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Earthquake testing and diamond growing all in a day's work

Press release issued: 16 February 2006

Want to grow your own diamonds, visit a world-leading earthquake laboratory, see a famous historical map or visit Bristol’s ‘forgotten’ holiday resort? Then the new University of Bristol’s Tours Programme is for you.

Want to grow your own diamonds, visit a world-leading earthquake laboratory, see a famous historical map or visit Bristol’s ‘forgotten’ holiday resort?  Then the new University of Bristol’s Tours Programme is for you.

Launched this week, the programme offers tours around the University’s scientific departments and opportunities to visit its gardens, and historic buildings, several of which are the former homes of famous Bristolians.

In a talk and tour by Dr Paul May, Senior Lecturer in Physical Chemistry on 27 March, visitors can learn how University scientists have discovered the secrets of producing thin films of pure diamond.

On 26 April, Dr Hinke Osinga of the Department of Engineering Mathematics will demonstrate her crocheted representation of chaos and explain the theories behind the Millennium Bridge wobble.

On 14 June, Dr Cherry Lewis will talk about the century-old question surrounding marine fossils found on mountain-tops.  At the same time, the 1815 William Smith map of Great Britain – the first geological map of any country in the world – will be on display along with other original materials from the University’s Special Collections.

There will also be a rare opportunity to visit Europe’s largest earthquake laboratory (on 25 April) and a chance to see the apparatus used to magnify an insect’s eye thousands of times (on 22 March).  

Other tours offer the opportunity to learn about some well-known names connected with Bristol.  Cotham House, the home of Sir George White, founder of the British and Colonial and Bristol Aeroplane Companies in 1910, will be open for a tour on 11 May, while the life of Sir George Wills of Imperial Tobacco fame will be celebrated in his former Music Room at Burwalls on 5 May.

As part of the Brunel 200 celebrations, a special weekend (31 March - 1 April) will take a detailed look at Isambard Kingdom Brunel and his achievements. 

On 4 May, a talk ‘Over here…Americans in Bristol’ will explore the period during the Second World War when Eisenhower, General Omar Bradley and General Lee were regular visitors to Bristol.

The University is also providing an opportunity to learn more about Bristol itself with a heritage tour on 6 June covering the city’s literary and historical past, and two walking tours looking at Bristol’s slavery connections. 

For those with a passion for architecture, a special tour on 28 June will venture beyond the M5 to the pioneering settlement of Avonmouth where the 19th century Squire Miles thought that the land at ‘River Mouth’ had great potential as a popular holiday resort.  Shirehampton will be the centre for a walking tour including the opportunity to see the remains of a Benedictine Abbey, 17th and 18th century houses and Bristol’s own Garden Suburb.

Similar tours will also take place in the Victorian suburbs of Sneyd Park and Stoke Bishop on 8 and 15 March as well as visits to Old Baptist College, Lunsford House, Royal Fort House, Burwalls, Clifton Hill House, Goldney Gardens and Grotto and the University’s Theatre Collection. 

Besides all this there are seven guided tours around the new Botanic Garden in Stoke Bishop, a Springtime visit to the Churchill Hall Arboretum and other tree collections nurtured in University gardens.

Joan Lewis, University Tours Organiser said:  “This is a great opportunity for Bristolians to come inside the University, meet researchers, and learn more about their university and city.  The University of Bristol has world-class facilities and academics and through our past programmes thousands of Bristolians have come in to learn for themselves what is happening here.  We hope to see many more in the coming months.”

The Spring/Summer Tours Brochure is out now.  All tours must be booked and paid for in advance.  For a free copy contact Joan Lewis, Public Programmes Office, University of Bristol, 8-10 Berkeley Square, Bristol BS8 1HH; email:; telephone:  0117 928 7157 or visit


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