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WHA 90th Anniversary

The inaugural luncheon for the foundation of Wills Hall took place on 14 December 1929. On 14 December 2019, exactly 90 years later, the Hall celebrated its 90th anniversary with one of the most splendid Hall dinners ever arranged, rivalling even the spectacular event hosted for the 80th anniversary. We dined by candlelight (Health and Safety gave us a dispensation!). Dinner was preceded by the Wills Hall Fanfare for brass quartet, composed by two former Senior Residents, and a sumptuous menu was prepared by Chef Alastair Bowering.

The WHA is pleased to have been able to subsidize all tickets for the many current students who attended. Seven of the then JCR Committee attended, including the 95th President, Terri Boardman. The easy mix of young, contemporary members of Wills and their older counterparts was what made the evening so special: the fact that they mingled, conversed, and shared their experiences so readily constituted perhaps the real value of the evening. We cherished also the willingness of the distinguished guests to chat freely to current undergraduate and postgraduate students. There cannot be all that many occasions when a first-year lawyer gets to talk one-to-one, in-depth, to the President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, and everyone present will never forget this experience.

This was our guest of honour, Brenda Hale, Lady Hale of RIchmond, Former Chancellor of the University, and a Patron of the WHA. Both the current Chancellor, Sir Paul Nurse, and Sir Nicholas Soames, grandson of Sir Winston Churchill, were unfortunately unable to accept their invitations to join us for the dinner because of overseas commitments. They nonetheless asked us to pass on congratulations on the anniversary to the members of the WHA and to current residents. Lady Hale was something of a hit with the guests that evening, and many a selfie was taken with her gracious permission!

Our most senior former resident of the Hall that evening was Mr Kenneth Gardner, who was in residence between 1948 and 1950, so roughly seventy years before the anniversary dinner. We also hosted nine former JCR Presidents, a brace of former Deputy Wardens, and six recent former Senior Residents, including Peter Relph, who with Elan Higueras composed the fanfare that opened the dinner. It was a pleasure also to have the company of two much-loved professional and facilities services colleagues, former Student Support Advisor Sarah Price and long-time Receptionist Michael Hoare.
We were a distinguished gathering for this event, honoured by the presence of Bristol’s Lord Mayor, Councillor Jos Clark, by two Deputy Lieutenants of the City and County of Bristol (Denis Burn and Colonel Dr Jane Thompson, who is also a former Deputy Warden of Wills Hall), a former Lord Lieutenant and current Bristol University Pro-Chancellor, Dr Mary Prior, and two more of the WHA’s Patrons, Bob Marshall-Andrews and Stephen Williams. Pro-Vice-Chancellor Prof Sarah Purdy and Associate PVC Prof Sally Heslop were welcome guests, as was Prof Nick Lieven, formerly both Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the University and Chair of the Wills Hall Advisory Committee. A former Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Brian Pickering, a former University Registrar, Dr Michael Parry, the current Chair of the University’s Alumni Association, Jonathan Phillips, and his predecessor, Julie Goldstein, were also honoured guests. The contemporary pastoral teams were represented by the Head of Residential Life in the North Village, Mr Andrew Abbey, and Wills Chief Resident Lewis Munshi.

Speeches were made that evening by Lady Hale, Mr Marshall-Andrews, the JCR President Terri Boardman, the Chair of the WHA Charles Gunter, and two former Wardens and Presidents of the WHA, Julian Rivers and Robert Vilain. Grace was said by a third former Warden, Sean Gill.

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