The City of Victoria has corrected the spelling of Penwill Street, which had mistakenly been named “Penwell Street” for over 100 years. (Nicole Crescenzi/ News Staff)

Victoria street repatriated with proper spelling after a century-long mistake

‘Penwill Street’ was named after a Victoria man, but mistakenly spelled ‘Penwell Street’

An alternative spelling on a small Victoria side street is no mistake.

“Penwill” is the proper name of a street that’s incorrectly been called “Penwell Street” for over 100 years.

In February the block-long side street, which runs between Humboldt Street and Burdett Road, was repatriated with the proper spelling after family members of the street’s namesake, Charles Tooley Penwill, reached out to the City of Victoria.

Penwill Street is a small side street running between Humboldt Street and Fairfield Road. (Google Maps)

“Following research done by City staff it was determined that there are historical tax assessment records and a voters list for 1885 naming a C.T. Penwill, and there is a death registration on file for Charles Tooley Penwill,” said Philip Bellefontaine, assistant director of Transportation.

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The street was created in 1911 following the subdivision of a property which held a series of houses built by Penwill in the late 1880s. Penwill also held a position as a city councillor in 1888.

Records from the Victoria City Archives show the misspelling of the name right at the beginning of the land division in 1911. In fact, all three streets on the plans were spelled incorrectly as “Humbolt,” “Burdette” and “Penwell.”

While the first two streets had their names rectified, “Penwell” stuck.

Design plans from the City of Victoria Archives, dated Jan. 20, 1911, show plans for the subdivision of the area that is now Penwill Street, Humboldt Street and Burdett Avenue. While all three streets are misspelled on the plan, the “Penwell” name stuck until the error was realized in 2019 (City of Victoria Archives)

That is until this year, when a letter arrived from the descendents of Penwill. They said that no one in the family is still carrying his name, and that they wanted “Penwill” to still be remembered.

Apparently, the issue had been brought up to the City in the 1970s, but no changes were made.

The City began a long research effort to track down what happened as one of the final projects of the former transporation manager, Brad Dellebuur, before he retired.

After checking archives and voting lists , Penwill was determined to be the correct name. In fact, no record of anyone named “Penwell” sat in the city records.

Making the switch was relatively easy.

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“With no civic addresses on this small street, correcting the spelling of the name has minimal impact on adjacent property owners,” said Bellefontaine. “City staff have notified the relatives of Mr. Penwill that the signs are being changed. We have also informed adjacent local businesses and requested that Google Maps update it.”

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