Street history: Coutts Street

Last updated 12:00 28/06/2013

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Coutts St, which runs through Kilbirnie and Rongotai, is named after one of Wellington's most distinguished early citizens, James Coutts Crawford.

There are plenty of reminders of Crawford in Wellington, including Mt Crawford Prison, Crawford Green and Crawford Rd. Evidently he was such a towering figure that his middle name was also deemed worthy of being honoured.

Crawford, a Scot, came from a noted Edinburgh banking family, but he was not the sort of person to restrict himself to one profession.

He was a naval officer, farmer, scientist, engineer, explorer and public servant. Handsome, talented and energetic, he was extremely popular.

He arrived in Australia in the late 1830s and sailed to Wellington in 1839, beating even the New Zealand Company ships to New Zealand.

During the next two decades he split his time between New Zealand and Britain and bought land in Wellington, Auckland and Wairarapa. He was especially linked with Watts Peninsula - now Miramar - establishing the large Glendavar cattle farm there.

Crawford became the sheriff of Wellington in 1866 and the Wellington resident magistrate in 1867. He held both jobs until 1882. He died in London in 1889.

Coutts St, just over 1km in length, begins in the heart of Kilbirnie, where roadworks seem to be a permanent fixture, and progresses east past the bus terminal, on the corner of Onepu Rd, and the huge Rita Angus retirement village to Rongotai College and the airport.

In the Kilbirnie section, there are cafes and restaurants, a bank, auto shops and a large cycle shop in Coutts St.

The Onepu/Coutts intersection can get busy and these days is controlled by traffic lights. In the days when trams provided most of the public transport, there were several major accidents there, including one in 1943 when a tram travelling at high speed derailed, killing one person and injuring 28.

Towards Rongotai Coutts St becomes more residential, though the fish and chip shop and enlarged dairy are popular with the Rongotai College students. Coutts St ends at the airport pedestrian underpass.

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- The Wellingtonian


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