commemorates some royal person or event. This street however, was named by Mr. Richard Keene who came to Wellington from England in 1885 and was subsequently Mayor of Melrose Borough. In 1890 he acquired a piece of land through which he constructed Regent Street, naming it after the street in his home town of Swindon, Wiltshire, where stood the Methodist Church he had formerly attended.

    Leaving royalty, Adelaide Road, as we have seen, is not named after a woman, but after the second emigrant vessel to arrive in March, 1840. Harriett Street, leading off Tinakori Road, is generally said to have been named after Mrs. Dr. Evans, though some would have its origin in the cutter, "Harriett," commanded by W. B. Rhodes, which traded here in the early days. May Street is sometimes said to have been called after James May, a brewer who lived in the locality, and sometimes after the daughter of J. J. Curtis, the founder in 1870 of the well-known carrying business, who owned property in the neighbourhood and lived at the corner of May Street and Tinakori Road.

    Mercer Street receives its name from Mrs. John Duthie, our Mayoress in 1889, whose maiden name was Mercer. It occupies the site of old College Lane, where in 1853, a reserve was set aside by Sir George Grey for a college endowment. (2) Not until 1867 however, did any youths present themselves for secondary education. These were housed in the Congregational Schoolroom, Woodward Street, later (1868) in the old barracks in Fitzherbert Terrace, and later still (1869-1875) in a building in Clifton Terrace, which afterwards became the Terrace Primary School. In 1874 the present Wellington Boys' College was opened by the Governor, Sir James Fergusson, accompanied by a small son of eight, destined at a future date (1924-1930) to be likewise Governor of New Zealand. The first dux of the College to receive the light was C. S. Brandon and the first Principal to impart it Mr. Kenneth Wilson (1874) followed in turn by Messrs. J. Mackay (1881), J. P. Firth (1892), T. R. Cresswell (1921), W. A. Armour (1928), and E. N. Hogben (1943).

    In 1928 Rongotai Boys' College was opened, an offshoot of Wellington College, catering for the eastern suburbs. Its first Principal was F. M. Renner, succeeded in 1946 by H. A. Heron.

    The distinction of being the Father of Secular Secondary Education must rest however with Mr. E. Toomath, who in January, 1857 opened the "Wellington Commercial and Grammar School," in Aurora Terrace. Many of the early leaders of Wellington were among his pupils.

    It was not until 1883 that the first Girls' High School was opened in a five-roomoed cottage in Abel Smith Street under Miss Margaret Hamilton as Principal. Lady Hosking (nee Kathleen Reader) and Mrs. Herbert James (nee Eleanor Planagan), both living (1948), were two of the first pupils enrolled. Kathleen Reader lived in Abel Smith Street where her father, Colonel Reader, in the early seventies planted the great elm still to be seen in the grounds of No. 81, the present residence of Dr. Ewart.

    For there is healing in old trees,
    Old streets a glamour hold.
    Subsequent Principals of the Girls' College have been Miss McLean (1900) , Miss Greig (1926) and Miss North (1938).

    As an offshoot to the above, Wellington East Girls' College was opened September 9th, 1925, the first dux being Elsie Kennedy, now Mrs. I. D. Campbell. The first Principal was Miss Alithea Batham, succeeded in 1937 by Miss Gwendolin Isaac.

    No mention can be made of the higher education of women without recording the glowing contribution of Mrs. Evans, who brought undying lustre to New Zealand by becoming the first woman university graduate in the whole of the British Empire. Kate Milligan Evans (1857-1935) was the third daughter of the Rev. Samuel Edger. She came to New Zealand with her parents in 1863, and taking advantage of facilities offered by the headmaster of the Boys' College, Auckland, graduated B.A. in 1877 (3) and M.A. in 1881. After teaching for two years at the Christchurch Girls' High School, she was appointed in 1883 first Principal of Nelson Girls' College, from which she resigned on her marriage in 1890 to the Rev. W. A. Evans. Mr. Evans subsequently took up his residence in Wellington where he founded the Forward Movement (q.v.) and Mrs. Evans for some years conducted a private school in the city. She was keenly interested in the Forward Movement, in the League of Nations, in Temperance work and in the general welfare of women and with her sister, Miss Lilian Edger, edited two volumes of her father's works. She died in Wellington, May 11th, 1935. Needless to say, her name is known and honoured in academic circles in every part of the Empire, and she is commemorated in the World's Headquarters of the Federation of University Women in London. The writer can recall viewing it for the first time. "I suppose," said the cicerone, "you have a very beautiful memorial to her in Wellington?" Where? (4)

    The earliest Public School Headmaster was William Mowbray, whence Mowbray Street. He had reached New Zealand by the "Midlothian" in 1859 and taken charge of St. Paul's Church School in Sydney Street, and on its being taken over by the Board of Education in 1880, still retained the position of Headmaster. Mr. Mowbray was a great asset to the musical section of Wellington. In conjunction with Mr. Justice Johnston, he founded the Wellington Choral Society, and for twenty years was also Choirmaster of St. Paul's.

    In spite of an awkward crossing in the centre for traffic which comes in at a curve from Wakefield Street, Mercer Street is one of our brightest city streets, wide and sunlit, containing such conspicuous buildings as the Wellington Public Library, the north side of the Town Hall and the "Dominion" Newspaper Building. It is a matter for regret that the handsome block of the "Evening Post," erected in Willis Street, and facing Mercer Street across its Willis Street end, gets only half a look in, though if reports be true, it was not for the lack of trying on the part of the proprietors.

    Marion Street and Jessie Street call to mind the early pioneer, the Hon. John Martin (1822-1892), who in that vicinity owned the town property through which he formed the above streets and named them after his daughters. He came to New Zealand in the "Lady Nugent" in 1841 and was one of the founders of the "Circular Saw" line of steamers, forerunners of the Union Steam Ship Company. Martin Square was named after him. Another familiar landmark in earlier Wellington was "Johnny Martin's Fountain," presented by him to the city in 1875 and erected at the intersection of Hunter Street and Lambton Quay. Later it was removed to the reserve in Oriental Bay, where it remained until, after slaking the thirst of many a Wellingtonian for over sixty years, it was broken up (November, 1937) and carried away as scrap iron to make room for a Tramway Shelter. Not a long life for a fountain, surely, but maybe, in the Elysian Fields, it is still slaking the thirst of ex-Wellingtonians.

    Jessie Street, Khandallah, now changed to Baroda Street, was named after the daughter of Robert Hannah who owned land and resided at Khandallah. He built the house now owned by Mr. Kember and formerly occupied by Mr. Millais, cousin of Sir John Everett Millais, P.R.A., whose grandson, the original of "Bubbles," in the course of a Pacific cruise, once visited his New Zealand cousin. Mr. Hannah himself built and resided in "Tara's Hall," afterwards occupied by the late G. M, Henderson, (5) formerly Inspectar of Native Schools and a Maori scholar of some repute.

    Anothcr active speculator of earlier days was Thomas Kennedy Macdonald (1847-1914), land and estate agent, whose son is commemorated in Angus Avenue, his partner, Percival Johnston of Sydney, in Percival Street and himself in McDonald Crescent and Kennedy Street. He was possessed of vision as well as of business instincts and saw an outlet for congested city homes in the empty acres of Tawa Flat, but the Tawa Tunnel, opened June 19th, 1937, was too Utopian a scheme for his day and his dreams remained dreams. A trivial thought comes to mind. His telephone was No. 1.

    Katherine Avenue, a new thoroughfare off Fitzherbert Terrace is fittingly named after Katherine Mansfield (1888-1923), the nom-de-plume of the third daughter of Sir Harold Beauchamp, a former Chairman of Directors of the Bank of New Zealand, whence Beauchamp Street (W.3). She died at Fontainebleau, the "best-known and most highly esteemed of New Zealand writers." Her work consists of letters, poems and short stories. Whom the gods love die young.

    Another Beauchamp street is Burnell Avenue (N.1) named after Mrs. Beauchamp, nee Annie Burnell Dyer, an entry in the city records (November 4th, 1897) stating: "That consent be given to the request of Mr. H. Beauchamp to give the name of Burnell Avenue to the right-of-way recently formed at Park Street."

    Elizabeth Street is named after the late Mrs. Woodman of D'Urville Island (nee Elizabeth Muir) whose family owned property in this vicinity. Leading to Lewisham Hospital is Florence Street named after Florence, daughter of Llewellyn James and granddaughter of William James of "Penmorfa," South Wellington.

    Caroline Street was so called by Mr. Jacobson, an early builder and landed proprietor who constructed and named the street after his wife. Jacobs Place is also called after either himself or his brother. Myrtle Crescent was named after Mrs. Howard Ashworth of Dunedin, nee Miss Myrtle Crump, when she was but an infant in the cradle (q.v.). Leading to the Central Park Hospital is another of our "women" streets, Levina Avenue, which takes its name from Mrs. Lavinia Adams, the wife of one of the original owners of the land. Orthography has not always been a speciality of our City Fathers.

    The imprint of the Rhodes family lies strong upon the early hill suburb of Wadestown. Here in the sixties William Barnard Rhodes, the eldest of the four pastoralist brothers, who at one time controlled greater areas of land than any other colonial family, erected "The Grange" which, until demolished in 1929, was one of the most picturesquely placed homes in this or any city. There are still old identities who speak regretfully of the failure of the attempt to transfer the vice-regal residence to this site. Various Wadestown streets attest to the ownership and interest of the Rhodes family and their connections, for instance, Barnard Street, Sefton Street, Moorhouse Street, and after Mrs. Sarah Anne Rhodes, the second wife of W. B. Rhodes, sister of William Sefton Moorhouse, Mayor of Wellington 1875, we have the somewhat curiously derived S.A.R. Street, commonly called Sar Street, as well as Anne Street. Orchard Street was constructed through the old orchard belonging to "The Grange." It was Mrs. S. A. Rhodes who presented in 1901 the Mayoral Chain to the City as well as the hour bell of the Post Office clock. What is more, she left £10,000 to Victoria University College for the higher education of women.

    Rhodes Street (S.1) is called after W. B. Rhodes himself (1807-1878) whose earlier home was situated near the present "James Smith's Corner." At the front of the house was Rhodes Wharf, which he built in 1841, the first substantial wharf in Port Nicholson, and permitted the use of it to others, free of charge.

    Two vice-regal matrimonial alliances have brought social lustre to the Rhodes family :-
    (1) The marriage in 1893 of Captain Hunter-Blair, brother of the Countess of Glasgow, to Emily, daughter of the late Robert Heaton Rhodes of Elmwood, Christchurch.
    (2) That of Arthur Tahu Rhodes, Grandson of Robert Heaton Rhodes, who married in 1916, Helen, daughter of the 5th Baron Plunket, Governor of New Zealand (1904-1910). Captain Rhodes left with the Main Body N.Z.E.F. as aide-de-camp to General Godley. He died on 10th March, 1947.

    Rosina Terrace (C.1), one of the offshoots of Wellington Terrace, recalls the name of Miss Rosina Fell, who acquired a large amount of city property in this street. She died in the late thirties when on a visit to England. Nearby is Sieverston Terrace, tapping much of the property owned by William Sievers, one of the early comers to Wellington by the "Mariner" in 1849.

    Mention has already been made that Mary Taylor came out from England to join her brother, Waring Taylor, in the forties, and remained until about 1860. Her sojourn in early Wellington gains much interest from the fact that she was the life-long friend and correspondent of the Bronte sisters, more especially of the eldest sister, Charlotte. She is the M- of Mrs. Gaskell's biography of Charlotte Bronte and the Rose Yorke of "Shirley," as her brother was the Martin Yorke of the same novel. Unfortunately, the letters of Charlotte Bronte to Mary Taylor in New Zealand were never kept, (6) but the letters to Charlotte Bronte from her friend in Port Nicholson make interesting reading and are freely quoted in "Charlotte Bronte and her Circle" by Clement Shorter (1896).

    Mary Taylor, joined later by her cousin Ellen Taylor, though well educated for her day, had no inclination to follow any academic calling in the New World and opened a shop, a small general store, on the site of what is now Selfridge's stores, Cuba Street. She appears to have had good business ability, enjoyed the companionship of her cousin, whose early death she deeply deplored, wrote articles occasionally to English papers, and was engaged in desultory fashion in writing a novel, "Miss Miles or a Tale of Yorkshire Life Sixty Years Ago." This was not published, however, until 1890, when it created but little interest. It is apparent from her letters that in New Zealand she missed the literary associations of her friends, and felt isolated, mentally and physically, especially when the mails brought from her beloved Charlotte such "incredible" achievements as "Jane Eyre" and "Shirley," with news of their repercussions. There is no doubt that each gained from the other's friendship. Had Mary Taylor not been staying at Brussels in her youth, the Bronte sisters might never have gone there, and the world would have been the poorer by the powerful novel "Villette" and its interesting Professor. About 1859 or 1860 she returned to England and spent the remainder of her days in seclusion in a home she had built for herself in Yorkshire. She died in 1893.

    Mary Taylor's little shop has long since melted away into the dim forgotten past, but she has left a more permanent memorial in a busy little city thoroughfare whose entrance is almost hidden between lofty buildings in Ghuznee Street east. This is Leeds Street, constructed across sec. 181, a stone's throw from her shop in Cuba Street. In 1852 this section was granted to the Hon. Algernon Tollemache (1805-1897), a picturesque figure of early Wellington, who, with a deep purse, a lengthy family-tree (7) and good mixing capacity, enjoyed pioneering life for some years in a cottage at the corner of Abel Smith Street and Willis Street. He appeared to have done nothing with the section and in 1859 sold it to Mary Taylor, who cut it up and sold portions, leaving the street as a reminder of her Yorkshire memories. She herself was the daughter of a Yorkshire merchant.

    Nga Tawa School, Marton, New Zealand, which still remains one of the Dominion's leading boarding schools for girls, was founded early in the present century at Shannon by the nieces of Mary Taylor. Later it was moved to Marton, and is now under Diocesan control.
    1. Dr. Redwood purchased this statue in Paris, for 60 pounds, the Archbishop of Armagh defraying the cost.
    2. "That as College Lane has been widened and will be extended to Jervois Quay, the name be changed to Mercer street, with the consent of the owners and occupiers of land abutting thereon." (City Council Records. October 3rd, 1889.)
    3. "In. that year while Sidgwick and his companions were embarking on their long struggle and the old universities massed their forces of prejudice and disdain, Kate Milligan Edger, the elder daughter of the Rev. Samuel Edger walked into the open citadel and took possession of the heritage of her sex."("History of University of New Zealand " J. C. Beaglehole.)
    4. But in 1941 The Edger-Evans Memorial Baths were opened at Nelson Girls' College.
    5. Author of "Taina" (Wingfield Press), 1948.
    6. She told Mrs. Gaskell she had never felt it safe to keep such letters until she had a home of her own.
    7. He was a brother of the Earl of Dysart and a brother-in-law of the Marquis of Ailesbury.
    Part Two : Chapter Twelve : Legal Streets

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