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2nd September 2020

Thanks to Colin Child for sending us his fascinating research. Colin lives in a small town in New Zealand where the streets are named after English lightships, including the Spurn Lightship in Hull.

The province of Otago, New Zealand. The township of Fairfax, now called Tokoiti where all the streets are named after lightships from the English coast.

A map of New Zealand

A lightvessel, or lightship, is a ship which acts as a lighthouse. Lightvessels are lighted floating Aids to Navigation that are moored in deep water or over sands too unsuitable for a lighthouse.

They are instantly recognisable thanks to their distinctive shape, red hull and elevated lantern. The first lightvessel station was as the Nore in the Thames Estuary, in 1732, and was simply a couple of ships’ lanterns mounted twelve foot apart on a cross beam upon a single mast.

The lightvessel was put on station by two private patent applicants, who saw an opportunity to improve navigation at night by setting up variations on lighting arrangements to make stations more readily identifiable. The lightvessel became a success, and similar vessels were eventually established around the coasts. Lightvessels are placed chiefly on the east coast of England, where shoals extend well out to sea, and also in the Bristol Channel.

The Spurn Lightship on the River Humber

The streets of TOKOITI.

The town of Fairfax, now called Tokoiti, was established on the surveyor’s map of 1863. Not all of these streets exist today but the names are all of lightships from the England coast.

The names appear on the map of the Town of FAIRFAX, by Edward Campbell, Sub Assistant Surveyor June 1863.

Killingholme (currently Back Rd/Toko Mouth Rd)
Galway (end of Newport)
Arran (leads to Bush Gully)
Ower (Classified part of cemetery 1913)
Rathlin (Cemetery Rd)
Eagle (through cemetery)
John (Classified part of cemetery 1913)

The streets of Tokoiti

WHY – were the streets named after lightships? Who named them?

Tokoiti is not on the coast, and there seems to be no reason why, unless someone had an interest, and the opportunity.

Perhaps it was George Walker, born Killingholme, (on the Lincolnshire foreshore) in 1835. Killingholme is (or was!) the most important street in Tokoiti, perhaps the starting point for deciding on the lightship theme. He was in the district 1862, prior to Campbell’s survey map. He was obviously a man of energy who got on well with people and later Mayor of Lawrence a nearby town. Perhaps he worked with the surveyor or knew him.

Perhaps it was Jane Bannermann, the wife of the influential Presbyterian Minister of the area. She was active in providing religious literature for lighthouse keepers.

But most likely it was the Chief Surveyor of the time, J T Thomson who had an interest in lighthouses and had designed and built Horsburgh Lighthouse, Singapore 1850.

More about Lightships at Tokoiti. Former lightvessel stations - with Tokoiti street names

* Inner / Outer Dowsing (North Sea; Inner Dowsing was the last manned lightship station, replaced by the Dowsing lighthouse in 1991)

* Dudgeon (North Sea; the Dudgeon lightvessel was bombed by the Luftwaffe on 29 January 1940. Only one crew member, John Sanders, survived. A Dudgeon lightship is now a floating restaurant

* Knoll (Smith's Knoll, North Sea) off Norfolk

* Smith (Smith’s Knoll)

* Leman and Ower (North Sea) Today Leman is a major oil and gas field in the North Sea. (Ower was a former street name closed and taken over by Fairfax Cemetery.)

* Spurn The Spurn Lightship guided ships safely through the treacherous River Humber for almost 50 years. A former Spurn lightvessel is preserved at Hull Marina.

* Killingholme - now called Back Road and Toko Mouth Rd. The name was still being used in 1874 and it still appears in the local District Council Schedule. Killingholme High Light was built in 1836 (rebuilt in 1876) and is still in automatic operation today.

The Spurn Lightship in Hull Marina
The Smiths Knoll
Killingholme High Light was built in 1836