Sir Raymond Priestley, the distinguished Antarctic explorer and Vice Chancellor of the University of Birmingham from 1938-52 had enjoyed joining in with the Physical Education Department camps at Coniston and sharing his own adventurous experiences and consented to the Centre being named after him.
As a geologist he had joined the British Antarctic expedition of 1907-9 led by Sir Ernest Shackleton, sailing on the 'Nimrod'.
He was also recruited by Captain. R.F. Scott in 1910 for his Terra Nova expedition. During this expedition Scott lost his life. Raymond Priestley was with the Northern Party and they survived the fierce conditions by digging a snow hole.
It is said that his responsibility for the group in the ice cave in these circumstances, showed an early reputation for fairness and reliability.