The name Bonithon occurs quite frequently around the area of Moturoa.

James Craig Sharland brought the name to the area when he named his 22 acre [8.9 hectare] estate bordering the town of New Plymouth, Bonithon. The estate was located around the present site of Devon Intermediate School. The name came from the well-known Bonithon (sometimes spelt Bonython) Estate in Cornwall, England. He also named the large house he built on the present site of West End School, Bonithon.

James Sharland came to New Plymouth in 1847 and operated a store which had general merchandise as well as a chemist and druggist. He was a chemist himself and was active in the commerce and governance of the fledgling town. He became part of the first New Plymouth Town Board in 1863 when, at its inaugural meeting, J. Pearce was appointed 'overseer of public works' and his position on the board was filled by Sharland. When Governor Grey proclaimed the establishment of the New Plymouth Savings Bank, in June 1850, Sharland was appointed accountant. He also had the distinction of being the first candidate to be initiated into the Egmont Lodge in 1853, the first Freemason's Lodge in the town

Sharland didn't stay in New Plymouth very long and departed to Auckland later in the 1860s when his business here failed due to the onset of the Taranaki Wars. In Auckland he set up the very successful business, Sharland and Co., becoming the first manufacturing chemists in New Zealand. Sharland died in 1899 and his trustees ordered the sale of the Bonithon Estate in May 1899.

The Bonithon Freehold and Petroleum Extended Company bought prospecting rights over three hectares on part of the Bonithon Estate in 1906, when oil looked to be a commercial reality in Moturoa. Its first well, drilled on the northern side of the present Devon Intermediate School, showed good reserves of oil and gas, but they also tapped into a hot spring of mineral water. The cost of their efforts to separate the two was part of the reason the company failed. The water ran to waste for many years, until C. R. Cook built baths and set up a public swimming pool just before World War Two. Although they have since spent some time in disrepair, the mineral pools were revamped and opened afresh in 2000 with access from Bonithon Avenue, where the name lives on.

This story was originally published in the Taranaki Daily News.

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DP5000 Bonithon Avenue (1927)

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