Stoke_Street.jpg Stoke Street sign (2011). Mike Gooch. Word on the street image collection.

Data compiled by a Taranaki roading engineer, declare Stoke as a place name from Devonshire.

There are so many villages in England with Stoke as part of the name.  For instance, the Stoke in Nelson is reportedly named for the village Stoke-by-Nayland in Suffolk. That name was bestowed by William Songer, an early Nelson settler and personal assistant to Captain Wakefield of the New Zealand Company. This is the Stoke that gives its name to a family of fine beers brewed by the McCashins.

Sumner has a Stoke Street, as does Newtown in Wellington. Many children of Wellington were born at Nurse Ramsbotham's in Stoke Street.

The New Plymouth Stoke Street, on the other hand, is said to derive from a village in Devon. This Stoke, not far from the sea, is the site of the parish church dedicated to Saint Nectan. The church predates the Norman invasion and is a landmark visible from land and sea. In a story reminiscent of "Nearly Headless Nick" of Hogwarts, St. Nectan was set upon by robbers and beheaded. At this insult the saint picked up his head and carried it to Stoke. Placing the head on the ground, the saint was gratified to see water spring from the ground.  The story must be true, because it is repeated about St Kenelm's Well in Gloucestershire.

More prosaically, the Taranaki Herald of 6 June 1903 alerted its readers that a subcommittee of the New Plymouth Borough Council would report that the street running from Downe Street to Barrett Street through sections 505 and 528 [would] be named Stoke Street. This planned version of the street didn't quite come to pass. The present Stoke St runs from Wallace Place, crosses Barrett Street and meets Standish Street. It is separated from Downe Street by a lucky surviving oak tree.

Whichever English village is the origin of its name, Stoke Street is a pleasant little street handy to Westown and the centre of town.

This story was originally published in the Taranaki Daily News.

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