Newspaper Article 1999 – Curious quest digs up stories behind streets

Where is Goat Lane and how did it get its name? Where is Muggeridge St? These are just some of the questions answered in a book published this week on Napier’s street names. JOHN HART spoke to author Ian Mills, who has spent more than half his lifetime researching and writing the book.

Curious quest digs up stories behind streets

It is more than 40 years now since shoe retailer Ian Mills became curious about how Napier got some of its street names.

As a young man wanting to earn some extra money, he worked at the city’s only after hours service station, at the corner of Hastings and Munroe streets, pouring petrol for a few hours in the evenings and weekends in the days when round-the-clock service stations were unheard of.

Motorists who arrived before the 9pm closing time often wanted directions, so Ian Mills produced a map of Napier, which he updated and sold regularly for 15 years.

Then came the interest in how the city had named its streets over the years and he began digging. Most of the records were destroyed in the 1931 earthquake so there were big gaps in the records.

After thousands of hours of work, and as Napier prepares to celebrate its first 125 years, Ian Mills’ book What’s in a Name became a reality this week.

Ian arrived in Napier at the age of 10 from the South Island. His father Les had been appointed manager of the Stephenson Shoe Company, which he later took over and renamed Mills Shoe Company.

Ian was educated at Napier Boys High School and then worked for two years in Christchurch as a commercial artist for Coulls Sommerville Wilkie (later to become Whitcoulls).

He moved to Wellington and worked as a window dresser for four years then came back to the Napier family business.

Researching the book has involved talking to hundreds of people, visiting graveyards around the country and corresponding with libraries throughout Australia and New Zealand.

It even involved a trip to the British Museum in London to use Cook’s journals in his quest for the real origin of Napier’s street names.

More than a century and a half after they were named, some have become surrounded by myths and legends and getting to the truth has been no small task.

“In some cases I found that the commonly held beliefs were just myths built up over the years. And the truth lay somewhere completely different,” Mr Mills said.

“But this book is not the end. I know people will come forward and say they believe some street names had different origins and they might be right.

“After 40 years, we have just started the process.”

Ian Mills is an accomplished artist and some of his paintings are featured in the book.

Most of his paintings feature important Napier scenes over the last 30 years. His book of street names has drawn attention to them and the importance of bringing such a significant record together into some sort of publication.

What’s in a Name is not just an historical record of the city’s streets.

It’s 280 pages abound with information and events that have shaped the city since the first settlers arrived. There are biographies of important people, a section on the city’s significant trees, early Maori history and a wealth of other information.

The first edition of What’s in a Name has been limited to 1000 copies, numbered and signed by the author. A second print run is possible if there was enough demand.

The book, which retails for $29.95, has been published with the help of the Napier Cosmopolitan Club, and is on sale at the club premises in Hastings Street, the Napier Information Centre, the Art Deco shop and Mills Shoe stores in Hastings and Taradale.

I found that (some) commonly held beliefs were just myths built up over the years.
And the truth lay somewhere completely different
Ian Mills

Photo caption – IAN MILLS with the book on Napier’s street names which has taken more than 40 years to produce.

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Newspaper article

Date published

23 October 1999

Creator / Author

  • John Cowpland
  • John Hart


Hawke's Bay Today


Published with permission of Hawke's Bay Today

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