Scots College Aitken Building

1 Monorgan Road, Strathmore Park, Wellington

  • Scots College Aitken Building, Wellington.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Alison Dangerfield. Date: 15/10/2010.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 1426 Date Entered 10th September 1981


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes part of the land described as Pt Lot 12 DP 3995 (CT WN631/98), Wellington Land District and the building known as Scots College Aitken Building thereon, and a curtilage to the north of the building to allow for the sightlines of this place. The extent is limited to the Aitken Building as identified in the extent map tabled at the Rārangi Kōrero Committee meeting on 6 September 2017, and does not include other additions or buildings on the school site.

City/District Council

Wellington City


Wellington Region

Legal description

Pt Lot 12 DP 3995 (CT WN631/98), Wellington Land District


Scots College, a Presbyterian secondary school for boys, was founded in 1915. Its main classroom block, opened in 1919 and known as the Aitken Building, is of historical and social significance as the purpose-built centrepiece of the school, a local landmark and focus of identity for the many pupils who have attended the college over the past century. The building is of architectural and aesthetic significance as a fine example of notable architect William Gray Young’s work in the Georgian Revival style, and retains its prominence as the face of the campus.

The two men celebrated as the college’s founders, minister of St John’s Church Dr James Gibb, and Hon. J.G.W. Aitken, a member of the Legislative Council, had long campaigned with the Bible in Schools League, which aimed to re-institute religious education to the state school system. In 1914, the League’s failure to gain the support of the Parliamentary Education Committee galvanised Gibb and Aitken, with the backing of the Wellington Presbytery, to constitute a college themselves, for day boys and boarders. A substantial donation from Aitken assisted the process and on 8 February 1916 Scots College held its first classes – occupying a historic house in Hobson Street, Thorndon for the first three years. However the plan had always been for a purpose-built school, and land in Miramar was purchased in 1917.

Prominent architect William Gray Young won the design commission for the new campus, and Howie and Matthews’ tender of £20,000 was accepted for the construction. The foundation stone of the main classroom building was laid by Aitken on 13 April 1918. The three-storeyed brick building achieves the impression of an English stately home, encountered at the end of a driveway winding through the grounds. A Doric portico frames the main entrance, with an aedicule window above featuring Ionic columns and a pediment emblazoned with the college crest. The multi-paned windows are arranged symmetrically on either side of this central bay, and a domed bell tower sits atop the tiled hipped roof. Gray Young’s original design also included wings to either side of the main block; however, only the central portion was built. The original campus also included a separate building (named Gibb House after the other founder), for accommodation and dining.

Delays due to weather and shortages in materials meant that while Gibb House was ready for the beginning of the 1919 school year, the Aitken Building was not; so for most of the first year classes were held outside when weather permitted, or in the dining room, dormitories or rooms where no workmen were working. Scots College came close to closure a few times during the 1920s, a situation which came to a head in 1929 when the Board agreed to sell the grounds and buildings to the Education Department to settle their debts. However, parents, Old Boys and the government rallied to show their esteem and the sale was cancelled. While the campus has grown over the years with additional buildings for accommodation, a primary school, specialist classroom space, a gymnasium, assembly hall and chapel, the Aitken Building appears to have gone largely unchanged until 1982, when it underwent strengthening and interior refurbishment. Adjoining buildings have been added either side of it since 1959, and the ground floor reception area was expanded in 2008.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Young, William G

William Gray Young (1885-1962) was born in Oamaru. When he was a child his family moved to Wellington where he was educated. After leaving school he was articled to the Wellington architectural firm of Crichton and McKay. In 1906 he won a competition for the design of Knox College, Dunedin, and shortly after this he commenced practice on his own account.

He became a prominent New Zealand architect and during a career of 60 years he designed over 500 buildings. His major buildings include the Wellington and Christchurch Railway Stations (1936 and 1954 respectively), Scot's College (1919), Phoenix Assurance Building (1930) and the Australian Mutual Provident Society (AMP) Chambers (1950). At Victoria University College of Wellington he was responsible for the Stout (1930), Kirk (1938), and Easterfield (1957) buildings, and Weir House (1930). Gray Young also achieved recognition for his domestic work such as the Elliott House Wellington, (1913).

His design for the Wellesley Club (1925) earned him the Gold Medal of the New Zealand Institute of Architects in 1932. He was elected a Fellow of the Institute in 1913, served on the executive committee from 1914-35 and was President from 1935-36. He was also elected a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects, and achieved prominence in public affairs.

Howie and Matthews

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1918 - 1919

1959 -
First extension wing built, to the east of the Aitken building

Additional building added to site
1962 -
Toilet block and two small classrooms built to the rear of the building

Wing built to the west of the Aitken building

Completion Date

30th March 2017

Report Written By

Blyss Wagstaff

Information Sources

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

Michael Fowler, 'Young, William Gray', from the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand,

Wellington City Council

Wellington City Council

Wellington City Council, ‘Scots College Main Building’ heritage inventory report,

Brodie, 1991

Brodie, James, The First Seven Thousand: A Jubilee History of Scots College 1916-1990, The Board of Governors of Scots College, Wellington, 1991

Other Information

Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.

A fully referenced upgrade report is available on request from the Central Region Office of Heritage New Zealand.