The collection of paintings by and large reflects the early heritage of the Bristol Royal Infirmary, which is one of the oldest provincial hospitals. The original public charity, which was to raise money for the erection of an infirmary through subscription, was initiated in 1735. The building was the result of many phases of construction with the east wing completed in 1786, the centre block in 1792 and the west wing, delayed by the Napoleonic War, in 1809. Many further alterations were made during the nineteenth century. In 1904, Sir George White, who gave Bristol its first electric tramway service and established what was to become the Bristol Aeroplane Company, saved the hospital from a major financial crisis, and later masterminded the construction of the BRI Edward VII Memorial Wing, designed by Charles Holden. The infirmary was later acquired by the National Health Service in 1948 and the hospital's facilities were greatly extended in the 1960s. Consequently, from its earliest days the hospital has been intimately associated with the civic life of the city. It is not therefore surprising that many of the key figures in this history were recorded for posterity by fashionable artists of the day.
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