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A Kootenay street in England

Updated: May 27, 2021

A postcard that popped up on eBay last week surprised me. It shows Kootenay Rise (now known as Kootenay Avenue) in Thornhill Park, Southampton, England.

I’ve previously written about the proliferation of streets and avenues named Kootenay around North America, which is chiefly the result of new developments picking names out of atlases.

For instance, Victorville, California has a Kootenay Street, which connects to Ottawa Street. There’s also a Kootenay Court in Bakersfield, California that intersects with Kamloops Drive and Okanagan Court. There’s a Kootenay Circle in Denton, Texas and a Kootenay Path in Logan, Ohio.

The people who live on those streets probably have no clue where the name originated.

But the English example seemed different.

Southampton has its own historical Wiki page known as Sotonopedia, which reveals that Kootenay Avenue was “Part of the Thornhill Park estate development by the Southampton and District Land Company, set up by architect Herbert Collins.” The first homes on that street were reportedly built in 1952.

But the page doesn’t comment on the name’s origin and a map shows no adjoining streets with any other Canadian place names. So why Kootenay?

For a while, my leading theory had to with Southampton’s shipbuilding past.

HMCS Kootenay was built at Southampton in 1932-33, although originally known as the HMS Decoy. It was refitted as an escort destroyer in 1943, transferred to the Royal Canadian Navy, and renamed the Kootenay. It was broken up in 1946.

HMCS Kootenay, ca. 1943-45. Imperial War Museums FL 11211, via Wikipedia

However, there was a serious problem with this theory. The first mention I can find of Kootenay Avenue is a birth announcement in the Hampshire Advertiser of Aug. 1, 1936, seven years before the HMS Decoy was renamed the HMCS Kootenay.

This item also reveals there were homes on Kootenay Avenue before 1952. So it was back to the drawing board.

The real answer has to do with aforementioned architect Herbert Collins. A 1985 biography of him by Robert Williams, viewable in part on Google Books, explains Kootenay Rise was “called Kootenay after the Canadian National Park of that name, which one of the Collins’ family had visited.”

Kootenay Rise/Kootenay Avenue itself has a claim to fame: 8 Kootenay Rise was the childhood home of John Sydenham, who had a successful football career, chiefly with Southampton, from 1957-69.

Updated on May 27, 2021 to discredit my original theory about the name.

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