Rather than being spread out between different buildings or campuses, the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology is entirely based in the former Baptist Theological College, a period building in the heart of Georgian Clifton and in the centre of the modern University campus. As well as providing a pleasant and friendly atmosphere for classes, this is an architecturally significant building included by English Heritage on the List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest (Grade II).
The Baptist College was founded in Bristol in 1679, and after being based in premises in Broadmead and Stokes Croft, in 1914 the new Baptist College building at Woodland Road was commissioned. The site of the building lies adjacent to the Civil War Fort, which was converted in the eighteenth century into a polite house and garden landscape. The Baptist College looks out onto Royal Fort House and Gardens, which are also owned by the University and are open to students. The building remained in use by the Baptist College until 1999, when the Department moved into it.
The building's architect was Sir George Oatley, whose papers the University still holds. Oatley was one of the most important Bristol architects of the twentieth century, and had connections with the College through his West Country nonconformist family. Oatley designed many buildings for the University of Bristol, including the nearby Wills Memorial building described by Nikolaus Pevsner as 'a tour de force in Gothic Revival'.
The style of the building is neo-Jacobean and draws upon vernacular Cotswold architecture in its use of brick and limestone. The building work is of the highest quality throughout, and was carried out by J. Dallow and Sons of Birmingham, who received a fee of £29,000 for the work. It represents a very well preserved example of an Arts and Crafts Movement building with a three-story red brick exterior and stonework of superb quality including gargoyles, strapwork, square-headed mullion and transom windows (with carved heads on many of the mullions) and Bath Stone dressings. Inside, the exceptional quality of the building continues, with very fine quarter-cut oak doors, skirting boards, panels and other fixtures throughout in keeping with the building's Arts and Crafts style. The building also has high quality plain plasterwork, stone and brick fireplaces.
Most impressive, perhaps, is the exceptional collection of antiquarian stained and coloured glass that was brought from the College's previous premises and incorporated into the new building. This includes late fifteenth century Flanders yellow stain glass, seventeenth century enamelled glass probably from North Germany, late eighteenth century English glass made by the Pearson factory. Alongside this historic glass, a large Arts and Crafts stained glass staircase window was specially commissioned in 1916 from leading stained glass designer Arnold Robinson - a founder of the Bristol Guild of Applied Art. The window shows scenes from the life of William Tyndall, who produced the first English translation of the New Testament in 1525.
Converted and completely refurbished in 1999, the building is now the location of all Departmental teaching, with four lectures two large lecture theatres, two dedicated postgraduate teaching rooms, further small seminar rooms - and parking spaces for the Departmental Land Rovers outside! The building's first and second floors house the offices of all the Department's administrative and academic staff. A dedicated Resources Room (shared by Archaeology, Anthropology and History of Art), a networked postgraduate computer lab, common room and research students' office with telephone and internet access have also been provided within the building. As home to the largest Department of Archaeology and Anthropology in the UK, the building provides a uniquely comfortable and historic atmosphere for this vibrant and contemporary centre for teaching and research in archaeology and anthropology.