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From Holloway Road to … Holloway Road

by Helen Bradford

In my early 20s I lived in an attic flat in Crouch End, north London. My downstairs neighbour was a crazy Kiwi from a place whose name I couldn’t pronounce at the time: Te Kuiti.

In Middle English ‘crouch’ means a cross and ‘end’ means an outlying place, so it’s likely that when people first settled in Crouch End they positioned a cross there to mark a boundary between two manors.

The number 91 bus I took to work drove along Holloway Road, where it would usually get delayed in heavy traffic outside the women’s prison. I now live in Wellington’s Aro Valley on Holloway Road, which couldn’t be further away from, and more different to, its namesake.

Aro Valley is named after the Te Aro Stream — now dry — whose Māori name was Wai-Mapihi. (The beautiful reserve near our house is called the Waimapihi Reserve.) Holloway Road is at the top of the valley. Mentioning ‘Holloway Road’ to any Wellingtonian will raise eyebrows, as the road is steeped in history. It has experienced landslides and fires and been the location for a murder, a Russian spy drama, a brothel and a gang house. There have even been ‘sightings’ of a ghost on the street.

Holloway Road about 1900 
[Photo credit: Alexander Turnbull Library]

Places and streets often take their names from prominent people, historical events, geographical features or traditional occupations of an area. Because many New Zealand place and street names take their inspiration from the British Empire, I had assumed Holloway Road was named after its London counterpart. Recently, though, my neighbour told me about ‘hollow ways’.

A ‘hollow way’ or ‘holloway’ is a sunken lane with high sides that have formed naturally, such as by water erosion, rather than being engineered. Sunken roads are usually restricted by steep banks on either side, which means they are often narrow and difficult for traffic to manoeuvre in. This is certainly a feature of our Holloway Road. Three years ago a Holloway Road resident hit the headlines when his unlawfully painted yellow lines made international news. Now that’s something I doubt would happen in north London.


Unofficial yellow lines on Holloway Road 
          [Photo credit: Virginia Fallon/Stuff]

Contact Helen Bradford, a freelance editor, ex-officio member and Accreditation Board delegate at edanz.ab@iped-editors.org

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