Tale of famous Baldwin St updated

The Cadbury Jaffa Race down Baldwin St. Photo: supplied
The Cadbury Jaffa Race down Baldwin St. Photo: supplied

Ian Dougherty
Saddle Hill Press


It’s almost 20 year since Ian Dougherty told the story of that special Dunedin attraction Baldwin St, the steepest street in the world.

In the intervening years Welsh pretenders challenged its claim and Dunedin surveyor Toby Stoff walked the walk and established the scientific data. Naturally, Toby, with funding from University of Otago surveying students, set off to Harlech to run the tests on Ffordd Pen Lech. As Ian notes, “Baldwin Street was streets ahead”.

A second edition is well-warranted.

This new edition tells the story in depth and includes many more details on Baldwin St’s last couple of decades.

The best features of the first edition remain: the tale of the eccentric William Baldwin, whose name is immortalised in an international tourist attraction with 100,000 visitors a year; the challenge of paving such a geographic oddity; and the fun and frustration facing people who actually live there.

The street has inspired literary types and artists, fitness freaks, publicity seekers and fund-raisers like 11-year-old Harris Willis, who ascended the street on a pogo stick in 2018.

The story of the great jaffa race and its demise reminds us of the effects of commercial decisions madeon the other side of the world.

Baldwin St may be all about going up, but there have been downsides - a fatality during an ill-advised wheelie bin ride, cars that skid and any number of pranks which went wrong.

The illustrations, many in full-page glory, complement a well-told tale, one that should be read by Dunedinites and not simply left to the tourists who include the book among their souvenirs.

Jim Sullivan is a Patearoa writer