Stratford (Māori: Whakaahurangi) is the only town in Stratford District, and the seat of the Taranaki Region, in New Zealand's North Island.
Located in the heart of Taranaki, the town of Stratford is indelibly linked to its namesake Stratford upon-Avon, famous for being the home of William Shakespeare. The works of that town's favourite son are immortalised in Stratford though street names, parks and the distinctive Glockenspiel Clock Tower, which performs passages from the Great Bard's Romeo and Juliet at 10.am, 1pm, 3pm and 7pm daily.
It lies beneath the eastern slopes of Mount Taranaki/Egmont, approximately halfway between New Plymouth and Hawera, near the geographic centre of the Taranaki Region.
The town has a population of 5,650, making it the 47th largest urban area in New Zealand, and the fourth largest in Taranaki (behind New Plymouth, Hawera and Waitara).
The Stratford District has a population of 9,300, and a land area of 2,163.35 km², which is divided between the Manawatu-Wanganui Region (including the settlements of Whangamomona, Marco and Tahora, 31.87% of its land area) and the Taranaki Region (68.13% of its land area).
Stratford is at the junction of State Highway 3 and State Highway 43.
On State Highway 3 New Plymouth is 39 km north, Inglewood 21 km north, Eltham 11 km south and Hawera 30 km south.
On State Highway 43 Taumarunui is 146 km to the east. This road is known as "The Forgotten World Highway", due the scarcity of settlement along the road in contrast to its earlier history. A sign reads "No Petrol for 140 km".
Stratford railway station is the junction of the Marton–New Plymouth and Stratford–Okahukura lines.
The first Stratford Town Board was formed in 1882.
The Stratford County Council was formed in 1890, and the Stratford Borough Council was formed on 22 July 1898. In the same year, Stratford became the third town in New Zealand to have electric street lighting, on the initiative of inventor and entrepreneur Alexander Walker Reid.
The county and borough councils amalgamated on 1 April 1989 to form the Stratford District Council, which was reconstituted on 1 November 1989 as part of the nationwide restructure in local government.
The arboretum represents the native flora of New Zealand. This brief has been expanded to illustrate New Zealand's ancient connection to the Gondwana land mass, through links to Australia and Chile. A number of plants in the arboretum are the living descendents of those on the former Gondwana continent, which
formed present day Antarctica, Africa, South America, Australia and New Zealand.
The arboretum adjoins Windsor Park and the Carrington Walkway, and covers around 4000 metres, and a looped path provides an easy walk.
The arboretum was planned only a few years ago so it is still very young in terms of plant growth. Plantings of rimu, miro and native conifers will eventually become a patch of rainforest as the trees mature.
The pork is divided by a central lake (1), formed by a natural creek and originally developed as a perch pond. The lake was once used by anglers, boaters and swimmers before becoming a refuge for waterfowl. A well established walking track follows the lake edge through native
plantings and offers many seats for picnics and reflection. A poignant reminder of the sacrifice mode by Stratford's young men in the Great War stands at the corner of Fenton and Orlando Streets in the form of the Victoria Park Memorial Gates (2), unveiled on ANZAC Day 1926. In 1997, the Fenton Street boundary was planted in rhododendrons and flowering cherry trees (3). Now mature, these trees and shrubs give an attractive spring display of colour each year. A playground and skate pork are popular features of the park.
In the 1880s, E Burgess and Sons
established the Stratford Sash and Door
Company on the site, which included a
tunnel to divert the Patea River to a water
wheel powering the factory. Adjacent
to this was Johnston's Aerated Cordial
The park was developed in the 1930s by a group of locals with a vision of a riverbank garden. They faced a huge challenge - the area was a wilderness of blackberry and weeds - which eventually overwhelmed them and the Stratford Council took over management of the park.
Featuring an "island" of three giant miro trees and other natives, along with plantings of exotic trees, this park is frequently seen in the background of local wedding photos.
Windsor Park once included a pathway under the rail bridge to Broadway, marked by several large magnolias, which now forms part of the Carrington Walkway. One of the park's highlights include standing on the stony riverbank beach (1) while looking for fish in the river as they travel downstream.
Stratford is a rural service centre, serving the agricultural economy of its wider hinterland.
The population of the district peaked in 1961 at 11,300, and until the end of the century the town has fluctuated between 5229 (2001) and 5664 (1996).
The 21st century has seen significant economic growth and some associated population growth in the town. In the 2013 census the district population was 8988, with 5466 in the township and 3522 in the surrounding rural area. The 2006 census was the first time that the town had recorded population growth since the 1991 census.
The Egmont Ring Plain provides steady contours and fertile volcanic soils which, together with the high level of rainfall, make for some of the best dairy country in New Zealand.
The district is predominantly dairying (57,300 dairy cattle), while the rolling to steep eastern hill country supports dry stock farming and forestry (42,000 beef cattle; 281,300 sheep).
The energy and tourism industries are both of growing significance to the Stratford District. The Stratford Power Station is located 3 km east of the town.
Located within easy reach of the town centre King Edward Park is an ideal sanctuary to experience countless varieties of plants, mature trees and birdlife and fast-flowing mountain streams.
To mark the coronation of King Edward VII in 1902, a variety of trees and a suspension bridge were planned to span the Patea River between the Page Street Reserves and the town centre. The planted area became known as King Edward's Park and later the reserves on both sides of the river were incorporated into the park. The main access to the park is through the historic Malone Gates (1) on the corner of Fenton and Portia Streets.
The concrete gates were built in 1923 as a tribute to Colonel William George Malone, who was killed at Chunuk Bair in 1915.
Nearby a commemorative lone pine tree was planted in 1968 with a seedling from Gallipoli's Lone Pine Ridge. Rhododendron plants from the Exbury Estate in Southampton were planted in the 1950s along with seeds from the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh.
Named after a Parks and Reserves Committee Chairman, Mr Edward Wallace McCullough, the McCullough Rhododendron Dell (2) includes a pond, selections of rhododendron hybrids, azaleas, hydrangeas and native and exotic shrubs and trees. Surrounding the Scout Den, a sloping lawn leads to a grassed stage with views of the Patea River. To the east is a shaded picnic area. Today, the park encompasses the Stratford Holiday Park, TSB Swimming Pool Complex, playing fields, netball courts, a children's playground, and the Centennial Rest Room built in 1949.
Named after a character in Shakespeare's play The Tempest, Prospero Place is at the heart of Stratford's business district and links the Stratford District and Centennial Library and Percy Thomson Art Gallery to the main shopping area.
Once a large gully with a stream running through it the area was purchased in the 1950s to enable the development of a shopping mall. Though the idea never eventuated, pedestrians began using the area as a walkway, and in the late 1950s a formal pedestrian route had been developed.
Prospero Place has reflected the changing face of Stratford - from concrete planters and raised gardens in the 1970s to the brown timber painted fences and tile- edged lawns of the 1990s. An upgrade and extension of the library took place in 1998 and in 2002 Prospero Place was chosen as the site of the Percy Thomson Art Gallery.
This building, whose architectural feature is an outline of Mt Taranaki, became possible following a bequest from former Stratford mayor Percy Thomson, who died in 1962. The building also hosts the i-SITE Information Centre and a care. In keeping with the mountain theme the landscaping incorporates alpine planting.
The paving has also been upgraded, with specimen trees and the existing gardens and lawn area revamped to create an informal enclosed space in the centre of the business district. This area has now become a focal point of the town with street market days, Powerco Taranaki Garden Spectacular events and outdoor exhibitions.
Across Broadway stands New Zealand's only glockenspiel clock tower (1) which plays a five minute sequence from Romeo and Juliet. Overlooking Prospero Place is a bust of William Shakespeare (2), further linking Stratford-on-Patea to its namesake Stratford-on-Avon.