Brixham Place in Merrilands was named after the town of Brixham in Devon, England.
Originally a Saxon settlement, Brixham was recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 and by the medieval period had grown to become the largest fishing port in southwest England. The town was the landing place of William of Orange during the Glorious Revolution of 1688, when the Catholic King James II was overthrown and replaced by his Protestant daughter Mary and her Dutch husband. Many of the town’s inhabitants are descendants of William’s Dutch army and still have Dutch surnames.
Brixham’s proud military history continued through the Napoleonic Wars and into the modern age. Thousands of American GIs arrived during the Second World War and used houses and hotels overlooking the harbour as field hospitals. The town also hosted a large refugee population during the war, mainly from occupied Belgium. The Americans were there to prepare for the invasion of France and part of the D-Day fleet sailed from Brixham in 1944.
Still one of the busiest fishing ports in Britain today, Brixham hosts an annual seafood celebration called Fishstock as well as the Brixham Pirate Festival. There is even a full-sized replica of the Golden Hind, the ship in which Sir Francis Drake circumnavigated the globe, permanently moored in the harbour.
The Reverend Henry Francis Lyte composed the hymn “Abide with me” in Brixham in 1847 as he was dying of tuberculosis. He had been a minister in the town for 25 years and his famous hymn is often sung during ANZAC Day services in Australia and New Zealand.
When Brixham Place was named in 1974, town planners were no doubt thinking of the connection so many early New Plymouth settlers had to the county of Devon and its historic seaside towns.
This story was originally published in the Taranaki Daily News.