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Doors Open for University buildings

Royal Fort

Clifton Hill House

Press release issued: 10 September 2014

Interested in what goes on behind closed doors? This Saturday [13 September] four of the University’s buildings will be open to the public allowing for a unique experience of some of Bristol’s iconic buildings

The doors will be open to Royal Fort House, Clifton Hill House, the Theatre Collection and the Wills Memorial Building - where visitors will be able to take in the view from 68 metres above Park Street.

It’s part of Bristol Doors Open Day, an event which showcases Bristol’s hidden treasures – allowing members of the public to take a look behind the scenes of more than 60 of the city’s most interesting buildings.  Entry into all of the venues is free.

The Centre for Public Engagement has arranged for the University to once again take part in the popular city-wide event, which is now in its 21st year.

This year’s event is bigger than ever, with venues taking part across all areas of the city, and as far afield as Blaise Castle House Museum and Dairy.  The venues are an eclectic mix of old and new, from Kings Weston Roman Villa to At-Bristol Science Centre, one of the UK’s most advanced low-energy installations as well as recognisable Bristol landmarks such as the Clifton Suspension Bridge and St Mary Redcliffe church.

Royal Fort House (off Tyndall Avenue, BS8 1UJ)

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.

Tour times: 10am, 11am, 12 noon, 1pm, 2pm and final tour at 3pm

Clifton Hill House (Lower Clifton Hill, BS8 1BX)

Clifton Hill House was built between 1746 and 1750 as a most imposing semi-rural mansion of Palladian inspiration for Paul Fisher, a highly successful linen draper, a very wealthy merchant and ship-owner who participated in the slave trade of the time.

In 1851, Clifton Hill was bought by Dr John Addington Symonds, a well-known Bristol physician who was famous not only for his medical proficiency but also for his gift at entertaining the literary and artistic elite of his time.  When Dr Symonds died in 1871, the house passed to his son, John Addington Symonds, who was a poet, historian, literary and art critic.

The house was sold to the University in 1909 and became the first hall of residence for women in the South West of England.  It is now a popular mixed hall of residence, housing a lively community of some 230 students.

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

Theatre Collection (21 Park Row, BS1 5LY)

The Theatre Collection is an accredited museum and one of the world’s largest archives of British theatre and live art.  Founded in 1951 to serve the country’s first Drama Department, it is now an internationally renowned research facility.

On Doors Open Day, visitors will have the opportunity to view the Theatre Collection’s new exhibition ‘Corresponding with Conflict’, which is a new exhibition project commemorating the First World War and breathing new life into past works to encourage fresh encounters with the Collection.

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

Wills Memorial Building (Queen’s Road, BS8 1RJ)

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.

The building was opened in by King George V and Queen Mary in 1925 before being badly damaged by the Blitz in 1940.

Visitors will have the opportunity to enjoy a tower tour, allowing an unparalled view of Bristol from the top of Park Street.

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

Tour times: 9.35am, 9.55am, 10.15am, 10.35am,10.55am, 11.15am, 11.35am, 11.55am, 12.15pm, 12.35pm, 13.15pm, 13.35pm, 13.55pm, 14.15pm, 14.35pm, 14.55pm, 15.15pm

Further information

For further details, see the Centre for Public Engagement website or contact Diane Thorne on 0117 331 8318 or

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