Sue Young Histories

Walter Melville Wills 1861 - 1941

March 09, 2009

Walter Melville Wills 1861 - 1941 was the son of Henry Overton Wills III, whose grandfather Henry Overton Wills I founded the tobacco firm WD & HO Wills, one of the founding companies of Imperial Tobacco.

Walter Melville Wills was a homeopathic patient of Christopher Osmond Bodman.

Walter Melville Wills purchased the house and gardens at Cotham Hill in Bristol and donated them to the Bristol Homeopathic Hospital, which Walter Melville Wills funded.

The Bristol Homeopathic Hospital, also known as the Bruce Melville Wills Memorial, was opened in 1925, and is dedicated to Walter Melville Will’s son Bruce, who was killed in the Great War.

Walter Melville Wills also sponsored a Bruce Melville Wills Ward at The Anglo French American Hospital: An Account of the Work Carried on Under Homeopathic Auspices During 1915-1916, at the Hôpital Militaire Auxiliaire, No. 307, Neuilly sur Seine, in Conjunction with the French Red Cross Society. Walter Melville Wills’ brother George was also a sponsor of this hospital.

Walter Melville Wills, also paid for the creation and upkeep of the Bristol Homeopathic Hospital Gardens, using the same firm of garden designers who created his own gardens at Bracken Hill in Bristol, James Pulham and Son.

Princess Helena Victoria undertook the formal opening of Bristol Homeopathic Hospital, on the corner of St. Michael’s and Cotham Hills, on 20th May 1925.

George Oatley was responsible for the design, the deposited drawings dated August 1920 with later amendments (BRO building Plan Book 68, fols. 73-75).

Mr. W. Melville Wills had borne the entire cost of £130,000 in memory of his son, Captain Bruce Melville Wills, who had been killed in action in February 1915; a few months before the opening a second son was lost in a skiing accident.

Cotham House was purchased as a site for the new facility, the Homeopathic Hospital being temporarily based in the house itself during building works. The new building comprised a basement and three other floors, together with a further partial storey.

In 1957 the Wills’ benefaction paid for the creation of a garden in memory of Harold Edgar Melville Wills.

Of interest:

Henry Overton Wills I, who with his partner Watkins, opened a shop in Castle Street, Bristol in 1786. After the retirement of his partner in 1789 it became “Wills & Co.”. In 1826 his two sons, William Day Wills and Henry Overton Wills II took over the company and in 1830 the company took the name WD & HO Wills.

IN Memory of CAPTAIN ROBERT BRUCE MELVILLE WILLS 2nd (Wessex) Field Co., Royal Engineers Who Died Age 24 ON 15 Feb 1915

Recommended for V.C. Son of Mr. and Mrs. Walter Melville Wills, of Bracken Hill, Leigh Woods, Bristol and of “Killilan”, Ross-Shire; Husband of Beryl (Daisy) E. Wills, of Birdcombe Court, Wraxall, Somerset. Educated at Charterhouse, and Trinity College, Cambridge.


YPRES (MENIN GATE) MEMORIAL, Ieper, West Vlaanderen, Belgium