Sardinha Place.JPG Sardinha Place sign (2020). Mike Gooch. Word on the Street image collection.

Sardinha Place is a quiet cul-de- sac in the suburb of Marfell; part of a subdivision developed by Pepper Construction in the early 1960s.

It is named after Antonio Rodriquez de Sardinha who was born on the Portuguese island of Madeira in 1832. It was here that he made the acquaintance of the Mace family and when they decided to immigrate to New Zealand, the young Antonio sensed adventure. He travelled with them as their servant aboard the St Michael, arriving in New Plymouth on 2 December 1852.

At the outbreak of the First Taranaki War in 1860, Antonio enlisted with the Taranaki Militia and Rifle Volunteers. He proved to be an outstanding soldier. The courage he displayed at Poutoko and Kaitake in particular was recognised when he was awarded the prestigious New Zealand Cross.

Along with Captain Francis Mace, he was one of only two local soldiers to receive this honour. The whereabouts of Antonio's medal remained a mystery for many years. It was recently traced to the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, England. For many years the medal had resided with a private collector in the United States. He had it gifted to the Fitzwilliam following his death in 1959. Captain Mace's medal is held at Puke Ariki. After the wars, de Sardinha was landlord of the Taranaki Hotel for a brief time and later, the Ōmatā Inn.

He finally settled and farmed land on Barrett Rd. It is said that Antonio would use the old Ōmatā Road on his way to town which explains why developers thought it appropriate that a street in the area should bear his name. In a handwritten addition to a letter to council in support of street names for the subdivision, it notes, "if Sardinha is not acceptable, Mr Pepper would be happy with Madeira Place as second choice".

Antonio died on 12 May 1905 and was buried the following day at Waireka Cemetery with full military honours. His grave, under an old camellia tree, is now marked by a New Zealand Government grave stone.

This story was originally published in the Taranaki Daily News.

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