Wills Road in Bell Block was named after early settlers James and Betsy Wills. The family would eventually have two roads in New Zealand named after them.
With their six children, the Wills had arrived in New Plymouth on the Timandra in 1842. A family historian suggests they may have lied about their ages to gain the financial help afforded immigrants at the time.
James was an innkeeper in Cornwall but, clearly a man of ‘enterprise’, he had greater ambitions in his new country. However, it wasn’t until some years after their arrival that they commenced farming in Bell Block. Their land was to the south of Devon Road and at the time, Wills Road was split in two sections, north and south of the Devon Road intersection.
By the 1870s the southern section was called Corbett Road and Wills Road was as we know it today.
Perhaps this was because in the early 1860s most of the Wills families had joined many others in fleeing to the Nelson district, a result of the land disputes in Taranaki. James and Betsy went south with their sons Albert and James.
Once settled they purchased more land, this time in the Moutere district, near Nelson. The road on Albert’s land was later named Wills Road.
This story was originally published in the Taranaki Daily News.