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Royal Oak Roundabout

Ref: 1/2-001197-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand

Do you remember when Royal Oak boasted a memorial to Premier Richard Seddon, right slap bang in the middle of the Royal Oak roundabout? Of course back then it wasn’t a roundabout as such because the trams and Manukau Road traffic had an automatic right of way.  The memorial was designed by John Park, a local architect and oneā€‘time Mayor of Onehunga, in the shape of a Gothic market cross, a popular design at the time and found in most market towns across Britain, as well as other parts of the world where British immigrants were residing. The memorial was unveiled on the 6th July, 1909, and it was the height of contemporary styling with a gas lamp, a tram shelter, and a drinking fountain.  Many historic photos of the area depict the memorial standing sentry at the junction of Symonds Street, and Auckland, Manukau, Mt Albert, Campbell and Mount Smart Roads. Some photos also show the old Royal Oak Tea Rooms,
along with signs pointing to Onehunga Zoo, once located on the site of Royal Oak Intermediate School, but there’s little else in them in the way of buildings. 

However, by the middle of the 20th Century many shops had begun to line the roads and the memorial had become an obstruction to the increasing flow of traffic. It was finally removed towards the end of 1947. Since then, the roundabout has seen a lot of changes: the removal of the city’s tram lines during 1956; the building of New Zealand’s first Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet in 1971; the expansion of the Royal Oak Mall; and the realignment of Symonds Street. 

Nevertheless, regardless any road improvements that have been made, the Royal Oak roundabout remains one of New Zealand’s most notorious roundabouts to negotiate, no matter if you’re travelling by car, or on foot.  Riding bikes is also hazardous, as reporter Lachlan Forsyth brought to our attention when he tweeted during the Tour de France “Never mind Mont Ventoux, the true pinnacle of cycling achievement is negotiating the Royal Oak roundabout”!

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