Bolton House Expands Knowledge of Its Namesake

by Brenda Waksel, archivist

Last week, we unveiled three posters depicting the life of William Washington Bolton, one of our founders and the namesake of Bolton house. The three posters were created after a query from two of the Bolton house parents, Mr. Keith Driscoll and Mr. Robert Common. They were interested in knowing the man behind the namesake of the house.

After speaking with Rob Wilson, school historian, they discovered Bolton was an athlete, academic and explorer. They were interested in having something on display in Bolton House to depict who W.W. Bolton was and his accomplishments. I collected the data, chose photos and found a way to display some of the information. The poster idea came to be a reality with the help of Alan Moss, an alumnus and framer.

Thanks to all these people, we have a chronology of W.W. Bolton’s life, a list of his athletic accomplishments and a brief record of his expeditions on Vancouver Island. The posters are currently on display on the 2nd floor of School House.

W.W. Bolton Facts

  • Bolton Lake is named after him
  • On one of the new posters, the map backdrop was drawn by W.W. Bolton in 1896 and the poem was written by him.
  • The Province newspaper carried articles written by W.W. Bolton.
  • Many names on the maps he drew of the areas he explored have been officially adopted and have become common place names today.
  • He once voyaged the full length of the Yukon, in a flat bottomed boat, from its lake beginnings to the Bering Sea, shooting the Whitehorse and Five-fingers rapids en route.
  • He received his BA and MA from Caius College, Cambridge.
  • He was ordained in 1881 by Bishop of Lichfield.
  • In 1878, he ran the mile in 4:46:6 and won various trophies for running and cycling, including holding a British record for an amateur with a time of 2:19:8 for the 1000-yard race.
  • He was also an accomplished athlete in boxing, rugby, soccer, long distance swimming, and tennis.
  • He was a Cambridge Blue and President of the Cambridge University Athletic Club.
  • On his 25th birthday, he walked 65 miles in 24 hours, 20 hours in actual walking.
  • He was a missionary in Moosomin, Saskatchewan in 1885-6.
  • Bolton led two expeditions on Vancouver Island in 1894 and 1896, which were key events leading to the formation of Strathcona Provincial Park and the exploration of Vancouver Island. His third expedition in 1910 formalized the land set aside for the park.
  • He retired in 1920 and taught at a tiny New Zealand protectorate, the Island of Nuie.
  • He returned to be Headmaster of the school from 1925 – 1928. His son, Gerard Bolton was the Bursar (Business Manager) of University School.
  • On his 85th birthday, he walked 40 miles in 15 hours in Tahiti, where he eventually retired.


  1. Fakaalofa atu!

    Thank you for the opportunity for a comment.
    Please, I am searching for information about WWBolton’s life whilst teaching on my small village (Hakupu Atua) in my small island of Niue. Did he take any photos of our people then? I have read some few accounts of his while on Niue but I’m just seeking if there are anymore…….. appreciate if you know some sites I can go to.
    Fakaaue lahi and Monuina to liu ke feleveia!

  2. Hi. Great to see this information. We have some research on W.W. Bolton in relation to his trip down the Yukon River but do not have noted what year it was that he went down. Would you happen to know this missing fact? Thank you.

  3. It’s wonderful to have this information about one of our school’s important founders. Thanks for putting in the time and effort!


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