The Club was formed in Wellington in November 1891 as a ‘junior’ alternative to the Wellington Club which was established in 1841 and this year celebrates 175 year of service. The Wellesley Club, if still operational, would this year be celebrating 125 years of welcoming members and guests in a dignified atmosphere in gracious surroundings where cherished traditions endured. Members traditionally came come from Wellington's well-respected professional and business community and drawn to the Club where 21st century expectations blended seamlessly with elegance and tradition.

Situated in the heart of downtown Wellington in the financial district and close to parliament, the Wellesley building still possesses a distinguished character. Designed by noted architect Gray Young in 1929, it is still considered to be one of the finest examples of neo-Georgian architecture in the city. The building has a certain timeless and universal quality and is reputedly modelled on the tradition of London’s distinguished Pall Mall Clubs. The building has both a Category 1 national heritage listing and Wellington City Council protection.

Copies of Arthur Manning’s book entitled the Wellesley Club 1891-1991 are available.

The Early Years

The Wellesley Club building was awarded an Institute of Architects Gold Medal in 1932, and has remained little changed to the present day, with all the major internal spaces in near original condition and displaying the highest level of craftsmanship in fittings and finishes.

The Wellesley Club began life as the Junior Wellington Club, an offshoot of the Wellington Club. The club held its first meeting on 16 November 1891.

Premises were hired in Johnston Street and, by the end of 1898, there were 158 members. Concerned that the name of the club was too close to that of the Wellington Club, members voted to change it to Wellesley in 1898. The club later obtained permission to use the family coat-of-arms.

By 1902 growth in the club was such that it needed new premises. The lease of land in Featherston Street was purchased in 1906 and plans for a new building were prepared by William Chatfield. Work was completed in September 1907.

The new premises were soon too small, but with the threat of prohibition hanging over the club, which made much of its income over the bar, only minor alterations were proposed. These were not made until after the first World War. But in 1924 the club again made the decision to rebuild. Land on the corner of Maginnity and Ballance Streets was bought in December 1924 for the princely sum of £22,500.

Well known architect William Gray Young, himself a club member since 1912, was awarded the commission to design the new building and work was completed in early 1927, and it has remained little changed since this time. There were repairs to the building after the 1942 earthquake, changes made to several floors in 1951 and 1952, and the kitchen was upgraded in 1982 and then in 1997 extensive upgrading occurred before the hotel part of the building was opened.

Although wars and the Depression affected membership the club generally had waiting lists up until the early 1990s. Finally, in 1993, women were accepted as members. At the end of the last century the club struggled to retain members. The club collocated with the Wellesley Boutique Hotel until the Club ceased operations. The Boutique Hotel is today owned by the Westminster Lodge.

More About The Building

The Wellesley Club is a landmark building near the heart of the city's financial district. It occupies a prominent street corner and it possesses a distinguished architectural character. It is the city's finest Georgian Revival building and won the architect, William Gray Young, the NZIA Gold Medal in 1932. The building, as Gavin McLean points out, is "consciously modelled on the tradition of London's Pall Mall Clubs". It is an elegant building, five storeys in height, well-proportioned, with a discreet but masterly handling of Classical details on the facade.

There are four distinct components to this facade. The ground-floor level is heavily rusticated, with mainly round-arched openings. A projecting balcony, with metal balustrading, separates this level from the main tier of the building - the first and second floor levels. Regular square-headed and multi-paned windows provide pleasing proportions on these two levels, with triangular pediments over the corner windows on the first floor. String courses at sill level on the first and third floors, give the facade a discreet horizontal emphasis and help to tie the composition together. The fifth floor is an attic storey, with dormer windows and a part-balustraded parapet.

Internally, the building is well-planned, with extensive panelling in oak and rimu, and facilities spread over five floors. The ground floor contains entry foyer, bars, toilets and offices.