Self-made Bristol businessman’s legacy to fund university’s new campus lecture theatres

December 20, 2019

£3.5m donation from a trust set up by a successful businessman who left school at 14 is to help the University of Bristol create state-of-the art lecture theatres for future generations of innovators.

The Bill Brown 1989 Charitable Trust made the donation to the university ahead of the development of its new Temple Quarter Enterprise Campus on derelict land next to Temple Meads railway station.

In addition to teaching students, the two 180-seater theatres will be used for key public events such as visiting speakers, conferences, films and TED talks.

The university’s vision is for the hi-tech space to become a facility for local communities and the wider region to use in the evenings and at weekends.

The two theatres can be converted into a single 360-seater facility, which will be accessible remotely to bring large groups of people together and allow two-way interaction with lecture theatres on the Clifton Campus.

They have been designed to encourage interaction between audience members as well as between speaker and audience, creating active learning opportunities beyond the traditional lecture experience.

The Bill Brown Lecture Theatres will serve as a lasting legacy to Percy William Ernest (Bill) Brown, pictured, who started his working life in Bristol docks as a bookkeeper before moving into insurance.

He went on to establish a successful civil engineering company. As his wife and son died before he did, a charitable trust was formed on his death in 1989 to donate money to causes which were aligned to his work and his interests. 

University of Bristol deputy vice-chancellor for new campus development Prof Guy Orpen said: “I would like to thank the trustees of the Bill Brown 1989 Charitable Trust for their tremendous generosity and look forward to working with them and other key partners as we bring this new campus to life.

“Collaborative working is a key feature of our plans and the new lecture theatres are a prime example of the world-class interactive learning experience we will be able to provide for our students and visitors.

As well as being visually inspiring, we hope the lecture theatres will become known as a conference facility across the region as well as a knowledge exchange hub for students, researchers, enterprise partners and local communities.”

The seven-acre Temple Quarter Enterprise Campus will provide teaching, research and innovation space for 3,000 students, around 800 members of staff and external partners from business and the city’s communities. It will have a clear focus on digital, business and social innovation.

The campus will be home to the university’s new School of Management, its Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and much of its digital and informatics engineering activity. It will include the recently announced Bristol Digital Futures Institute and the Quantum Technology Innovation Centre.

Following a public consultation in September, a full planning application for the academic buildings was submitted in November.

Lecture theatre visual courtesy of Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios

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