Wills Memorial Building


 Photo of the Wills Memorial Building

Fondly regarded by Bristolians simply as 'The University', the Wills Memorial Building is the centrepiece of the University Precinct. This imposing venue at the top of Park Street has a breath-taking entrance with a sweeping double stone staircase and carved stone vaulted ceiling. The magnificent Great Hall lies within, as do other grand rooms resplendent with carved wood paneling and feature windows, and built according to a monumental Perpendicular style. This extravagant structure has been called the last great Gothic building to be constructed in England.

The Wills Memorial Buliding was described by the architectural historian Sir Nikolaus Pevsner as “a tour de force in Gothic Revival, so convinced, so vast, and so competent that one cannot help feeling respect for it”. The most prominent feature of the building is Wills Tower, which standing at 215 feet (65.5m) provides breathtaking views of  the City of Bristol beneath.                                      


The Wills Memorial Building was given to the University by Sir George A Wills and Mr. Henry Herbert Wills, in honour of their father, Henry Overton Wills (1828-1911), benefactor and first Chancellor of the University. It was designed in 1912 by Sir George Oatley, in the Gothic style, and sited in an impressive position at the top of Park Street.

Construction of the Wills Memorial Building began in 1914, but was interrupted by World War I. Work resumed in 1919, and the building was eventually completed in 1925; the opening ceremony was attended by George V.

Several different building stones were used in the construction. The fine details of the carving were the result of the collaboration between Sir George Oatley and Jean Hahn (of the King's Heath Guild, in Birmingham), although several local stonemasons carried out work under their direction.

The building was originally designed to provide about 50 rooms in addition to the magnificent Entrance Hall, Great Hall, General Library, Reception Room and Council Chamber; a later extension added more rooms and increased the size of the library. The building currently houses the Faculty of Law, and the Department of Earth Sciences.

Conference Facilities

Photograph of the Great Hall in the Wills Memorial Building   The Great Hall The focal point of the Wills Memorial Building is the Great Hall, which can seat up to 800 people for plenary lectures, and 270 for banqueting.

The adjacent Reception Room can also hold up to 200 for lectures and up to 250 for a standing reception.

There are also 8 Seminar Rooms and Lecture Theatres of varying sizes to accomodate parallel sessions and additional seminars and roundtables.                       




Wills Memorial Building Reception Room

    Wills Memorial Building Great Hall banquet picture        

         The Reception Room                                           The Great Hall