History of Wills Hall

wills archwayWills Hall was officially opened by Sir Winston Churchill, who was then the Chancellor of the University, in December 1929. It was built on a 26 acre site around a nineteenth century house called Downside, which had been constructed in the style known as Strawberry Hill Gothic, and which is now the Warden's house. The hall was designed by Sir George Oatley, who was also responsible for many other fine buildings in the University and the City. The cost was met by Sir George Wills in memory of his brother Henry Herbert Wills - both of whom were sons of Henry Overton Wills, the first Chancellor of the University.

The original Downside House was extended to form the east side of the Quadrangle (now known as Old Quad houses A - M). The fine panelled first floor dining room with common rooms beneath (now including the JCR bar) was built at the same time. The adornments of this building include the grotesque figures. In 1930 a Chapel was added, the gift of Dame Monica Wills, the childless widow of Henry Herbert Wills.

To these original buildings, new accommodation was added in 1961 when an "L" shaped block known as XYZ was built. This was designed to form one part of a New Quad which was completed when UVW was opened in 1990. As well as providing over a hundred further rooms all with ensuite facilities, a Conference centre was built at the same time; this includes a room capable of seating up to 200 people.  XYZ block was completely refurbished during the summer of 2011.

Since 1956, Wills has had other halls of residence as neighbours, so that today over 2000 students live on the enlarged Stoke Bishop site in six different halls which are adjacent to each other and linked by walkways.

In 1929 when he opened the Hall the Rt Hon Winston Churchill signed the following statement: "I Winston Spencer Churchill MP, CH Chancellor of the University of Bristol, Declare there be no Finer Hostel than WILLS HALL among the Universities of the British Empire". It is for present members of the Hall to sustain its high reputation.