News | 17 March 2023
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Friday Five: Fun facts about Wellington’s streets

We look after more than 700km of streets across the capital, and each one is unique. How much do you know about them? Check out some of our fun facts.

A black and white photo of Courtenay Place in 1910 with horse and carts riding beside early motorcars.

1. Street names are assigned by characteristics of the street

Did you know a Glade is a tree covered street, whereas a Grove is an alleyway cut out in a wood? Check out the 26 different definitions for our streets, all based on their characteristics.

2. The current location of the city was plan B! 

Petone was originally destined to be Wellington city – or where the New Zealand Company planned to build their new settlement, Britannia. When they realised the site was not suitable, they had to negotiate for new land and took ownership of the land situated between Thorndon Quay and Berhampore. 

Having already pre-sold about 1000 sections, with another 100 set aside for mana whenua, they needed to squeeze all of those town acres into the land area that had been purchased. One of the results was very narrow roads, particularly around the CBD.

3. Many Wellington suburbs have themed street names 

If you’ve ever travelled through the Wellington suburb of Brooklyn, you may well have noticed a political pattern in the street names. There’s Garfield Street, named after the 20th president of the United States, James A. Garfield, who was killed by an assassin in 1881. 

Other suburbs like Grenada Village and Grenada North have themes of Caribbean names, while Hataitai has Māori names (predominantly flora and fauna). 

You can find the non-exhaustive list of suburbs currently considered to have a predominant naming theme throughout their streets in this story.

Archive image of Jervois Quay.

4. A lot of names in Pōneke are mispronounced 

If you’re a Wellingtonian, you might be shocked at how many commonly mispronounced names there are in the city. For example, Jervois Quay is generally pronounced “Jer-voice” and occasionally “Jerv-wah”, but the correct pronunciation is “Jarvis” due to a not-uncommon English tradition of deliberately pronouncing certain surnames ‘wrong’. 

Test out your knowledge with these commonly mispronounced Wellington street names.

5. There are interesting tales behind many of our streets

Our city is packed with history, and our streets are no exception. 

It might seem like a sleepy cul-de-sac, but 100 years ago Goring Street in Thorndon was the site of a raging jazz club called “The Cabaret.” The club was opened in 1920 by Theo Trezise, a flamboyant dance instructor, comedian and drama producer who used to entertain the troupes overseas in World War I. 

Find out more about the interesting histories of Te Wharepōuri Street, Tokyo Lane, Old Porirua Road and Sar Street.

Interested in learning more about our streets? Check out our Street Smart story collection

Watch out each Friday for a fun list of five awesome activities to do, places to explore, or things to discover in our great city.