Topic: Marco Road, Whangamomona (TDN 17/10/2020)

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Marco School, near Whangamomona, opened in 1898 with 37 pupils. Before the school’s location was decided, a survey of the area was done by Lewis Sladden. To him went the honour of naming the road the school is on. His choice had an unusual inspiration.

Lewis Coster Sladden (1867-1939) was born in Christchurch. He was educated in England from the age of 15 and on his return to New Zealand joined the Land and Survey Department in Christchurch. Later he came to Taranaki and worked as a surveyor.

Encouraged by favourable government policies in the 1890s, land in eastern Taranaki was being cleared for farming. When Sladden first surveyed Marco Road the intention was that it sweep north and link up with Mangaowata Road. Such extensive plans never eventuated.

Roads authorities later realized the area would not be as populated as was first envisaged and sharply reduced their spending. Before the First World War, farmers and sawmill workers using Marco Road were continually complaining about the lack of maintenance. Despite numerous public submissions, the road wasn’t metalled until the 1920s.

New Zealand’s early surveyors frequently named roads after their fellow surveyors or prominent landowners in the area. Marco Road was different, named after Lewis Sladden’s dog. One story has it that Marco was killed by a wild boar in the vicinity. A hill-top immediately to the west, overlooking the school, is named Marco’s Hill.

In 1903 Sladden started a business in New Plymouth with Alfred Palmer. The firm Sladden and Palmer, with numerous changes of name, still exists to this day.

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Marco Road, Whangamomona (TDN 17/10/2020)