Wellesley Club (Former)

2-8 Maginnity Street, Wellington

  • Wellesley Club (Former). Image courtesy of www.flickr.com .
    Copyright: Minicooperd – Paul Le Roy. Taken By: Minicooperd – Paul Le Roy. Date: 4/10/2014.
  • Wellesley Club (Former). The foyer.
    Copyright: The Wellesley. Date: 25/11/2007.
  • Wellesley Club (Former). Guest lounge.
    Copyright: The Wellesley. Date: 25/11/2007.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 233 Date Entered 18th March 1982

Locationopen/close

Extent of List Entry

Extent includes the land described as Sec 2 Blk V Thorndon Reclamation (CT WN319/192), Wellington Land District, and the building known as the Wellesley Club thereon.

City/District Council

Wellington City

Region

Wellington Region

Legal description

Sec 2 Blk V Thorndon Reclamation (CT WN319/192), Wellington Land District

Summaryopen/close

The Wellesley Club in central Wellington is a five-storey neo-Georgian building that was built 1925-1927 to house the gentlemen’s club of the same name. Officially opened in 1927, the building has considerable historical, aesthetic, architectural, and social significance. It is an award-winning example of neo-Georgian architecture and a fine example of the architecture of gentlemen’s clubs. The Wellesley Club also has value because of its association with people of importance in New Zealand history who were members of the club, including prominent Wellington architect William Gray Young (1885-1962) who designed the building. It is a significant element in Wellington’s Government Centre Historic Area.

In 1891, the Junior Wellington Club Company Limited was formed, changing its name to Wellesley in 1898 to distinguish it from the Wellington Club. Wellesley was the family name of the Duke of Wellington, after whom the city of Wellington was named. The Wellesley Club building was the Club’s fourth premises and the second to be purpose-built for the club, a move forced by a growing membership. Among the members of the club were a number of influential men such as the club’s first president Sir Francis Henry Dillon Bell, Sir Joseph Ward, and Sir Maui Pomare. A number of club members also represented New Zealand at sport, such as H. D. Thomson, member of the 1905 ‘Originals’ All Blacks team.

Land on the corner of Maginnity and Ballance Streets was purchased in 1925 and the foundation stone was laid on 31 October 1925 by Sir Charles Skerrett (1863-1929), the club’s second president. A contract for the building worth £33,627 was signed with Trevor Brothers and construction was completed early 1927. The building is constructed of reinforced concrete and faced with English bonded brickwork. Each of the floors features a different style of window and the ground floor is rusticated. Inside, the building originally followed the form of the English gentlemen’s club, featuring a billiard room, card rooms, reading rooms, lounges, bars and dining rooms. In addition, the upper storey included bedrooms, allowing the club to become a residential club for the first time in its history. Other interior features include an impressive staircase and wood panelling. Gray Young designed a number of buildings in the neo-Georgian style but it was for the Wellesley Club that he won the New Zealand Institute of Architects Gold Medal in 1932.

For fifty years after its erection, the building was little altered. In 1996, membership had fallen to 400, leading to the sale of the building. The building closed for refurbishment, reopening in late 1997 as the Wellesley Boutique Hotel, with the club continuing to use the building’s facilities. The building was sold again in 2009 and became the new home of Westminster Masonic Lodge. In 2014, the Wellesley Club moved out of the building, but the Wellesley Boutique Hotel and its bar, restaurant and café, continues to operate. The building is a fine example of a club building and it provides an insight into gentlemen’s clubs, a British institution transplanted to New Zealand. It is a particularly fine example of Gray Young’s work in the Georgian style.

Linksopen/close

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.

Trevor Brothers

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Construction Dates

Refurbishment/renovation
1997 -
Building closed for refurbishment; reopened as a hotel

Original Construction
1925 - 1927

Completion Date

21st October 2015

Report Written By

Natalie Marshall

Information Sources

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

Dictionary of New Zealand Biography

Fowler, Michael, ‘Young, William Gray’, from the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 30-Oct-2012,

URL: http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/biographies/4y3/young-william-gray

Dominion Post

Dominion Post, Wellington

‘Grand New Home for Lodge Members’, The Dominion Post, 2 May 2009, p.9

Dominion Post

Dominion Post, Wellington

‘Business as Usual for CBD Boutique Hotel as Club Moves Out’, The Dominion Post, 6 May 2014

Evening Post

Evening Post

‘Wellesley Club sells historic city building’, Evening Post, 17 July 1997, p. 12

Evening Post

Evening Post

‘Wellesley Club up for sale’, Evening Post, 4 June 1996

Bowron and Gatley, 1996

Bowron, Greg and Julia Gatley, The Wellesley Club Cultural Heritage Assessment, New Zealand Historic Places Trust, Wellington, 1996

Manning, 1991

Manning, Arthur, The Wellesley Club, 1891–1991, Wellesley Club, Wellington, 1991

Treadwell, 1954

Treadwell, C. A. L., The Wellesley Club 1891-1953,Whitcombe & Tombs Ltd, Wellington, 1954

Other Information

NZIA Gold Award Winners 1932

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