Topic: Farnham Place (TDN 25/05/2019)

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Farnham Place

Farnham Place in Bell Block was named after an impressive Norman fortress in Surrey.

One of the first streets of the new Kingsdown subdivision in the 1970s, along with Culzean Grove and Glamis Avenue, Farnham Place was given the moniker of a famous British castle. The Totara Park Development Company had previously constructed the Totara Park subdivision in Upper Hutt, naming all the streets there after American states and cities.

This was thought to be a nod to Big Tex, the early fast food chain owned by parent company M.S.D. Speirs. Female staff at the 12 Big Tex restaurants around New Zealand even wore cowgirl outfits as their uniforms but sadly the eateries had been sold off by the early 1990s.

Kingsdown opted for a much grander naming policy. Farnham derives from the Old English ‘fearn’ meaning fern and ‘hamm’ meaning meadow. The town was first recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086 and the same name later given to the castle when it was built in 1138 by Henri de Blois, Bishop of Winchester. Henri was the grandson of William the Conqueror and his castle became the seat of the powerful Bishops of Winchester for over 800 years.

Attacked by Parliamentary forces during the English Civil War, the castle briefly resumed a military role during the Second World War when it was taken over by the War Office and turned into a Camouflage and Development Training Centre.

Famous artists including Roland Penrose and Julian Trevelyan as well as the magician Jasper Maskelyne used the castle stables and grounds to invent and test everything from camouflage uniforms to dummy aeroplanes for the war effort.

Farnham’s unusual stone keep, with its three metre thick walls, is open to the public but the area of the former Bishops’ Palace is now a conference centre.

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Farnham Place (TDN 25/05/2019)

City:New Plymouth