Hidden history in street names

By: Lorna Laxon, Warkworth District Museum

If anyone asked what the most well-known street in Warkworth is, I think the answer would be unanimous – Hill Street. But if we were asked how Hill Street got its name, many of us would make the incorrect assumption that it was because it is positioned on a hill. In fact, Hill Street has a more interesting origin than this assumption.

Carlton Hollis James Hill was the son-in-law of John Anderson Brown, the founder of Warkworth township. Carlton Hill married Amelia Brown, and the name of Hill Street was given more in recognition of his marriage to Amelia, John Anderson Brown’s daughter, than for his own fame or achievements. Poor Carlton – not respected for himself when the road name was chosen and certainly not a street name that is regarded with any warmth today! Perhaps if we learn more about him, we can improve his image.

Carlton Hill was born in Wicklow, Ireland in 1823, but the next we know of him he is in New Zealand, working as a clerk in Auckland. And presumably, this is where he met Amelia Brown, because they married at St Paul’s Church, Auckland, in 1855. Amelia was 19, Carlton was 29. Three years later they moved to the Mahurangi area where Carlton farmed with his father-in-law. The couple produced three daughters and seven sons, though not all their children survived to adulthood.

Another move saw them living in Thames where Carlton is described as the Crown Ranger of that district, and where Amelia died of tuberculosis in 1876. Carlton himself died in 1893, but not before he remarried to Elizabeth Sutton, of Raglan, in 1887. Interestingly, Carlton Hill’s sister married Reed Brown, who was the only son of John Anderson Brown, so there was a strong family bond between the Browns and the Hills. The death notice of Carlton Hill described him as ‘a gentleman’ so let’s try to remember that as we face the next encounter with the tiresome Hill Street intersection.

Another well-known street in Warkworth is Pulham Road, named after a very intrepid young man who experienced many adventures, Henry William Pulham. Henry emigrated to Tasmania with his family in 1840, when he was 10 years old. Four years later, he went to sea, working on sailing ships around the Australian coast and beyond, including working his passage to California to try his luck on the goldfields. The voyage to the United States and its return journey to Sydney provided more challenges for young Henry than he could ever have imagined. On the outward trip, the ship’s navigator died and the captain appointed Henry to take over this exacting task. At one stage, when the expanse of the Pacific was becoming too demanding for our young navigator, a whaler fortunately passed by and set them on the correct course again.

On arrival in San Francisco, the ship’s contingent found that the gold rush was almost over, so they decided to return to Australia, but not before the captain unwisely went ashore, got into a cheating game of cards, was lynched and hanged. The task of captaining the ship back to Sydney fell to Henry Pulham, which he did safely and successfully.

When he learned that his family had moved to New Zealand, Henry followed them and with his brothers in law, William Daldy and Walter Combes, worked in the busy and lucrative trade of shipping timber from Mahurangi to Auckland and further afield. Timber was in great demand for housing, boat building and wharf piles.

Henry married a local girl of Mahurangi, Nicholas Darroch – theirs was the first wedding of the area in 1854, and they built their home in what is now known as Pulham Road. Henry might have had a quieter life ashore compared to his bachelor days, but he was the father of nine children, was Warkworth’s first sale yard owner, hosted the first Presbyterian services in his home, and also managed to serve as a lay reader at the Anglican church down the road. Henry died in 1898 after 67 eventful years.

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