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038644-F_cropped copyEstab­lished in 1887, the psy­chi­at­ric hos­pit­al in Pori­rua has had a sig­ni­fic­ant influ­ence on the life of the city. In the early 1880s, the gov­ern­ment decided to move Wellington’s men­tal health-care facil­ity from the site now occu­pied by Gov­ern­ment House to a rur­al set­ting in Pori­rua. This, it was thought, would pro­tect patients from pub­lic curi­os­ity, and give them plenty of fresh air and exer­cise from work­ing on the hos­pit­al farm. The hos­pit­al would also gain a meas­ure of self-sufficiency.

The hos­pit­al grew to become the largest in New Zea­l­and, and the largest employ­er in the Pori­rua area. In 1904, it had 612 patients; by 1925, there were 1,261.

Sport­ing and social clubs soon grew to cater for the needs of the staff, which numbered 62 in 1905. The Men­tal Hos­pit­al Foot­ball Club was estab­lished in 1906, and crick­et soon fol­lowed. In 1908, a loc­al pun­dit repor­ted that “the wick­et at the Men­tal Hos­pit­al grounds at Pori­rua is as fine a one as he has ever seen, being beau­ti­fully level, and with a fine body of grass on it. If town play­ers want to enjoy a game they can­not do bet­ter than take the Pori­rua lads on at their own ground.”

A bowl­ing club was estab­lished in 1921. Like the crick­et club, the bowl­ing green catered for patients as well as staff. Sport was con­sidered thera­peut­ic­ally import­ant, and was seen as par­tic­u­larly valu­able for the rehab­il­it­a­tion of the hun­dreds of dam­aged men and women who returned from the Great War.

By 1926, the year this pho­to­graph was taken by Crown Stu­di­os, the Pori­rua Hos­pit­al Asso­ci­ation Foot­ball Club was a major force in the Wel­ling­ton com­pet­i­tion. The team reached the semi-finals of the Chath­am Cup in the same year, los­ing to North Shore at the Basin Reserve. They would go on to win the cup in 1935.

The club became the West­ern Sub­urbs Club in 1956 and, after a couple of name changes in the 1970s and 1980s, it con­tin­ues under that name today. West­ern Sub­urbs won the Chath­am Cup again in 1971 and in 2006.


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