Topic: Devon Street (TDN 07/04/2018)

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Devon Street West 

In New Plymouth's earliest years Brougham Street was regarded as the town's main thoroughfare. However as the population increased, more space was needed and Devon Street gradually became the desired location of retailers.

It was named after the 10th Earl of Devon, William Courtenay. Born in 1777, he trained as a lawyer. Later he became the MP for Exeter. He succeeded to the earldom in 1835. As a young man he was a keen cricketer, playing for the MCC in the 1790s. He is recorded as playing one first class game. This may indicate he was reasonably talented. On the other hand, there were several Earls and Lords in the game, suggesting the first class status was, perhaps, arranged.

The Earl of Devon had very little to do with New Plymouth. He was, for a short time, involved in the Plymouth Company as a trustee. Briefly in the right place at the right time, he was thought significant enough to have a street in New Plymouth named after him.

It was, however, the street that became significant. As New Plymouth's population increased, houses in central Devon Street were demolished and the commercial area expanded. Development sped up with the introduction of trams on the street in 1916. Operating from Morley Street to Fitzroy, and later extended into the suburbs, they effectively lengthened the street as the commercial centre of town. With easier access to the CBD, people made more visits 'downtown' each week. By the 1920s, New Plymouth's business directories were noting addresses as Devon Street East or West.

Long-time residents will recall New Plymouth's favourite urban myth, that Devon Street is the longest, straightest main street in the southern hemisphere. Of course it may well be true, but various towns have made similar claims and we can be sure no one has ever measured every main street in the southern hemisphere!

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Devon Street (TDN 07/04/2018)

City:New Plymouth