How Our City Streets Got Their Names

The wind whipped waving tussock of the Canterbury Plains can’t have made the surveyor’s job very easy. I can’t say whether the surveyors pushed their pegs into the ground by the use of tools or whether they just crouched down amongst the flaxy marsh and pushed them in by hand.Whatever happened, Edward Jollie and his boss, Captain Thomas, laid down the streets of Christchurch together. Many years later Edward Jollie would share the story of these early days with those who took an interest. He spoke of Captain Thomas, with his gold spectacles at the end of his nose, using the Burke’s Peerage book to choose the names of the streets.Irish genealogist, James Burke, put together a collection of historic Royal and titled family names – not only for the United Kingdom but also for other countries. This first edition was released in 1826 and revised again in 1832. Maybe it was this 2nd edition used for naming streets and places in Canterbury. This book was known as Burke’s Peerage.

I like to think of Captain Thomas walking into the middle of the newly pegged street and glancing down the length of it thoughtfully. Without a word, he would open the Burke’s Peerage for inspiration, make his choice, say it out loud, glance to Edward Jollie for a reaction and if it felt right, it was noted down and would come to pass.

Lyttelton was the first township to be surveyed, followed by Sumner. By the time it was Christchurch’s turn, Captain Thomas had almost exhausted all the British names – this is why you will find more Irish, Welsh and Colonial name choices in the Christchurch’s street names.

Here are the streets broken down by nationality:

BRITISH: Cambridge, Chester, Durham, Gloucester, Hereford, Lichfield, Manchester, Oxford, Peterborough, Salisbury and Worchester.

IRISH: Armagh, Cashel, Tuam and Kilmore.

WELSH: St Asaph

COLONIAL: Montreal, Madras, Antiqua and Barbados

Today we spell Barbadoes with an ‘e’ in it thanks to Edward Jollie’s typo error that wasn’t corrected!

Colonial names are usually chosen by an association to honour sponsors or someone VERY important. Here are some more examples of the other Colonial names chosen for parts of Canterbury:

Ashburton, Ashley, Coleridge, Ellesmere, Godley, Heathcote, Lincoln, Lyttelton and Sumner.

This photo is of Cashel Street in 1921.

*image courtesy of
Cashel St, Christchurch. Webb, Steffano, 1880?-1967 : Collection of negatives. Ref: 1/1-005209-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. *


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