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University tower tours reach £20,000 fundraising milestone

Laura Madams, Community Fundraiser at the Grand Appeal, collects a cheque from tour guides Gary Nott, Paris Nott and Dave Skelhorne

Press release issued: 4 March 2015

Tours of one of Bristol’s tallest and most iconic buildings have raised an impressive £20,000 towards caring for sick babies and children in the city.

Thousands of people have now climbed the steps to the top of the Wills Memorial Building as part of the Tower Tours, held to raise money for Wallace and Gromit’s Grand Appeal, the Bristol Children’s Hospital Charity.

Ad-hoc tours of the imposing Neo Gothic landmark, owned by the University of Bristol, began 16 years ago, with staff and students keen to see what goes on behind the grand facade. It grew to be so popular that tour times were formalised and opened up to the public in return for a donation.

It’s now ranked 3rd on Tripadvisor for attractions in Bristol, with an overall 5* rating.

The tours are coordinated and ran by guides Dave Skelhorne and Gary Nott, who is the senior porter for the Wills Memorial Building.

Dave, a senior tour guide, said: “We’ve been making donations to the Grand Appeal for well over a decade but it’s really taken-off in the past few years since we’ve opened it up to the public. We’ve had visitors from all corners of the globe, all amazed at the building’s history and the spectacular views from the top of the tower.

“To reach £20,000 is beyond what we ever expected. It’s a wonderful achievement thanks to all our visitors’ kind donations and we hope to raise even more money for this brilliant charity in the future.”

More than 16,000 people have now enjoyed the Tower Tours, including local school children, foreign visitors, dignitaries visiting the city, University staff and students and prospective students.

Laura Madams, Community Fundraiser at the Grand Appeal, said: “To raise £20,000 is a fantastic achievement and we’re so grateful to Dave, Gary and the team. Their tireless hard work and the generous donations from the public help us to ensure that sick children and babies in Bristol continue to receive the best care possible at Bristol Children’s Hospital.”

Officially opened in 1925, the Wills Memorial Building houses the University’s School of Law and the School of Earth Sciences, in addition to hosting graduation ceremonies twice a year and a whole host of public events.

The tours allow the public to see behind the grand facade and experience the splendour of the Great Hall, Council Chamber and ornate libraries.

There’s also a unique opportunity to climb to the top of the tower and see the famous Great George bell – the seventh largest in England, weighing in at 9.5 tonnes - being rung.

The view from the top of Wills Tower, some 68 metres above Park Street, is unparalleled and tour guides give a unique insight into the history of the building, which was opened by King George V and Queen Mary in 1925 before being badly damaged during the Blitz in 1940.

  • Tours of the Wills Memorial Building take place on the first Wednesday and Saturday of the month. On Saturdays, they are held every half an hour between 10.30am and 12.30pm. They are at 12.15pm and 12.30pm on Wednesdays. There's an additional tour at 1pm every Saturday.
  • Tours cost £5 per person, with a £3 concessionary rate for students over 11-years-old, senior citizens and members of the University. Children aged between eight and 11 are £1. Unfortunately, due to health and safety, children under eight are not permitted on the tours.
  • Booking is advisable in advance by emailing or by calling Gary Nott on 0117 954 5219.

Further information

The Grand Appeal has raised over £31 million to support sick babies and children at Bristol Children’s Hospital and the Special Care Baby Unit at St Michael’s Hospital providing life-saving equipment, patient activities, new services and family accommodation. The Appeal runs Cots for Tots House – a 12 bedded family accommodation unit for the parents of critically ill babies treated in the Special Care Baby Unit.

Bristol Children’s Hospital is one of the UK’s leading children’s hospitals treating patients from across the South West, South Wales and beyond with life-threatening illnesses and serves as the paediatric intensive care centre for the whole South West region. The hospital is an international, national and regional specialist centre of excellence for a range of services including neurosurgery, burns, cardiac, leukaemia and bone marrow transplants.

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