Topic: Bird Road, Stratford (TDN 8/2/2020)

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Bird Road 

In the 1870s, many of New Zealand’s early surveyors frequently named the roads they were mapping after other surveyors. One such is Bird Road, near Stratford.

Joseph Bird was born in 1836. By the 1870s he was employed to survey the new settlements planned for Taranaki. Bird worked across the province but there’s no evidence he mapped the road that would soon carry his name. Instead, it’s much more likely someone else named it after him.

At the time dense bush covered the area and fire was an ever-present danger. One of the worst occurred in January 1886. A huge blaze swept through the surrounding district, burning homesteads and at least 20 buildings in Stratford. A relief fund quickly raised £1,100 from all over New Zealand and Australia, allowing re-building to begin. As new settlers moved in, they slowly cleared the bush and converted the land to pasture, reducing the fire danger.

Some families in the area lived up to 8 kilometres from the nearest school, in Stratford. The roads were almost impassible in winter. After a meeting in 1888 the Bird Road School was established. A few years later it was extended. The district’s war memorial was unveiled on the school grounds in 1921.

As a consequence of the declining rural population, the school closed in 1997. It is now a private house. At the time, the war memorial was re-located to the roadside.

In 1890 Bird left Taranaki and went to Auckland. Presumably preferring money to retirement, he continued working up until the last few days before his death aged 70, in October 1906.

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Bird Road, Stratford (TDN 8/2/2020)