Street history: Riddiford St

Last updated 11:12 12/07/2012

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Contrary to its name, Newtown has a long and colourful history dating back to the 1840s.

At its centre lies Riddiford St, which has housed some of the suburb's most important buildings, including a hospital, public library and cinema.

The street was named after Daniel Riddiford (1814-75), an emigration agent and one of Wellington's early settlers.

He became a wealthy landowner and his family, particularly his son, Edward (1841-1911), became very prominent in Wellington society.

Riddiford St extends one kilometre from the corner of Adelaide Rd and John St to Mansfield St.

However, half that distance was once known as Revans St.

In the mid-1800s the first horse-drawn tram service was established in Riddiford St.

It was a popular method of transport until it was replaced by a stream-driven tram in 1878.

The tram ran between Lambton Quay and Newtown and was the first steam-driven tram service in the southern hemisphere.

The service was replaced by an electric tram system in 1904.

Wellington Hospital was built in Riddiford St in 1881 using prisoner labour from the Terrace and Mt Cook jails.

Riddiford St housed Newtown library from 1902 to 1957, when it moved to Constable St.

The street also housed a theatre and cinema, named Star Cinema. The theatre was built in 1910 and became Rivoli Theatre in 1948.

Riddiford St contains one heritage building, next to the John St intersection. The timber and corrugated iron building was built in 1903 and used as shops.

Each March for nearly 20 years Riddiford St has hosted the Newtown street festival.

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- The Wellingtonian


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