Wellington College had its beginning in 1853 when Sir George Grey, then Governor Commander-in-Chief in and over the Colony of New Zealand, affixed the seal of the Colony to a Deed of Endowment of Wellington College.
In 1867, Wellington Grammar School opened in Woodward Street, and the intended educational activity began.
On 17 October 1874, the College opened on its present site, on the lower slopes of Mt Victoria, next to what is now Government House. Initially there were 60 students.
During the Headmastership of J P Firth (1892-1920) the ethos of the College was forged. In World War I, Old Boys of the College readily volunteered to serve. 220 Old Boys made the supreme sacrifice. Between the wars an ambitious building programme was undertaken including a boarding establishment, Firth House, and a Hall built as a memorial to those Old Boys killed in World War I.