Streets and Quays of Port Nelson
What's in a Name?
Have you ever wondered about the naming of streets and quays around the port? Some names honour chairmen of the Nelson Harbour Board and early harbourmasters, but others go further back into our maritime history.
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Commemorates William Akersten who was sent to Nelson in 1855 to assess a damaged wool cargo, saw the opportunities here and stayed on, setting up a ship chandlery. He went on to build wharves, including the Government Wharf that became part of today's Main Wharf. He was a city councillor, and MP and a special constable involved in the arrest of the pirate and black-birder Bully Hayes and his vessel the Black Diamond at Croiselles in 1865.1
Named for Captain James Smith Cross (as was Cross Street in Mapua ) who was the coxwain on the Deal boat with Captain Moore, the first boat to be shown Nelson Haven by local Māori. He was the pilot at Port Nelson from 1842-47 and the harbourmaster from 1850- 82. He was involved in several rescues and helped to select Cable Bay/ Rotokura as the site for Nelson telegraph connection with Australia.
James left his home in Kent at an early age to join the Royal Navy as an apprentice – a maritime life was born. At 24 years old he joined Wakefield’s expedition and went on to serve Nelson for over 40 years. James married Elizabeth Ann Smith in Kent in 1838 and they had two children born in England. Wives and families of the expedition’s men followed in another ship. Sadly, this was the infamous Lloyds, and although Elizabeth survived, their children were amongst the 70 who died through poor management. The couple went on to have another eleven children. As harbour master James was in charge of vessels entering and leaving Port Nelson, as well as managing the activities of the port. He was renowned throughout the country for his friendliness, bravery, level-headedness, work ethic and humbleness. The flagstaff on the Port Hills was lowered to half-mast to mark James’ passing and his obituary reported that he would be buried beside Elizabeth whose death his friends said, was so keenly felt that he was never the same after, such was the loss of his beloved partner. Mary Ann Street, where James and his wife Elizabeth had their family home overlooking Port Nelson, is named after James’ mother Mary Ann Gardiner.
Named for another harbour master, Captain J. P. Low who held the role from 1882-96.
Named for Stephen Carkeek, the first Collector of Customs in Nelson (1842-49) and harbour master from 1843-49, when he moved to Wellington. Carkeek arrived in Nelson from the Bay of Islands with his wife and family, three boatmen and the frame of a two roomed house that was set up as home and Customs' office. In the early days this office handled incoming mail, and Carkeek didn't gain popularity for his zealous efforts to stamp out excise evasion on the rather large amounts of hard liquor imported by the early settlers.
Gets its name from John Graham, the first Chairman of the Board, 1901-1911, and a member until 1914. John Graham was born in Nelson in 1843 and was by trade a plumber. He was very active on school boards and oversaw the making of new harbour entrance (the Cut) in 1906. Graham later became a Nelson MP.
When the big reclamation was made in the 1960's there were new facilities to be named, but the Harbour Board didn't go far in their search for worthy gentlemen!
John Brunt was a board member from 1931 and the chairman from 1967-71.
Alfred Kingsford was a board member from 1935, and chairman from 1945-48.
Maurice McGlashen was a board member from 1941 and chairman from 1958-62.
G.R. McKellar was a board member from 1959 and chairman from 1962-67.
Several streets also represent shipping masters and staff of the Anchor Company, that dominated coastal shipping from Nelson for most of the 20th century, or members of the Nelson Harbour Board.
Captain H. Collins was Harbourmaster and Pilot 1904-36. His two sons, Captains D.E. and N. Collins served with distinction as Anchor Company Masters.
Mr H.R. Duncan was Board member 1911-1931 and Chairman of the Harbour Board 1913-31.
Captain R. J. Hay was an Anchor Company master for over 40 years. He died in 1964.
Captain F.G. Moore was the first member of the New Zealand Company to sail into Nelson Haven and locate the future site of the Nelson settlement, in May 1841.
William Rogers joined the Anchor Company as an office boy and went on to become general manager until 1928 and was a director through until 1940.
Captain Frank Vickerman was an Anchor Company officer and master for 55 years, retiring in 1924.
Captains William and Arthur Wildman (Senior and Junior) were a seafaring father and son who together clocked up 90 years as Anchor Company masters.
Note: this was first published in Port Nelson Unlimited Report, May 2008
Updated Feb 2023
Sources used in this story
- Moore, B. (1985, October 29) Honour likely for little man who faced big jobs. [Port Watch column] Nelson Mail
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Further sources - Streets and Quays of Port Nelson
Allan, R.M. (1954) The history of Port Nelson Wellington, N.Z. : Whitcombe & Tombs
- Cumming, L. Historic Russell Street, Port Nelson
- Kirk, A.A & Cannington, S. (1967) Anchor Ships and Anchor Men. Wellington, N.Z.: Reed
- Lash, Max (1992). Nelson notables 1840-1940: A dictionary of regional biography. Nelson, New Zealand: Nelson Historical Society, p.38.
- Moore, B. (1990) Shaping up and shipping out: the last years of the Nelson Harbour Board. Nelson, New Zealand: Port Nelson Ltd
- Nelson City Council (2007) Nelson by the sea. Nelson, N.Z.: Nelson City Council
Parr, W.H. (1979) Port Nelson - Gateway to the sea Nelson, NZ : Nelson Harbour Board
- The Port Focus: keeping an eye on Port Nelson Nelson, N.Z. : Port Nelson
- Port Nelson Limited. Nelson [N.Z.] : Port Nelson Ltd.
- Captain James Smith Cross death notice (1882, January 21) West Coast Times, p. 2
- Obituary Stephen Carkeek (1878, 30 November) Evening Post, P. 3
- Nelson [Stephen Carkeek] (1845, March 15) New Zealand Spectator and Cook's Strait Guardian, p.3
- William Akersten obituary (1905, March 11) The Colonist, p.2