Wills Memorial Building

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Wills Memorial Building
Wills Memorial Building from road during day.jpg
The Wills Memorial Building
General information
Architectural style Perpendicular Gothic, Gothic revival
Town or city Bristol
Country England
Construction started 1915
Completed 1925
Cost £501,566 19s 10d
Client W. D. & H. O. Wills
Height 215 ft (65.5 m)
Design and construction
Architect Sir George Oatley

Coordinates: 51°27′22″N 2°36′16″W / 51.45611°N 2.60444°W / 51.45611; -2.60444

The Wills Memorial Building (also known as the Wills Memorial Tower or simply the Wills Tower) is a Neo Gothic building designed by Sir George Oatley and built as a memorial to Henry Overton Wills III.[1][2][3][4] Begun in 1915 and not opened until 1925, it is considered one of the last great Gothic buildings to be built in England.[5]

Situated near the top of Park Street on Queens Road in Bristol, United Kingdom,[5] it is a landmark building of the University of Bristol that currently houses the School of Law and the Department of Earth Sciences, as well as the Law and Earth Sciences libraries.[6] It is the third highest structure in Bristol, standing at 215 ft (65.5 m).[7]

Many regard the building as synonymous with the University of Bristol. It is the centrepiece building of the university precinct[8] and is used by the University of Bristol for degree ceremonies and examinations, which take place in the Great Hall.[9]

Architecture commentator Nikolaus Pevsner described it as:

"a tour de force in Gothic Revival, so convinced, so vast, and so competent that one cannot help feeling respect for it."[10]

It has been designated by English Heritage as a grade II* listed building[11] [12] and serves as a regional European Documentation Centre.

History[edit]

The Wills Memorial Geology Library
Wills Memorial Building, front face

The Wills Memorial Building was commissioned in 1912 by George Alfred Wills and Henry Herbert Wills, the magnates of the Bristol tobacco company W. D. & H. O. Wills, in honour of their father, Henry Overton Wills III, benefactor and first Chancellor of the University who donated £100,000 to the University. Sir George Oatley, who also worked on a number of other buildings for the University,[13] was chosen as architect and told to "build to last". He produced a design in the Perpendicular Gothic style, to evoke the famous university buildings of Oxford and Cambridge. The building was funded through the fortunes which the Wills family made through tobacco[1] Oatley later claimed that his inspiration for the building came from a dream where he saw a tower on a hill with shields around it.[14]

Construction was started in 1915 but was halted in 1916 due to the continuation of World War I.[15] Building was restarted in 1919, and the Wills Memorial Building was finally opened on 9 June 1925 by King George V and Queen Mary,[16] having cost a total of £501,566 19s 10d. The building was opened with a Royal Salute of 21 chimes from 'Great George', the nine and a half ton bell within the octagonal belfry of the tower, which is tolled on the death of a monarch or chancellor.[17] To celebrate the Centenary of the University receiving its charter, 'Great George' was rung, along with bells in Bristol's other churches, just as they did in May 1909 when King Edward VII granted the University its Royal Charter to grant degrees.[18] Oatley received a knighthood that same year in recognition of his work on the building.[19]

In 1940, during the Bristol Blitz of World War II, the Great Hall with its Hammerbeam roof was badly damaged by a German bomb-blast. It was restored in the 1960s to Oatley's original design:[17] at the same time the adjoining wing was enlarged by Ralph Brentnall.

Architecture[edit]

The building's dominant feature is Wills Tower. The tower is reinforced concrete faced with Bath and Clipsham stone,[2] with carving designed in collaboration with Jean Hahn of King's Heath Guild, Birmingham. At 215 ft (65.5 m) high it is over twice the height of nearby Cabot Tower. It is 16 metres square and ornamented with heraldic shields.

It is topped by an octagonal lantern which houses Great George (England's sixth-largest bell, weighing over 9.5 tonnes) which strikes on the hour.[20]

In addition to the Great Hall there is a General Library, Reception Room and Council Chamber and another 50 rooms including some teaching space such as seminar rooms and lecture theatres. In the Entrance Hall are two ceremonial staircases. The building is also used as a conference venue.[8]

Restoration work[edit]

Restoration work in 2006

In 2006, cleaning work began on the Wills Memorial Building costing £750,000.[21] Cleaning on the building revealed the engraving "IO TRIVMPHE"[22] intended as a tribute to the architect of the building Sir George Oatley. The engraving had remained hidden for over 80 years[23] and recognises the role of Sir Isambard Owen (then Vice-Chancellor) in the realisation of Oately's plans. Harry Patch, World War One veteran who also worked on the building, re-unveiled the now clean building.[24]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Bristol University | The University | The Wills Memorial Building
  2. ^ a b http://www.about-bristol.co.uk/lnd-03.asp
  3. ^ Building – 686 – Wills Memorial Tower – Bristol
  4. ^ "Bristol University". Wills Tower set for new glory. Retrieved 23 June 2007. 
  5. ^ a b The Wills Memorial Building is situated at the top of Park Street in Queens Road
  6. ^ Bristol University | The University | Law Library
  7. ^ http://www.emporis.com/application/?lng=3&nav=building&id=151240
  8. ^ a b Bristol University – Centre for Romantic Studies – Wills Memorial Building
  9. ^ Bristol University | The University | Graduation
  10. ^ "Wills Memorial Building". University of Bristol, Centre for Romantic Studies. Archived from the original on 27 June 2006. Retrieved 18 March 2006. 
  11. ^ "University Tower and Wills Memorial Building and attached front walls and lamps". National Heritage List for England. English Heritage. Retrieved 3 May 2014. 
  12. ^ "University Tower and Wills Memorial Building and attached front walls and lamps". Images of England. Retrieved 13 March 2007. 
  13. ^ "Administrative/Biological History". Sir George Oatley Architectural Papers. Archives Hub. Retrieved 22 September 2011. 
  14. ^ Wills Memorial Building
  15. ^ http://www.gly.bris.ac.uk/www/services/museum/wmb.html
  16. ^ "University of Bristol Press Release: Harry Patch, 109, WWI veteran, lights up city's skyline". University of Bristol. 21 February 2008. Retrieved 22 September 2011. 
  17. ^ a b Burrough, THB (1970). Bristol. London: Studio Vista. ISBN 0-289-79804-3. 
  18. ^ http://www.bristol.ac.uk/news/2009/6367.html
  19. ^ "New Chapter for the Wills Memorial Building". University of Bristol. Retrieved 18 March 2006. 
  20. ^ "Wills Memorial Building". Bristol-Link.co.uk. Retrieved 18 March 2006. 
  21. ^ Bristol University | News from the University | Wills Tower set for new glory
  22. ^ Wills Memorial Building – August 2006
  23. ^ Bristol University | News from the University | 80-year-old engraving finally discovered
  24. ^ "Obituary: Private Harry Patch". Daily Telegraph (London). 25 July 2009. Retrieved 25 July 2009. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]