‘Bright the Vision’: Wellington College and Public School Missions

03 November 2023

In 1885, the Wellington College Mission was founded in Walworth, South London. It was one of a number of public school ‘missions’ established in the later 19th century, as a response to the poverty and poor social conditions in England’s inner cities.

Wellington’s mission, supported by both pupils and Old Wellingtonians, aimed to provide both material and spiritual support to the people of Walworth. To this end, it provided not only a mission church holding regular services, but also Sunday schools, clubs for the young and the elderly, health care, gifts of toys and clothing, social events, trips and more. Over the course of eighty years it became part of the fabric of the area, touching many lives.

In 1945, the mission was renamed ‘The Wellington College Clubs,’ and was also known as ‘the Walworth Club.’ It is still remembered by Wellingtonians of the 1950s and 1960s who visited the Club, or who hosted the groups of Walworth boys who came to camp in the College grounds. Some will even recall taking on the Walworth boys at boxing, cricket or other sports. The club eventually closed around 1970, when the area was redeveloped and youth clubs were taken over by the local council.

You can find out more in ‘Bright The Vision,’ a new book which tells the story of the public school missions through chapters contributed by twenty-two of the schools involved. The Wellington chapter has very generously been written for us by Walworth resident and local historian Neil Crossfield, with help from Wellington College Archivist, Caroline Jones. Neil brings the story vividly to life with local detail and draws out lesser-known aspects of the mission, such as its pioneering work with women, while the rest of the book provides context and comparison with Wellington’s work.

Find out more and order the book here: Bright the Vision by Malcolm Tozer | Waterstones