Newlands Rd's shady past

Last updated 11:01 18/01/2013

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Newlands Rd, which runs through the centre of Newlands and links it to the motorway, has had a varied and sometimes sinister past.

The origin of the name has been attributed to several sources.

One suggestion was that it was named after Thomas Newland, who arrived from London in 1854 on the Avalanche and set up an oil and glue manufacturing business in Johnsonville and Newlands.

When Walter Futter, son of well-known businessman and land-owner James Futter, bought land north of Ngauranga, he was said to have named it Newlands in honour of the close association between the Futter and Newland families.

It may also simply have been the "New Land" near Johnsonville.

Newlands, originally know as Pukehuia, had 40-ha (100-acre) country sections sold in the 1840-41 ballots of the New Zealand Company.

It remained a pig and dairy farming area, and development into anything other than farmland was slow. The suburb was the main source of Wellington's town milk supply into the 1950s.

Access to the suburb was limited until improvements to Newlands Rd were made midway through the 20th century.

In the early years, Newlands received its water supply from springs and creeks.

In 1926 a reservoir was built that supplied water to houses built by that time.

Houses built after that had to rely on tank water. Water reticulation was not provided until the amalgamation of Newlands with Wellington City in 1973.

A dark side to Newlands Rd came to light in 1923.

After the discovery of a baby's body in a sandhill at Lyall Bay, an anonymous letter that reached the police read: "It looks as if Cooper has been up to his tricks."

Although that body turned out to have nothing to do with Newlands health specialist Daniel Cooper, the police had been watching him and his wife Martha for months, suspicious they were performing illegal abortions.

A search of the Coopers' Newlands Rd property, a small farm, uncovered three tiny corpses.

Police discovered that as well as performing dozens of illegal abortions, Cooper had been offering another service.

For young, unmarried women not wanting to undergo a dangerous abortion, the Coopers offered the women a place to stay in their Newlands Rd property and promised to find a home for the babies when they were born.

But it was not easy in those days to find a good home for a child and it became obvious that murdering the new-borns was a cheaper and easier solution. The number of babies murdered was never known.

Cooper was hanged at the Terrace Gaol in 1923. Mrs Cooper said she had taken part in the atrocities only because her husband had forced her to, although she was accused of starving babies to death. She was acquitted.

Their house was demolished in 1973. The property is still a vacant section.

The legacy of the scandal was such that even as late as 1953 the Newlands-Paparangi Times was calling for a change in the suburb's name to help remove the association in people's minds.

There was no large-scale subdivision of Newlands until the 1950s, when the suburb began to take shape.

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Newlands Rd is now a busy centre for the suburb, with takeaway shops, Newlands Primary School, houses, and petrol stations.

St Michael's Anglican Church and Newlands School, established in 1906, are two readily identified buildings.

The road winds to an intersection with Bracken Rd, where Newlands Park and the recently- opened New World shopping centre are sited.

- The Wellingtonian

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