Street history: Kent Tce

Last updated 11:05 17/08/2012
Kent Tce 2012
Today: Kent Tce is a busy thoroughfare to the airport and eastern suburbs.
Kent Tce 1931
Then: Looking southeast along Cambridge and Kent terraces, circa 1931. Kent is on the left.

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Kent Terrace has never fallen short of royalty and fame.

The street, which stretches 800 metres, was named more than 87 years ago after Queen Victoria's father, the Duke of Kent.

So it is fitting an over-sized bronze statue of Queen Victoria overlooks the street.

She is dressed in the robes of state and holds an orb and sceptre with three bronze relief panels lining the base.

One of these represents the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, the two others signify her achievements in arts and in mechanical intervention.

Sculpted by Albert Drury in 1901, it is situated between Kent Terrace and Cambridge Terrace, where there was once a stream.

This stream ran from the waterfront through Kent Terrace to the Basin Lake, and was used to transport goods to warehouses in Newtown. It also served as sea access to the Basin Reserve, which was originally designed as a dock.

However, when the 1855 earthquake struck, the area was raised by two metres.

Kent Tce was widened in 1926, and native shrubs and trees planted in the ditch where the stream once was.

The road became a major transport thoroughfare and to this day is one of the main routes to Wellington Airport and the eastern suburbs.

Several historic buildings still line the street. These include BATS Theatre, Elliot House and the Embassy Theatre.

BATS, at 1 Kent Tce, has had a hard life. Home to the performing arts, the site has changed ownership four times since its construction in 1923-24.

BATS, an acronym for Bane and Austin Touring Society, and was named after founding members Rodney Bane and David Austin.

The building was put up for sale last year by then owners Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes. BATS was not able to afford the $1.19 million price tag, but Sir Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh came to the rescue.

Jackson and Walsh also have strong ties to The Embassy Theatre, which opened as the De Luxe in 1924. Back then it screened silent movies, accompanied by an orchestra. These days, it hosts flashy premieres, such as the Lord of the Rings trilogy and King Kong.

The theatre is already gearing up for the November premiere of The Hobbit.

Meanwhile Elliot House, built in 1913, was named after Sir James Sands Elliot (1880-1959), a respected medical practitioner.

He once occupied the adjoining house, until he bought Elliot House in 1906. His father was the minister of the adjacent Presbyterian Church.

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- The Wellingtonian


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