Our History | Wellington College

Our History

Wellington College had its beginning in 1853 when Sir George Grey, then Governor Commander-in-Chief in and over the Colony of New Zealand, affixed the seal of the Colony to a Deed of Endowment of Wellington College.

In 1867, Wellington Grammar School opened in Woodward Street, and an education began for young men. On 17 October 1874, the College opened with 60 students on its present site, on the lower slopes of Mount Victoria.

During the Headmastership of J P Firth (1892-1920), the ethos of the College was forged.  In WWI, Old Boys of the College readily volunteered to serve and 225 Old Boys made the supreme sacrifice.  Between the wars, an ambitious building programme was undertaken including a boarding establishment - Firth House, and a Hall built as a memorial to those Old Boys killed in WWI.

In WWII, many Old Boys once again volunteered.  This time many of them served under the command of Lieutenant General Bernard Freyberg, V.C., himself an Old Boy.

In the decades following the war, as society underwent change, so too did the school.  Women teachers became part of the staff, cadets finished, a senior uniform was introduced, and a wider range of sporting and cultural activities became part of the expanding co-curricular programme.

In 1981, Firth House was demolished, making way for a new Sports Centre.  In 1987, an equally impressive Arts Centre was opened, including a large music suite and theatre.  In 1992, the Computer Technology Centre was established.  In 2001, the Rees-Thomas Science Block was opened and 2003 saw the introduction of a student services centre and the Girvan Library.  That was followed by the opening of the new Language Block and the Frank Crist Centre which incorporates the Sports Academy and International Students’ Centre.

In early, 2019 we look forward to the official opening of our new and state-of-the-art Memorial Hall and Performing Arts Centre, named in honour of Old Boy and generous benefactor, Alan Gibbs.

Today, Wellington College is one of the top performing academic schools in the country.  From 2008 to 2017, the College has overall, during this time, led the country in the number of NZ Scholarships awarded.

While many still lament the loss of charm and grandeur that disappeared with the demolition of the ‘Old School’, it is nevertheless true that the new buildings and grounds continue to meet the needs of today’s 1750 students with the same dignity and distinction which have been a tradition at Wellington College for just over150 years.

The history of the College is preserved through the Wellington College Archives.