Wellington Through The Decades

In 2020 we embarked on an ambitious project to document the Wellington student experience in the twentieth century, using the recollections of the students themselves. Our aim is to present their experiences, for the most part in their own words, giving a faithful and representative picture of College life as they experienced it. Such a narrative, based as it is on the subjective accounts of individuals, can never be definitive, but we hope that the number of respondents and the variety of topics covered will combine to create a rich and colourful record of life at Wellington.

Boys on South Front

We began with our oldest cohort of Old Wellingtonians, those who were at College in the 1940s and 1950s. We drafted a questionnaire, designed to spark memories of many aspects of College life, and sent it to over 700 individuals.

We are incredibly grateful to the 130 who took the time and trouble to respond. All submissions, long or short, are appreciated; all have been read, collated and distilled to form the material here. We also want to thank those who sent in wonderful original material such as photographs, school reports and play programmes. Together with material from the College archives, they make up the wealth of illustrations on the following pages.

This website will be the first and fullest outcome of the project. We hope that browsing it will prove an enjoyable trip down memory lane for those who remember the decades in question, and a vivid insight into a different time for those who do not. In time, some of the material may be published in physical form. All submissions to the project will be preserved in full in the Wellington College Archives, providing an invaluable resource for future historians.

One of our aims is to show life at Wellington in the broader context of national and international history and culture. For this reason, we asked our respondents for their memories of world events, to see how much these, along with the popular culture of the time, made an impact at Wellington. We hope that you will enjoy reading their Wellington memories in the context of the political and social changes of the later twentieth century.

Chapel Arch 1957
Queen in Queens Court 1974

Once all the material from the 1940s and 1950s has been added to the website, we hope to repeat the process with the next cohort – those at College during the 1960s – and in due course to cover the rest of the 20th century.

To explore the Decades pages, please hover your mouse over the ‘Decades Project’ title at the top of the page, and a menu will appear from the left. When you select a decade from this menu, the full list of topics available in that decade will appear. You can also browse through the pages from one to the next, using the links at the top and bottom of each page.
Some of our participants from the 1950s can be seen in conversation with College Archivist Caroline Jones, here.

Several archive films from the 1950s can also be found in the ‘Films’ section of this website.

Please send any comments or questions about the project to Decades@wellingtoncollege.org.uk or to the address on the Contacts page.

Click here to go to the 1940s and 1950s.

NOTE: Opinions expressed in the ‘Wellington Through The Decades’ pages are those of the individual contributors and not of Wellington College. Some practices and attitudes acceptable at Wellington in the past, recorded in these pages, are unacceptable by today’s standards and are in no way condoned by the College.

Callover 1956
Apsley Common Room ‘Siberia’ 1977
Classroom 1978