Having a boundary for a new settlement is one thing and is easily recognisable on surveyor's plan. But until the streets are formed, finding those boundaries is virtually impossible.

It was a conundrum facing early European settlers arriving in Whanganui in the 19th century and a problem echoed in other settlements being created across the country.

Athol Kirk's book, Streets of Wanganui, explains that when directors of the NZ Company were shown the first surveyors' plan of Petre (as the settlement was originally named), the only recognisable boundary was the Whanganui River to the east.

The first plan showed an area of landed bounded by Barrack St to the north, the Town Belt Rd (later Parsons St) on the west and Asylum St (eventually Purnell St) on the south side.

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Kirk said Asylum Rd got that name because the land had been set aside for an asylum. It was never used for this purpose.

But with the plan came the realisation among those settlers that the tracks they had been using now had some legal status as properly named streets.

Most of those first streets were confined to an area close to the river, some would remain as paper roads and never be formed. What the surveyors often ignored were the difficulties of forming streets through swamps or over shifting sandhills.

Kirk says it wasn't always possible to know who named some of the streets because so many surveyors were involved, but they did go about the process in a systematic manner.

They adopted four principles: royalty had to be acknowledged, then the directors of the NZ Company, followed by the early settlers themselves and finally the ports they had come from.

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Those early settlers would often visit the surveyors at work to see if their sections had been pegged out.

Kirk says it was natural for the surveyors to name those streets after those settlers anxious to build.

Victoria Ave was named after the (then) young Queen. Her consort, Prince Albert, was to give his name to Albert Cres. It was intended the crescent would run in a semi-circle from Campbell St to Niblett St and parallel to Dublin St but that particular roadway was never formed.