BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

18 June 2014
Accessibility help
Text only
Legacies - Bristol

BBC Homepage
 UK Index
 Site Info
 BBC History
 Where I Live

Contact Us

Like this page?
Send it to a friend!

The Wills Memorial Tower and the Tobacco Factory
© The Tobacco Factory
Roll Up! Roll Up!

Tobacco leaves
The tobacco factory on Raleigh Road and the Wills Memorial Tower on Park Street in Bristol stand as reminders of the city's love affair with the tobacco trade.

Both buildings owe their existence to the Wills family, and each reflects a different aspect of the family's influence in the area. The factory testifies to the success of the tobacco company WD and HO Wills, the tower to the family's philanthropic efforts.

The Wills's tobacco empire

The origins of the tobacco trade in Bristol can be traced as far back as 1497, when John Cabot set sail aboard his ship the Matthew, from Bristol for North America. Cabot's venture led to Bristol becoming a major trader with the New World.

Over the centuries, ships from Bristol carried goods to settlers in the new colonies, returning to England with holds full of tobacco leaf, from which Bristol's cigarette production grew.

Detail of the Wills's tobacco factory.
One family in particular became extremely influential in the city's tobacco production - the Wills. In 1786, Henry Overton Wills founded WD and HO Wills and began trading in tobacco shipped from the New World into Bristol.

From a modest beginning in a converted house, the Wills's tobacco empire expanded rapidly throughout Bristol and the rest of Britain. By the late 1890s, the company had factories in Belfast, Newcastle and Glasgow. The introduction of the Woodbine brand sealed the company's success.

The firm continued to grow in strength, eventually amalgamating with a number of other companies to form Imperial Tobacco. The Wills family still held sway over the trade, however, with Sir William Henry Wills, later Lord Winterstoke, becoming the first chairman of Imperial Tobacco.

Pages: [ 1, 2, 3 ] Next

Print this page
Interact is your section. Join in the community - send in your own articles, chat, and tell us what the word 'heritage' means in your part of the country.

Go To Interact >
Internet Links
The Tobacco Factory
Bristol history
About Bristol
Bristol city views
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Web sites.
Sculpture showing Tanky Smith in disguise
Related Stories
A castle, two philanthropists and the Western Isles
From factories into flats - the story of Ancoats's regeneration
The Davies Sisters and the Gregynog Printing Press

About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy