Our History

In 1934, an American bridge player visiting this country found that he was missing his competitive bridge and decided to do something about it.

Mr Otto Glen-Doepel placed an advertisement in the “Evening Post” with a plea for anyone interested to contact him. A meeting was called, attended by 80 people, and The New Zealand Contract Bridge Association (Wellington Division) was duly formed and registered some 13 months later as an incorporated society. In December 1937 the local club changed its name to The Wellington Bridge Club (Incorporated).

By March 1935 membership numbered 250 names and the Elm Tree Rooms, above McKenzie’s department store in Willis Street, was the Club’s first home. The first year’s membership stabilised at 120 players and apart from the years of World War II this figure remained constant until the world-wide bridge boom of the mid 1960’s. In 1936 the Club entered into a tenancy agreement with the National Club for the use of its rooms then situated above Johnston’s Wines & Spirits at the corner of Panama Street and Featherston Street, and thus began an association which was to continue until late 1949. Short-lived tenancies included the Boronia Tea Rooms in Lambton Quay (opposite Kirkcaldies), in Wakefield House on the Terrace, the Catholic Women’s League rooms in Lower Cuba Street, a brief return to Wakefield House, and in early 1955 the Club bought its own premises in Pipitea Street.

In the decade following the purchase of this building, membership increased from 120 to 180 and in the following 5 years was to more than double – from 180 to 375. By late 1965 the hunt was on again for new premises and the Club purchased a property from NZ Breweries Limited at 8 Moturoa Street. In August 1966, after considerable renovation, these premises were used for the first time and could boast of a playing room to accommodate 25 plus tables.

The move to Moturoa Street enabled the Club to settle into a regular routine – A grade on Wednesdays, B on Thursdays and all-comers on Mondays – to cope with its rapidly growing membership. July 1958 saw the creation of a new grade to play on the vacant evening each week and so it was found expedient to transfer the B playing night to Tuesday and the new “A Reserve” grade to use Thursdays, and so it has continued.

Bridge players are a competitive lot and it is interesting to note the first regular inter club competition made its appearance between the Wellington Club and Crockford’s Bridge Club in Christchurch (a comparatively cheap overnight ferry trip away), played annually on a home and away basis until it ended in 1954.

In 1989, with membership hovering around the 500 mark, the Wellington Bridge Club purchased its existing clubrooms at 17 Tinakori Road, Thorndon.

To quote the late, great Les Schneideman, for many years “Mr Bridge New Zealand”, replying to a remark that Wellington would be one of the best bridge clubs in New Zealand. Les bridled and practically trumpeted “IT IS THE BEST BRIDGE CLUB IN NEW ZEALAND.” Long may it remain so.

[extracts from “Bridging Fifty Years: A history of the Wellington Bridge Club 1934-1984” by J.G. (Woe) Wilson, compiled by Jenny Delaney]