The wishing well in Oriental Bay is one of the Bay's well-loved features. Tucked into the hillside below Oriental Terrace, it's a favourite spot for children to lean over its edge and examine the tiles depicting fish, crabs, starfish, sea snails, shells of many sorts and seagulls.
It was originally the gift of the Wellington Jaycees (this club no longer exists). Members built it themselves in 1960. A literary lot those Jaycees, as they commemorated the event with a Shakespearean quote in a plaque beside the well: "Sweet health and fair desires/Consort your grace,/Thy own wish—wish I thee/In every place."
But 36 years after it was built, the wishing well had holes in the fibreboard walls; water pipes that weren't working and rubbish had collected in the base. So in the mid-1990s, Oriental Bay Residents' Association undertook the challenge of renovating it. The project was led by Jane Aim, a committee member at the time and now a life member of OBRA.
The original concept had been designed by a local resident Belinda Reburn who then worked with the Wellington City Council but now lives in Nelson. The tiles were all handmade by Neville Porteous of Khandallah who had — and still has — a 'bolthole' in Oriental Bay. He is internationally renowned for his tiles, especially for those using art nouveau motifs. For the wishing well he portrayed Wellington's coastal marine life in exquisitely sculptured tiles. Half of them have a blue background and the other half sea-green.
Some of the tiles are flat and these were painted by artist Helene Carrol. The water flowing down one wall adds to the scene.
With the exterior of the wishing well transformed, the underground water system renewed and the wishing well lit at night, it has become a beloved part of the Bay again and will be, hopefully, for many years to come.
Renovations were possible thanks to generous donations from Jack Ilott and the Community Trust of Wellington. OBRA contributed but the main cost was borne by Wellington City Council under Peter Hemsley's direction. He said that the council undertook to clean the tiles recently — they tend to acquire a brownish stain over time — and that was a tremendous improvement.
With thanks to Jane Aim for the above information.
Bay View newsletter 67, May 2016