What does your street name tell you?

When I read Vanessa’s very interesting blog on the origins of the name Cashmere, I was inspired to find out what else street names of Christchurch might tell me about our history, so I turned to our Street Name and Place Name index for inspiration.

It seems that many of Christchurch’s main streets were laid out in the original plan with names taken from bishoprics listed in Burke’s Peerage. Cashel Street, for example was named for The Rt. Rev. Robert Daly, Bishop of Cashel and Waterford at the time, who also happened to be John Robert Godley’s uncle. This tells us little, except that the names were thought out before hand, possibly to emphasis the Anglican character of the settlement – and that the surveyors must have bought Burke’s Peerage with them.

Many others were simply named for the families who developed the land. There is an area in Spreydon where Lord Lyttelton is commemorated with names like Stourbridge Street (a village near where he lived) and Glynne Crescent (his wife’s maiden name).

Sergeant Henry NicholasHowever, there are less obvious connections in street names which help preserve our history in a way nothing else would. There’s Ontario Place for example, which was named because Canadian engineers lived in the area when they were building the Lyttelton Road Tunnel. Or Nicholas Drive, which was probably named for Henry Nicholas  awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery in action at Polderhoek (Belgium) in 1917. An appropriate memorial, as the houses in the area were built by the Christchurch City Council for returned soldiers after World War One.

Sometimes, sadly history has been obliterated with name changes obscuring origins rather than marking them. For example Dr Alfred Barker, renowned photographer of early Christchurch, was wiped off the map when Barker Street was removed in favour of the more aristocratic name of Onslow Street, after a former Governor of New Zealand.

Find out what your street tells you about Christchurch.

4 thoughts on “What does your street name tell you?

  1. Robyn 1 December 2011 / 10:06 am

    I swear that in the 1970s when the Brougham Street expressway cut some Waltham streets in half there was a proposal to name one half of Thackeray Street Makepeace Street. (William Makepeace Thackeray – get it?) I lived in Goldsmith Street at the time and have a distinct memory of going to a public meeting where people who lived in the neighbourhood nixed this idea decisively due to its namby-pamby connotations. But the street name experts at Christchurch City Libraries have assured me this never happened, so I must have dreamed the whole thing. Anyway it ended up as Vienna Street.

  2. Margaret Harper 2 December 2011 / 9:47 am

    I wonder who your “street name expert at Christchurch City Libraries” is Robyn. Take a look at Vienna Street and all wil be revealed!

  3. ValerieL 6 December 2011 / 11:56 am

    I would love to know who thought Sophora Place was a good name for a public road. Try explaining your address to a call centre and see how you get on… and where does the name come from?

    • Margaret 6 December 2011 / 1:20 pm

      I see a number of streets in Parklands have a tree theme in their name eg Radiata Ave. Wikipedia says the New Zealand Sophora species are known as Kowhai. So maybe that the reasoning behind the name. Probably the street was named in the 1970s when Parklands was developed.

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