William Wills, 1st Baron Winterstoke

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Sir William Wills
"Birdseye". Caricature by Spy published in Vanity Fair in 1893.

William Henry Wills, 1st Baron Winterstoke (1 September 1830 – 29 January 1911), known as Sir William Wills, Bt., between 1893 and 1906, was a British businessman, philanthropist and Liberal politician.

Seat - Combe Lodge, Blagdon, Somerset. London residence - 25 Hyde Park Gardens. Seaside retreat - Eastcourt, Ramsgate, Kent.


Wills was the son of William Day Wills and a cousin of Sir Edward Payson Wills Bt, Sir Frederick Wills Bt, Sir Frank William Wills Kt, and Henry Overton Wills III, first chancellor of the University of Bristol.

Business career[edit]

A member of the wealthy Bristol tobacco importing Wills family, Wills joined the family firm at an early age. In 1858 he went into partnership with two of his cousins to form W. D. & H. O. Wills, which later became the Imperial Tobacco Company, of which he became the first chairman. Recognised as the head of the tobacco industry in Britain, he was also Chairman of the Bristol Chamber of Commerce. In 1904 he presented the Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery to the people of Bristol.

Political career[edit]

Wills was a member of the Bristol City Council from 1862 to 1880 and sheriff of the City from 1877 to 1878. He also sat as Liberal Member of Parliament (MP) for two separate five-year periods: for Coventry from 1880 to 1885, and for Bristol East from 1895 to 1900.[1] He served as High Sheriff of Somerset in 1905.[2]

He was made a Baronet, of Coombe Lodge in the Parish of Blagdon in the County of Somerset, in 1893[3] and raised to the peerage as Baron Winterstoke, of Blagdon in the County of Somerset, in 1906.[4] He took his title from the ancient hundred of Winterstoke, in which his home at Blagdon lay.

Personal life[edit]

Wills was educated at Mill Hill School, before joining the family tobacco business.

Lord Winterstoke was a keen supporter of the arts, serving as President of what is now the Royal West of England Academy (RWA) from 1898 until his death in 1911 and donating the money to create Bristol City Art Gallery, whose facade bears the inscription "The Gift of Sir William Henry Wills to his Fellow Citizens 1904".

He died without heirs in January 1911, aged 80, when the baronetcy and barony became extinct. His estate was worth £2,548,209, which is about £250 million taking into account inflation. A portrait of Lord Winterstoke hangs in the JCR of Mansfield College, Oxford.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Craig, F. W. S. (1989) [1974]. British parliamentary election results 1885–1918 (2nd ed.). Chichester: Parliamentary Research Services. ISBN 0-900178-27-2. 
  2. ^ "No. 27777". The London Gazette. 21 March 1905. p. 2179. 
  3. ^ "No. 26432". The London Gazette. 15 August 1893. p. 4641. 
  4. ^ "No. 27883". The London Gazette. 6 February 1906. p. 869. 
  5. ^ https://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/paintings/search/located_at/mansfield-college-university-of-oxford-7525_locations
Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Henry Eaton
Henry Mather Jackson
Member of Parliament for Coventry
With: Sir Henry Mather Jackson 1880–1881
Henry Eaton 1881–1885
Succeeded by
Henry Eaton
Preceded by
Sir Joseph Dodge Weston
Member of Parliament for Bristol East
Succeeded by
Charles Hobhouse
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Baron Winterstoke