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Harry Patch, 109, WWI veteran, lights up city's skyline

The opening of the Wills Memorial Building in 1925

The opening of the Wills Memorial Building in 1925

Park Street before the Wills Memorial Building

Park Street before the Wills Memorial Building

Press release issued: 21 February 2008

Harry Patch, a 109-year-old veteran of the Great War and a member of the workforce which constructed Bristol University’s Wills Memorial Building in 1920s, switched on the new Wills Tower floodlights at a special ceremony held last night [20 February] to celebrate the completion of the tower restoration project.

Harry Patch, a 109-year-old veteran of the Great War and a member of the workforce which constructed Bristol University’s Wills Memorial Building in 1920s, switched on the new Wills Tower floodlights at a special ceremony held last night [20 February] to celebrate the completion of the tower restoration project.

Mr Patch was chosen as the most appropriate person to switch on the new lights. He worked on the construction of the Wills Memorial Building as a plumber for three years and attended the formal opening of the building on 9 June 1925 by King George V and Queen Mary.  He had also been at the topping-out ceremony and remembers placing newly minted coins under the lead sheeting covering the trapdoor at the top of the tower.

Harry said: “I remember the day in 1925 when King George V opened the Wills Building. The tower looks as beautiful now as it did then, and it is a very special pleasure to be invited by the University to switch on these floodlights.”

The project, which has taken two years and cost £750,000 to complete, has restored the 68-metre-high tower of the Grade II* listed building to its original sandy colour using the latest environmentally friendly techniques. The University has worked closely with Planning and Conservation Officers from Bristol City Council and with English Heritage to ensure that the scheme is environmentally friendly as well as in keeping with the building and its surroundings. The lights are energy-efficient and will turn on at dusk and switch off at midnight.

Dave Skelhorne, the University’s Contract Supervisor, said: “Switching on the lights is the final piece in the jigsaw of repair, renovation and illumination of the tower - a mammoth project which has taken two years to complete. The tower looks truly magnificent and will now be an even more impressive sight on the city’s skyline.”