Napier was first surveyed into Town and Suburban Sections in 1852 and 1854, and sections were offered for sale in 1855. The streets, as well as the town itself and other townships on the Heretaunga Plains, were named by Alfred Domett who was appointed Commissioner of Crown Lands and Resident Magistrate in 1854, and who was briefly Prime Minister of New Zealand. He chose names of Indian places and British generals who had performed well in India – performed well, that is, if you were British, and badly if you were Indian. A Pakistani tourist doing an Art Deco Walk some years ago, on hearing General Sir Charles Napier described as a hero, said “He was as thug”!
When Domett ran out of Indian names, he turned to giants of literature, and Milton Road was one result. Milton Terrace would have been named because it was a branch of Milton Road, a major road over the Napier hill.
With the exception of the original No 2 Milton Terrace, which was part of Suburban Section 46, all of the properties in the street were part of SS 45.
The first owner of Sections 45 and 46 after the town sections were offered for sale was William Seed, who also purchased Suburban Section 56, and Town Sections 424 to 427 on the east side of Milton Road, at the Battery Road corner, where he lived. Suburban Section 56 later became Amner’s Lime Quarry, then the Caltex petrol storage depot, and lastly the Amner Place subdivision
William Seed (1827-1890) was one of six people listed by Domett as being already in residence at Ahuriri in 1855. He had arrived in Wellington with his parents in 1840. Between 1851 and 53 he was Private Secretary to Governor Grey. He joined the Customs Department in 1853 and came to Ahuriri in 1855 as Sub-Collector of Customs & Treasurer, returning to Wellington two years later. He filled a number of positions in New Zealand and the Chatham Islands before retiring in 1887.
On his departure from Napier he was succeeded by Edward Catchpool as Director of Customs and Postmaster. According to “What’s in a Name” by Ian Mills, Catchpool bought SS 56 from Seed, but Rochfort’s field note-book (see page 4) states that the survey of SS 45 was being carried out for Mr Catchpool.
It was difficult to be sure exactly when Milton Terrace was laid out. I’ve always assumed that it was on Deeds Plan 39, dated 1870, surveyed by J Rochfort. But in researching for this history I came upon Deeds Plan 69, a later number but dated earlier, in 1865, and surveyed by H (or possibly A) Koch. The two plans show an identical subdivision except for two changes.
On Deeds 39, the small sections on the western side of Milton Road, are recorded as one lot (H), whereas on Deeds 69 it has been divided into Lots B to H where the small cottages now stand. (According to my father, these cottages were originally located on the fringes of the business area, and as that expanded and larger office buildings and shops were built, the cottages were moved by traction engine to small sites in Milton Road and other streets on the hill where excavation for fill had created small level sites.)
On Deeds 39, some lots (N/O and P/Q have two numbers, whereas on Deeds 69, N, O, P and Q are separate lots.
Both of those plans, along with all other plans that were drawn before February 1931, were destroyed in the earthquake, which wrecked the building housing the Lands & Survey Department in Shakespeare Road, in which all survey plans were housed. Many titles were also lost because they were held in lawyers’ offices which were destroyed. The existing plans have been drawn from surveyor’s field notes, with little more than basic information.
I find it hard to draw any conclusions from this as to the correct date. Maurice Bartlett, who worked at the Dept of Lands & Survey for 40 years, and Mark Dunnett, a surveyor who has possession of Rochfort’s field notes, both believe, having examined the field notes, that it is likely that the 1865 survey was never acted on and no titles were issued until the 1870 plan was registered.