James_Lane.jpg James Lane sign (2016). Mike Gooch. Word on the Street image collection.

James Lane, off Devon Street, runs parallel to the Huatoki River beside the area of town now known as the Huatoki Plaza.

It was named after James Shaw, who was born in England in March, 1819. James learned his trade as a carpenter in the town of Plymouth. When his family decided to emigrate to New Zealand, he volunteered to go first and prepare the way. He was a passenger on the William Bryan, the first ship the Plymouth Company sent to New Zealand, arriving in March 1841.

On the voyage he met Ann Lye. They struck up a relationship and married soon after arriving in New Plymouth. Using his carpentry skills, James built the couple’s first home near the mouth of the Huatoki River. When the rest of his family arrived they shared the small house for a short while, until another house could be built.

James and Ann eventually built a more substantial house for themselves, backing on to Currie Street.  It stood at the end of the short lane leading off Devon Street that soon bore his name. They would go on to have nine children, only four of whom reached adulthood.

Ann died of cancer in August, 1876, after a long illness. Perhaps James was disconsolate? He died only a few months later in March, 1877. Following a bout of heavy drinking he became disoriented, tumbled into the Huatoki River, and drowned.

Prior to the building of the New Plymouth prison in 1880, James Lane was also the site of the New Plymouth Police Station and a small jail.

This story was originally published in the Taranaki Daily News.

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