Bristol students have launched a campaign to rename the Wills memorial building over its links to slavery

It is named after Henry Overton Wills III, who financed the uni with ‘slave-profited money’

A group of Bristol University students have started a petition on to rename the Wills memorial building.

The petition, which can be viewed here, claims that the building’s link to Henry Overton Wills III is reason enough to change its name. The petition currently has 398 signatures.

The students believe the building’s name serves as a “glorification” of a man who financed the university “with slave-profited money.”

Henry Overton Wills III

Wills was the first official chancellor of UOB and made his fortune in the tobacco trade. The Wills memorial building was dedicated to Henry by his two sons after the businessman’s death.

Stoke Bishop’s Wills Hall was a family home that was later converted into student accommodation.

The petition goes on to say: “As students of Bristol, we ask the university to uphold its commitment to diversity and inclusivity and revise the name of the building that is, somewhat, a centerpiece in the uni. The Wills family may have invested heavily in the institution, but this does not justify the means of slavery. As an establishment that wishes its community to be effective in ‘challenging accepted norms’, let us break free from Bristol’s homogeneous toleration of slave masters and name the building after somebody the entire university population can be proud of.”

The campaign has echoes of the Rhodes Must Fall movement, which started in  South Africa but spread to Oxford. It made national headlines after students who received a scholarship in Cecil Rhodes’ name – another colonialist – also called for his name and statue to be removed.