Wellington College, Wellington

Wellington College, is a state-run boys secondary school in Wellington, New Zealand. It is situated on 12 hectares of green belt land in the suburb of Mount Victoria, in the vicinity of the Basin Reserve and Government House. The school was founded in 1867 through a deed of endowment from Sir George Grey, the then Governor of New Zealand.

Wellington College
15 Dufferin Street, Mount Victoria


Coordinates41°18′13″S 174°46′57″E / 41.30361°S 174.78250°E / -41.30361; 174.78250
Former namesWellington Grammar School
TypeState Secondary
MottoLatin: Lumen accipe et imperti
(Receive The Light And Pass It On)
Established1867; 156 years ago
Sister schoolWellington Girls' College, Wellington East Girls' College
Ministry of Education Institution no.275
HeadmasterGlen Denham
School roll1797[1] (April 2023)
Color(s)Black and Gold
Socio-economic decile10Z[2]
PublicationThe Wellingtonian

Wellington College is one of the oldest boys' secondary schools in New Zealand. The history and influence of Wellington College have made it notable in the history of New Zealand, with prominent alumni such as Arthur Coningham, Bernard Freyberg and William Pickering. The school is known nationally for both its academic success, as well as a large number of sporting activities.

The school has an enrolment of about 1750 boys. Glen Denham is the current Headmaster.[3]


Opening of the Memorial Hall, Wellington College
Cricket game at Wellington College, c. 1900

Wellington College opened in 1867 as Wellington Grammar School in Woodward Street, though Sir George Grey gave the school a deed of endowment in 1853. In 1869 the school moved to a new, spired, wooden building on the hills above the central city in Clifton Terrace from where it could be seen from many places in Wellington.[4] In 1874 the college opened in a much larger building at its present location.[5] The former boarding establishment at the College, Firth House, was named after Joseph Firth, the headmaster from 1892 to 1921.[6]

Wellington College's Pavilion, Firth House and the Gifford Observatory were opened on 1 December, 1924. The War Memorial Hall was opened on 2 March, 1928, financially supported by £6000 from the Old Boys' Association.[7] The War Memorial Hall and classroom wings were demolished by the Ministry of Works and replaced in the 1960s with a new hall and seven-storey Tower classroom block due to its lack of earthquake reinforcements.[8] The stained glass window from the front of the War Memorial Hall is now located in the front of the existing hall.

In the 1960s the Old Boys Gymnasium was built on the eastern boundary of the campus replacing the swimming pool[9] and during the 1970s the Maths, Library and Technology blocks were opened, replacing the last of the War Memorial Hall building and classroom wings that opened in 1928.[10]

In 1980 Firth House was demolished to make way for a new gymnasium which opened in 1982. 1988 saw the opening of the Arts and Music block, and the Brierley Theatre, named after old boy Ron Brierley.[11]

The first dedicated computer rooms in the College opened in 1994 in a new building located behind the school hall.

2001 saw the opening of the Science block, on the western boundary of the campus. In 2008 the Languages block opened, also located on the western boundary.

The campus also has many prefabricated buildings, some functioning as offices and some as classrooms.

The only "historical" buildings remaining on campus to this day are Firth Hall, the Pavilion and the Gifford Observatory.

Firth Hall, left, and the former College Hall, right

In 2016, the College Hall was demolished to make way for a larger Assembly Hall and Performing Arts Centre, which would be able to hold the entire school with its growing population. In preparation for this, the staffroom was moved to Firth Hall, the Uniform Shop opened a new premise next to the Archives, and the Computer Block was opened on the first floor of Tower Block. Construction on the new hall commenced in September 2016 and was opened in 2018 by Jacinda Ardern.[12]


Wellington College's enrolment zone mainly covers the central and western suburbs of Wellington (Rongotai College serves the southeastern suburbs, and Onslow College the northern suburbs).

The school also competes in a local athletics competition known as "McEvedy Shield" along with St. Patrick's College (Town), St. Patrick's College (Silverstream) and Rongotai College. Historically, Wellington College have won the shield more than any other school.[13]

It is next to Wellington East Girls' College, also in Mount Victoria, and shares with that college the Gifford Observatory. Although Wellington College is situated next to Wellington East Girls' College, its sister college is Wellington Girls' College located in Thorndon.

In 2011, 2012 and 2013, Wellington College earned the highest number of scholarships in the New Zealand scholarship exams.[14]

Board of trusteesEdit

The Wellington College Board of Trustees consists of twelve elected and appointed members.[15]

Notable alumniEdit

The ArtsEdit

Broadcasting & journalismEdit


Public serviceEdit




Period Headmaster[20]
1867 Henry Tuckey and William Hamilton
1869-1874 Thomas Bowden
1874-1881 Kenneth Wilson
1881-1892 Joseph Mackay
1892-1921 Joseph Firth, CMG
1921-1928 Thomas Cresswell
1928-1943 William Armour
1943-1951 Edward Hogben
1951-1963 Harold Heron
1963-1979 Seddon Hill
1979-1995 Harvey Rees-Thomas
1995-2018 Roger Moses, CNZM[21]
2018-2021 Gregor Fountain[22]
2022- Glen Denham[23]

Coat of armsEdit

Coat of arms of Wellington College
The coat of arms of Wellington College was granted on 7 October 1987 by the Lord Lyon King of Arms.[24] The cost of the grant was donated by K. Rees-Thomas, an old boy of the college and father of headmaster H. G. Rees-Thomas.
A Wreath of the Liveries is set for Crest a pedestal ornamented in the style of Sheraton Argent supporting a hand lamp as in the Arms
A sallet Proper lined Gules, with a Mantling Sable doubled Or
Or, an open book Proper, binding and fore-edges Gules, ensigned by a covered hand lamp burning proper, pendent from the sinister side of the book a bookmark Gules charged with five plates in saltire, on a chief Sable four mullets of the Field.
Latin: Lumen accipe et imperti (Receive The Light And Pass It On)
The coat of arms of Wellington College is based on that of Bernard Freyberg, charged with an oil lamp, used on the seal of the college since 1873,[25] and a book, representing knowledge. The five plates on the bookmark come from the coat of arms of the Duke of Wellington. The sallet is a type of helmet usually granted to corporate bodies in Scottish heraldry.[26]


  1. ^ "New Zealand Schools Directory". New Zealand Ministry of Education. Retrieved 12 December 2022.
  2. ^ "Decile Change 2014 to 2015 for State & State Integrated Schools". Ministry of Education. Retrieved 12 February 2015.
  3. ^ "'Everyone has a place here': Aroha in education vital, new college principal says". Stuff. 7 May 2022. Retrieved 7 May 2022.
  4. ^ William Main, Wellington Through a Victorian lens revisited, Steele Roberts Publishers, Wellington, 2011, p. 25, the endpapers and the dustjacket.
  5. ^ Beasley, A.W. (1992). The Light Accepted : 125 Years of Wellington College. Wellington: Board of Trustees of Wellington College. p. 19. ISBN 1869340329.
  6. ^ Beasley 1992, p. 92.
  7. ^ Wellington College. | NZETC
  8. ^ Beasley 1992, pp. 189–193.
  9. ^ Beasley 1992, p. 172.
  10. ^ Beasley 1992, pp. 189–229.
  11. ^ Beasley 1992, p. 240.
  12. ^ "The allan Gibbs Centre". The Lampstand. Wellington College Old Boys' Association. 2018. pp. 5–19. OCLC 1023414230.
  13. ^ "History of the McEvedy Shield". Wellington College. Archived from the original on 7 July 2017.
  14. ^ "Wgtn College's stunning results". Stuff. 27 February 2013. Retrieved 5 August 2021.
  15. ^ "Board of Trustees". Wellington College. Retrieved 5 August 2021.
  16. ^ "Henry Avery #170". All Blacks. Retrieved 20 December 2020.
  17. ^ Crawford, J. A. B. "Gentry, William George". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Ministry for Culture and Heritage. Retrieved 17 January 2022.
  18. ^ "Lord Grey, 89, Queen's Last Governor in Ulster (Published 1999)". New York Times. 23 October 1999. Retrieved 14 February 2021.
  19. ^ "Ray Wallace". Hutt City Council. Retrieved 13 October 2013.
  20. ^ Beasley 1992, p. 264.
  21. ^ Dooney, Laura (25 July 2017). "Wellington College headmaster Roger Moses to retire next year". Stuff. Retrieved 1 June 2022.
  22. ^ O'Dwyer, Ellen (1 November 2021). "Wellington College principal Gregor Fountain resigns". Stuff. Retrieved 1 June 2022.
  23. ^ O'Dwyer, Ellen (22 February 2022). "Basketball great and celebrated principal appointed as new Wellington College headmaster". Stuff. Retrieved 1 June 2022.
  24. ^ Public Register of All Arms and Bearings in Scotland. Vol. 69. p. 72.
  25. ^ "What's in a motto". The Lampstand. Wellington College Old Boys' Association. 2021. p. 12. OCLC 1023414230.
  26. ^ Beasley, A. W. (1987). Address to the Assembly 15 October 1987. The Wellingtonian. Wellington College. pp. 30–31. OCLC 173344072.

External linksEdit