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Take a sneak peek behind closed doors at Bristol University

Bristol Heart Institute

Bristol Heart Institute

Royal Fort House

Royal Fort House

Press release issued: 2 September 2011

A rare glimpse inside some of Bristol University’s finest architectural and historic buildings is taking place next weekend as part of the city-wide Bristol Doors Open Day.

Now in its 18th year and part of the national Doors Open Day initiative, the event on 10 September invites the public to take a look inside a number of the city’s most interesting buildings.

This year, the University’s Centre for Public Engagement has arranged for the Wills Memorial Building, Royal Fort House, Clifton Hill House and the Bristol Heart Institute to be opened.

And a special preview of an exhibition by Bristol artist Clare Thornton, who is the inaugural Artist in Residence at the University’s Theatre Collection, is also taking place in the Theatre Collection’s foyer on Park Row.

As well as a chance for the public to take tours of the buildings, visitors will also have the opportunity to learn about the teaching and research that goes on within them through a series of interactive exhibits highlighting some of the University’s latest research.

One exhibit is a simple experiment on how people make choices. Michael Sanders from the Centre for Market and Public Organisation (CMPO) invites visitors to look at how Game Theory can inform our everyday decisions.

He said: “This is a great opportunity to explore how we behave. It just so happens that our laboratory for the day is such a beautiful room.”

The experiment will be set up like a series of voting booths and the challenge is to anticipate how others will react.

Entry to all buildings is free.

Wills Memorial Building

One of the city’s landmark buildings, the Wills Memorial Building was designed in 1912 by Sir George Oatley, providing spectacular interior space. It was one of the last magnificent Gothic buildings constructed in England.

As well as an opportunity for the public to take a tour to the top of the 215-foot, Grade II* listed tower, visitors will also be able to enjoy an exhibition of research on dinosaurs, ancient artifacts and strategic decision-making games in the Reception Room.

The Entrance Hall, Great Hall and Reception Room, Council Chamber and Library will all be open for public viewing.

Tour times: 9.55 am, 10.15 am, 10.35 am, 10.55 am, 11.15 am, 11.35 am, 11.55 am, 12.15 pm, 12.35 pm, 13.15 pm, 13.35 pm, 13.55 pm, 14.15 pm, 14.35 pm, 14.55 pm and 15.15 pm. Tours to the top of the tower must be booked in advance at the first floor reception desk on the day.

Royal Fort House

Royal Fort House, one of the finest Georgian houses in Bristol and rarely open to the public, was designed by James Bridges and built in 1758-62 on the site of a Civil War fortification for Thomas Tyndall, a wealthy Bristol merchant, and his young wife Alicia. The house, which has outstanding Rococo plasterwork, public artwork and gardens, was named the Royal Fort in honour of Prince Rupert.

As well as tours of the building, visitors will be able to view several pieces of artwork from the Raymond Mander & Joe Mitchenson collection, which was acquired in 2011 by the University of Bristol Theatre Collection. A selection of oil paintings are on display in Royal Fort House, alongside other theatrical portraits from the existing holdings of the Theatre Collection.

Tour times: 10 am, 11 am, 12 pm, 1 pm, 2 pm and 3 pm. Places are limited and are on a first come, first served basis.

Clifton Hill House

Clifton Hill House was built between 1746 and 1750 as an imposing semi-rural mansion of Palladian inspiration for Paul Fisher, a highly successful and wealthy merchant and ship-owner. The house was once the home of Victorian writer John Addington Symonds. It is now used for functions and meetings all year round and boasts elegant Georgian reception rooms, a print gallery and foyer.

There are no guided tours but staff will be on hand throughout the day to answer any questions about the building.

Bristol Heart Institute, Bristol Royal Infirmary (Horfield Rd, BS2 8HW)

The Bristol Heart Institute (BHI) is a £61 million state-of-the-art regional cardiothoracic centre, part of University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust working in partnership with the University of Bristol.  It has been taking patients since May 2009.

The BHI building has received several awards for its innovative design and patient environment, including a prestigious Building Better Healthcare award for Best Use of Visual Art in Healthcare, a 2009 blue plaque from the Bristol Civic Society’s Environmental Awards and the Royal Institute of British Architects Ibstock Premier Award and best Public Sector building.

Bristol University Theatre Collection (21 Park Street, BS1 5LY)

Clare Thornton, the Theatre Collection’s first Artist in Residence, is giving a special preview of the “Unfurl” exhibition she’s working on to mark the Collection’s 60th anniversary.   The exhibition focuses on the recently acquired Raymond Mander & Joe Mitchenson collection which totals more than 2,500 boxes of archive material relating to British theatre history.  Clare will reveal some of its hidden treasures and make new work inspired by the holdings.

The exhibition will be open to the public between 10am and 4pm in the foyer of the Theatre Collection.


Further information

Further information about the University's involvement is available on the Centre for Public Engagement website or by contacting Diane Thorne on 0117 331 8318 or by email.

More information about what's happening across the city is available on the Bristol Doors Open Day website.

Please contact Diane Thorne for further information.
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