Historic buildings in the grounds of Wellington College and Wellington East Girls’ College were designed by the architect Charles Alexander Lawrence. Lawrence was born in 1873 and educated in Aberdeen, Scotland. He immigrated to New Zealand in about 1895 and worked for the Scottish architect Thomas Turnbull in Wellington for a number of years. Lawrence joined the architectural branch of the Public Works Department and worked with John Campbell, Government Architect, before joining the firm of Penty & Blake. When Blake dissolved the partnership in 1909, the firm continued as Penty & Lawrence until Penty’s death in 1919. At that time, A. B. Hamilton had been taken into partnership but shortly after, in 1920, the practice was merged with that of Swan & Swan, the practice becoming Swan, Lawrence & Swan. Charles Lawrence died in 1933 aged 61.
Penty & Blake had been architects to the Wellington College Board of Governors in the early twentieth century and Lawrence became the Board architect in the 1920s, with a number of commissions. Surviving examples are the Cricket Pavilion and Firth House (former kitchen block & dining hall) – NZHPT Category 2 historic place (Register no. 4957). The foundation stones for the Pavilion and Firth House were laid on 25 June 1923 by His Excellency the Governor-General Lord Jellicoe and the two buildings, along with others, were opened on 1 December, 1924. Constructed of brick, both are of a symmetrical composition with Georgian Revival styling. They provide an important historic and architectural link to the past as the college has developed over time.
One of most important examples of Lawrence’s work is the Wellington East Girls’ College Main Building, on the corner of Austin and Paterson Streets – NZHPT Category 1 historic place (Register no. 1445), designed in 1923 when he was in partnership with Swan and Swan. The foundation stone was laid by Lord Jellicoe on 30 September 1924 and the building was completed and opened in April 1925. It is representative of neo-classical styling and includes a number of outstanding architectural features including the vestibule and grand staircase with ionic columns and black and white tiled flooring. The main building contributes to the sense of history and pride for the school and its retention and earthquake strengthening means that the building will continue to contribute to the school life of young women in Wellington. A beautiful example of public education buildings designed in the 1920s, it is an important architectural landmark in the suburb of Mt Victoria.