Henry Overton Wills III

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Henry Overton Wills III

Henry Overton Wills III (22 December 1828 – 4 September 1911) was an English businessman and benefactor. He became the first Chancellor of the University of Bristol.


Wills entered the family firm of W. D. & H. O. Wills in 1846, but retired from active association with the business in 1880, due to poor health. When the formation of Imperial Tobacco greatly increased the family’s wealth, they began to contribute significant amounts of money to local causes.[1] The most significant of these was announced by his son, Sir George Alfred Wills Bt. in 1908, when he read a letter from his father promising £100,000 (around £10 million in today's money) to fund the charter of a university for Bristol if it were obtained within two years. With the charter and further funding quickly obtained, the University of Bristol was founded in 1909 with Henry as its first Chancellor.[2] When he died in 1911, his estate was valued at £5,214,821, around £520 million in today's money.

Residence - Kelston Knoll, Nr.Bath, Somerset.


The Wills Memorial Building, one of the landmark buildings of Bristol University, was named in Henry's honour by his sons George and Harry.[3][4][5][6] One of the Wills' family homes, Downside House in Bristol, is now a hall of residence known as Wills Hall for the university.[7]


He was the eldest son of Henry Overton Wills II & Isabella Board, and cousin of William Henry Wills, 1st Baron Winterstoke, first Chairman of Imperial Tobacco. He was also a brother of Sir Edward Payson Wills Bt, Sir Frederick Wills Bt, & half brother of Sir Frank William Wills Kt.

His two other sons involved in the Wills tobacco business were, Henry Herbert Wills, and Walter Melville Wills. He was also an uncle of Gilbert Wills, 1st Baron Dulverton, & Sir Ernest Salter Wills, 3rd Baronet of Hazelwood.


  1. ^ "Henry Overton Wills III 1828 - 1911". The Wills Family. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 14 November 2015.
  2. ^ "Sculpture of Henry Overton Wills III by Edwin Whitney-Smith". University of Bristol. Retrieved 14 November 2015.
  3. ^ Bristol University | The University | The Wills Memorial Building Archived 2007-10-10 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ http://www.about-bristol.co.uk/lnd-03.asp
  5. ^ Building – 686 – Wills Memorial Tower – Bristol
  6. ^ "Bristol University". Wills Tower set for new glory. Retrieved 23 June 2007.
  7. ^ "Wills Hall Guide" (PDF). University of Bristol. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 November 2015. Retrieved 14 November 2015.

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Academic offices
Preceded by
Chancellor of the University of Bristol
Succeeded by
The Viscount Haldane