Caplen Street in Hāwera runs in a right-angle between Collins Street and South Road. It is named after the Caplen family who owned and subdivided the land where the street is now.
Harry Caplen was born in Midhurst, Sussex, England in 1850 and came to New Zealand in 1867. He began life here farming and working on the goldfields. Perhaps tired of the outdoor life he started work for a solicitor in Greymouth. While living in Greymouth he married Emma Agnes Dew and the couple had five children, three girls and two boys.
After completing his legal training he was admitted to the bar in 1882 and shortly after the family moved to Hāwera, where he set up in business. Almost as soon as he arrived in the town, he had a large building erected on Princes Street.
The building is still standing (now occupied by the architect Clive Cullen and Juffermans Surveyors Ltd.), with the façade little changed in the nearly 140 years since it was built. The Hāwera Town Centre Heritage Inventory (1997) describes it as being part of a sequence of heritage buildings in Princes Street, "unsurpassed in Taranaki and which has national importance."
Harry Caplen was on the Hāwera Borough Council for seven years and was a keen sportsman playing cricket, tennis and bowls. He died on 3 March 1935, aged 84, and was buried in the Hāwera Cemetery.
His son, Harry Dew Caplen, followed him into the legal profession and eventually took over his legal practice. It was his name that appears as the applicant on the plan drawn in 1928 that sub-divided off a section of the family’s land to create Caplen Street.
This story was originally published in the Taranaki Daily News.
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