Local BBC Sites

Page last updated at 14:18 GMT, Wednesday, 17 December 2008
Bristol City Museum & Art Gallery
Bristol Museum and Art Gallery
The building was a gift to the city from Sir William H Wills

An impressive building in its own right, Bristol's City Museum and Art Gallery is located at the heart of the city's tourist trail.

The collection dates back to 1823, with exhibits moving into their current building in Queen's Road in 1905.

A gift of tobacco tycoon Sir William H Wills, the building was intended as a statement of civic pride.

Hence its imposing frontage complete with carriage entrance, which is now enclosed and wheelchair-friendly.

Built at an estimated cost of 40,000, it was extended rearwards in the 1930s, at an additional cost of 98,337 19s 2d.

Today, the museum houses an impressive array of local and national treasures - so many in fact that they cannot all be displayed at one time.

The quality and significance of the collection is such that the museum is one of the few to have been awarded Designated status.


The museum's permanent exhibitions are arranged over two floors, although the building's unusual split-level layout gives the impression of three floors.

Boxkite plane
An impressive biplane hangs in the museum's foyer
The wide, galleried entrance hall is dominated by a life-sized replica of a Bristol Boxkite aeroplane, suspended from the ceiling.

Manufactured in Bristol in the early 1900s, the replica is one of the original three used in the 1963 film Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines.

Alfred the Gorilla, another famous and much-loved local exhibit, can also be found at the museum.

Captured in Africa in the 1930s he was brought to Bristol Zoo, where he rapidly captured local hearts with his character and tricks.

When he died in 1948 he was stuffed and put on display in the museum, where he continues to entertain visitors.

In fact, in 2008 Alfred was the face of a museum campaign to encourage people to visit.

The art exhibition on the top floor includes a wide range of paintings and sculptures from old masters to modern art, with a display of decorative arts in adjoining galleries.

The lower floors contain a glittering collection of minerals, ancient fossils and a large archaeology gallery.

Alfred the gorilla
Alfred the gorilla continues to be popular as a museum exhibit
Close by is the world wildlife gallery containing many examples of endangered or extinct animals.

Here, you will also find the immensely popular Egyptology gallery with its real mummies and the impressive Assyrian Relief which is over 3,000 years old. This gallery is now fully open to the public after extensive re-development.

Events and activities

The permanent exhibitions are complemented with a programme of temporary exhibitions and a full programme of free public events to suit all ages.

Check out the venue's website for a list of school holiday activities and seasonal events.

The museum is open every day of the year except Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

Opening hours are 10am - 5pm and entry to the museum is completely free to everyone.

There is full wheelchair and lift access throughout the building.

The museum has its own gift shop. In addition to a range of books, cards, ceramics and novelty gifts, the shop also stocks locally-produced Bristol Blue Glass.

Bristol Blue Glass bowl
Early Bristol blue is on show and you can buy new glass in the shop
The independently-owned cafe, situated at the rear of the museum, is rapidly gaining its own reputation as a trendy, relaxing pit stop.

Visitors will find snacks, hot food and drinks on offer.

Adjacent to the cafe is Small World: an enclosed area for children aged 0-5 to play, dress up and read stories with their parents or carers.

Getting there

By foot: The museum is a 15-minute stroll from the city centre and bus station. Follow Park Street from the centre and you will find the museum located at the top on the right, next to the Wills Memorial university building.

By public transport: Any of the following bus services will take you to the museum: 1,8,9,41,42,43,54,55,99.

By car: Motorists should leave the M5 at junction 18 or 19 and follow signs for the city centre.

If approaching from the M4, exit at junction 19 and follow the signs for M32 and city centre. Follow the brown visitor signs for the city museum.

Inside Bristol's Georgian House
17 Dec 08 |  People & Places



Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2017 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific