Tayler_St_for_TNL.jpg Tayler Street sign (2018). Mike Gooch. Word on the street image collection.

In the 1890s, before Eltham had its own council, residents formed a Vigilance committee to represent their interests to government. George Washington Tayler was the chairman. In 1901, when the town became a borough, Tayler was elected Eltham’s first mayor.

His parents were from England but he was born in New York, in 1858. When his family came to New Zealand in 1863 they settled in Canterbury. At the age of 29, Tayler moved to Eltham to open a new store for the general merchant, R.A. Adams. He eventually owned the business.

He was mayor of Eltham for a total of nine years, including terms in the 1920s. He was also a chairman of Eltham’s Chamber of Commerce and Eltham’s representative on both the Hāwera Hospital Board and the Taranaki Harbour Board.

Tayler was active in the administration of local sporting groups, notably Eltham’s cricket, rugby and racing clubs, the Caledonian society and the Axemen’s Carnival committee.

George Tayler died in 1929. There was considerable misfortune in his family life. His eldest son, named after him, fought and died at Gallipoli. His daughter Gladys was bludgeoned to death in a murder-suicide, by her husband of less than a year.

Tayler Street was first surveyed in about 1902, but was only slowly built on over the following decades, partly because of drainage problems in the area. Beside it is a sportsground, formed about the same time. For many years, it was little more than swampy reserve land.

Eventually a soccer club drained and levelled the area and the ground was officially opened as a sports venue in 1975. At that time it was renamed in honour of Frederick John Taylor, Eltham’s longest serving mayor. Some confusion over spelling the two names has been apparent ever since.

This story was originally published in the Taranaki Daily News.

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