Summer read: Turns out we may not be as unique as we thought. Stewart Sowman-Lund makes contact with residents of the other so-called New Zealands on the world map.
First published July 16, 2022
If you ask anyone overseas what they think of New Zealand, they’ll almost certainly name one of three things: sheep, rugby or Lord of the Rings. But what if you ask someone in New Zealand what they think of New Zealand? And by New Zealand, I don’t mean the New Zealand we live in. I mean one of the three other New Zealands.
Are you following?
New Zealand, as in the country we call home, is not the only New Zealand. In fact, there are at least four – and that’s not including Abel Tasman’s beloved original Zeeland in the Netherlands, the Danish Zealand or any other partial matches. The three other New Zealands we know of are all plonked haphazardly across the United Kingdom, all within a few hours’ drive of each other. One’s a suburb in Derby, another’s a small village in Wiltshire and then there’s a village in Buckinghamshire which has since been squeezed down into an area that comprises just a pub (which is called… The New Zealand).
At first I thought I must be the last person in the world to find out that there are other New Zealands. Surely this is common knowledge that somehow passed me by? I asked my girlfriend, who is from the UK, whether she’d been let in on the secret. She was only aware of the New Zealand she currently resides in. I asked my colleagues: they, too, had no clue. The Project recently highlighted a Swiss town called Chur, but there was no mention of the other New Zealands. The Hull Daily Mail knows about it, but does anybody else?
I had questions, so I reached out to residents of the three other New Zealands.
Mandy, a member of the New Zealand Community Association in Darby, was first to respond. She said she’s never visited the real New Zealand, but has been pretty close. “I’ve been to Australia, to Tasmania … from what I’ve seen on the television, New Zealand’s a very beautiful country.” Good save. “But I don’t know a great deal about it. More sheep than people? I don’t know if that’s still true.” (It is.)
‘I don’t know a great deal about it. More sheep than people?’
Mandy had woken up in the early hours of her morning to accommodate my request for a Zoom interview. I had to ask my most burning questions first. One: do people who live in New Zealand refer to themselves as New Zealanders? “That could get confusing for people,” admitted Mandy. “I don’t know if we’d say we were New Zealanders but we would say we come from the area of New Zealand in Derby.”
Secondly, who would she be cheering for in the Commonwealth Games: New Zealand or England? “It would probably be England, but you’d be second,” she laughed. Fair play. Thirdly: are there any funny place names in New Zealand that are connected to our country? “There used to be a hairdresser called Kiwi Hair,” revealed Mandy. “Now there’s a pub called the New Zealand Arms, and there’s also New Zealand Square.”
It’s by no coincidence that New Zealand in Derby ended up with the name New Zealand: “It was named in honour of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840,” Mandy tells me. “It was a farm called New Zealand to begin with.” Now it’s a suburb of over 3,000 homes.
Despite the history, Mandy said the suburb was never really referred to as New Zealand until about 20 years ago. “We needed a community centre and we originally named it after the social housing estate, called the Morely Estate. But there was a bit of confusion because there was a village outside Derby called Morely, so we decided we had to change the name,” she explained. “And we discovered that the old name for the area was New Zealand, and so we decided to bring that name back into use. It wasn’t even really known around here very well that it was called New Zealand.”
These days New Zealand has a fairly diverse population, made up of older people who have lived in the area most of their life, and younger people who moved there because of the suburb’s proximity to the University of Derby. Many of the historic Victorian homes are now used as student accommodation. That made me wonder: do any New Zealanders live in New Zealand? Mandy reckons it’s likely, but says she’s never met any herself. “There very well could be because the university has a lot of students from around the world.”
Derby University did not respond when asked if any New Zealanders were enrolled.
About 130 miles away from New Zealand you’ll find… New Zealand, a small hamlet in the area of Wiltshire. From Google Images, it seems like the sort of place that might be described as “quaint” or maybe “sleepy”. Much like the New Zealand in Derby, the New Zealand in Wiltshire does have a direct connection to our country – it was named for John Dickson-Poynder, the governor of New Zealand from 1910 to 1912. The Poynders had links to Wiltshire, and so the name was shared. I guess this makes New Zealand (Wiltshire) the Newer Zealand, which at least would be a more unique name. Nobody in New Zealand returned my emails to confirm.
All we know for sure is that it has this fairly plain welcome sign.
Head about an hour out of New Zealand, and you’ll stumble upon another link to New Zealand – a giant chalk Kiwi on a hill, left by New Zealand soldiers waiting to return home after the first world war. Oddly, it seems entirely unrelated to the nearby hamlet of New Zealand.
Another 90 minutes away, about 71 miles east, is the town of Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire. And it’s here that you’ll also find New Zealand – or what’s left of it. This is the smallest of the New Zealands because, over time, it’s been squeezed down to an area that now comprises just a pub. Layla runs The New Zealand with her dad and told me that, despite its name, she’s not sure of any connection between the establishment and our country.
That being said, at one point The New Zealand was in an area called New Zealand. It’s believed to have been named after a breed of cow that was farmed in the area. You can probably assume that the cow was named after our New Zealand and therefore in turn the name was given to the area in Aylesbury. Over time, the wider area of Aylesbury expanded and the New Zealand name was dropped.
It’s not just New Zealand that was lost in the expansion of Aylesbury. A number of other areas – like California – were devoured too (there’s also a place called California neighbouring the New Zealand in Derby). In a sign of reciprocity, presumably, there’s also a town called Aylesbury here in New Zealand.
Layla said she and her dad took over The New Zealand about a decade ago, after previously running another geographically named eatery called The Britannia. “I’ve never been to New Zealand but heard it’s a beautiful country,” she said, revealing that occasionally New Zealanders will make an effort to stop for a pint when passing by. “We do get people pop in from New Zealand if they are driving past, and we often see people stop to take photos.”
While you might think a pub called The New Zealand should serve flowing pints of fresh-hopped craft beer, or maybe freshly ground coffee with breakfast, all indications are that it is in fact very English. There’s a weekly karaoke night, and a menu filled with cheap chips, sausages and baked beans. But in another sense, it’s about as New Zealand as you can get: “Good beer, good people, great time watching the sport,” says one review of the pub, words that could easily become our new tourism slogan.
Mandy in Derby said she hopes to visit New Zealand one day, and that there’s a Derby in New Zealand she’d like to make contact with, too (it’s possible she was talking about comedian and actor Rhys Darby). I asked her what the best thing about living in New Zealand is. “After all the years, we have a lot of community spirit,” she said. “We’re taken seriously now.”