Stratford goes full-on Shakespeare
I am a Shakespeare aficionado.
On occasions I have been known to annoy and underwhelm my friends with my knowledge of the Bard. Recently I drove my Cambridge (NZ) friends around Stratford. They commented approvingly on how the streets were named after Shakespeare characters. Cambridge has named many of its streets after famous English writers, but it’s not town wide, and many of the writers are unfamiliar to the average person.
According to David Walter, we can thank Charles Whitcombe, the chairman of the Taranaki Waste Board, for our Shakespeare-themed streets. In 1878 he decreed that all streets were to be named from the works of Shakespeare. But it was William Crompton (the editor of the Taranaki Herald from 1852 and the speaker of the Taranaki Provincial Council for 14 years) who was behind naming Stratford’s first Shakespeare streets.
Stratford upon Pa¯ tea is the only Stratford in the world to name its streets after Shakespearean characters. Stratford District Council must be congratulated for continuing this tradition.
There were 67 streets named after Shakespearean characters in 2012 and there’s currently a competition to name four new roads as part of a new subdivision off Pembroke Rd. This will take the total to 71, but it could easily be 79. Hamlet and Portia streets are dissected twice — Hamlet street is blocked by Stratford Primary School and the Pa¯ tea River while Portia St is divided by the river and the old hospital grounds. Miranda, Orlando, Ariel and Cordelia streets are also divided by the Pa¯ tea River.
I asked David Walter why other Shakespeare names were not given to these dissected streets, given there’s no shortage of characters. He suggested I raise the matter with the founding fathers. Some suggest they may have anticipated building bridges, but the cost was prohibitive.
David Walter laughed when I shared how it took me ages to visit someone in Portia St near Warwick Rd because I started from the Pembroke Rd end. And I had the reverse problem when trying to visit someone in Hamlet St who lived near the Pembroke Rd end. David Walter suggested I use GPS. He said renaming the divided streets would be costly and an unnecessary inconvenience.
But he did agree with me that more businesses on Broadway should have Shakespeare displays. And why not sell Shakespeare trinkets from tea towels to pens and spoons? Not having these displays is a lost opportunity to stop passing motorists — plus it unintentionally undermines the Shakespearean brand for Stratford. The TSB Bank’s Shakespearean wall (inside) is stunning, but it can’t been seen by passing motorists and pedestrians. In my opinion, Stratford desperately needs Shakespeare-themed murals to complement the Glockenspiel, Shakespeare’s statue in front of the library, and the entrance signs, which feature the great playwright with his quill. We should emulate Matamata who enthusiastically rebranded as Hobbiton. Given the phenomenal popularity of the Pop Up Globe (in Auckland) it makes compelling sense to rekindle our enthusiasm for our Shakespeare brand.
● Bryan presents the Hokonui Breakfast Show every weekday morning. Listen to Hokonui in Stratford on 88.2FM and catch Ilona Hanne being interviewed by Bryan Vickery every Monday and Wednesday at 8.05am.