Fernleigh Street for web.jpg Fernleigh Street sign (2022). Mike Gooch. Word on the street image collection.

Fernleigh Street in Ferndale is an old road that was given a new name. It runs off Frankley Road, past Sutherland Park to the junction with Wesley Avenue. A little further on, Veale Road leads off Wesley Avenue and into the countryside.

Up until 1975, Fernleigh Street was part of Veale Road, which appears on early maps of New Plymouth. However, when a new subdivision was laid out in the early 1970s it turned out that Veale Road was severed by the newly formed Wesley Avenue.

As a consequence, the then Taranaki County Council wrote to the New Plymouth City Council asking that the stretch of Veale Road running from Frankley Road to Wesley Avenue be renamed Fernleigh Street. The reasoning was that this section of the road had only recently been settled and residents had less of an attachment to the old name.

The city council agreed and on 21 April 1975 a resolution was passed instructing the Town Clerk to take the steps needed to effect the name change.

It appears that Fernleigh was chosen from a list of Plymouth street names, a common practice at the time. A Plymouth City Council archive assistant reports that their Fernleigh Steet was formed about 1880. As ‘Fernleigh’ is derived from an old English word meaning ‘a clearing with ferns’ or ‘fern meadow’ she speculates that this may have reflected the landscape at the time.

Instead of ‘a clearing with ferns’, New Plymouth’s Fernleigh Street had a swamp. In the late 1970s the council filled it with 50,000 cubic metres of soil to create two playing fields on the side of the road that now includes a clubhouse for the Woodleigh Sports Club.

In 1981 a competition was held for schoolchildren to name the new park, with a $20 book token offered as the prize. On 18 May 1981 New Plymouth City Council announced that the name chosen was that of former mayor, Denny Sutherland. New Plymouth Mayor David Lean agreed that it was most appropriate to recognise Denny Sutherland’s contribution to the city. The name of the lucky recipient of the book token, however, remains a mystery.

This story was originally published in the Taranaki Daily News.

Related map:

NZM043 (1930), courtesy of the University of Auckland

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