As we celebrate the opening of the newly renovated and renamed Potter Pavilion, you may be interested to look back on its history and that of its precursors.
The Potter Pavilion is not the first, nor even the second, such building to stand on Turf. According to the Wellingtonian, the very first pavilion was a tent which was only pitched on match days. In the early 1860s, around five years after the school opened, a permanent cricket pavilion was built. It was a small wooden building with a thatched roof and bark-covered walls. We know that by 1868, boards listing those in the cricket team were already installed in it, and the following year an Upper School Meeting decided to add the names of the Rugby XV also. This tradition lasted for a long time, as Bigside would not have a dedicated rugby pavilion for another 150 years.
By 1873, this structure was in poor repair and too small as student numbers increased. The Upper School (a forerunner of the Upper Ten) agreed that £120 should be spent on a new one. Accordingly, a fund was started to collect donations. In March 1874, the Wellingtonian published a letter purportedly from ‘the old Pavilion,’ lamenting its fate and begging to be put out of its misery!
It took some time to raise the necessary funds, but by 1875 the exterior of the new building was complete. The following year it was fully fitted out and paid for. In total it cost £386 0s. 6d, three times the initial sum proposed. Dilapidated as the old pavilion was, the school still managed to recoup £14 by selling it to a smaller school near Eversley!
This second pavilion was designed by an OW and consciously modelled on the previous one, with a thatched roof, and walls and shutters formed from bark-covered birch logs. Perhaps because of this, it required constant maintenance. By 1879 it had to be rethatched, and throughout the 1880s money was paid out for repairs and new windows.
Image: The Old Pavilion in the 1880s
By the 1890s the building was infested with rats, and the roof in need of further repair. A new pavilion was first proposed in 1895, but nothing happened until 1899, when the OW Society gave £100 to start the fund. It was estimated that the new building would cost £1,000. By 1901 more money had been raised, including a sizeable sum donated from the profits of Grubbies, and building commenced. The total cost was now estimated at £2,200.
The building we know as the Pink Pavilion was designed by Charles Blomfield, also the architect of our Dining Hall. The 1901 Year Book described the new building as ‘redolent of the twentieth century,’ and reported that it would be ‘fitted with every luxury in the way of dressing-rooms and baths.’ It even had under-floor heating. When it opened the following year, it was described as ‘a solid building of brick, the lower part covered with plastering of artistic type, and tiled above with red, the whole surmounted with a clock with three faces.’ The team boards from the previous pavilion were used to line the back stairs and the Professional’s Room, but new lists of all the cricket and rugby Caps in the school’s history were begun on the panelling in the upstairs room.
Image: The Pavilion just after completion, 1902
In 1958 the Pavilion’s exterior was painted ‘an attractive pink,’ in readiness for the College Centenary the following year. This was an innovation, and a letter to the Wellingtonian in 1959 objected to this ‘sickly, effeminate and anaemic shade’, but it remained, and passed into College legend. In 1967 the building was again repainted, thanks to more funding from Grubbies; this is probably when it turned green. Here, in this photo of a cricket team in 1990, you can just about make out the green shade it used to be.
A short story in the 1973 Wellingtonian plays on the fact that the ‘Pink Pavilion’ is green, and for many years this anomaly was one of the facts new Wellingtonians had to learn when they entered the school. By 1992, the plasterwork was still green and was disintegrating, so it was stripped off and replaced, and the whole was returned to a deep pink.
More baths were added to the changing rooms during the 1930s and 1940s, and 1994 saw a significant restructuring and refurbishment of the interior. Nevertheless, by 2018 the building was no longer fit for purpose, the changing rooms being dated in décor and incompatible with the requirements of modern women’s sport and safeguarding. A full renovation commenced with reroofing the building in 2022, moving on to reconfiguration and modernisation of the interior. It gives us great pleasure to celebrate its reopening under the new name of the Potter Pavilion, in honour of the Potter family who have given over ninety years’ service to Wellington College, and whose members have graced the teams on Turf on innumerable occasions. It could not be more fitting that the exterior has now been painted in a heritage shade entitled ‘Potter’s Pink’!