Wilson Hall

Exterior presentation view of Wilson Hall c 1877. Sir Samuel Wilson c 1879. Detail of design for doors. Wilson Hall south interior elevation section C-D. Wilson Hall fire, 25 January 1952 Firemen battling the fire at Wilson Hall, 25 January 1952. Wilson Hall set up for examinations, c 1910

Wilson Hall has been an integral part of the University of Melbourne landscape since the first building to bear this name was completed in 1882. Built as a venue for examinations and conferring of degrees, the Hall has been at the very centre of the university experience for generations of students. As the gathering place for grand celebrations and solemn occasions, the Hall has come to symbolise in bricks and mortar the unity and shared goals of the wider University community.

Made possible through a generous donation by wealthy pastoralist Sir Samuel Wilson, the original Wilson Hall was designed in the perpendicular gothic revival style by architectural firm Reed & Barnes. For 70 years it dominated the centre of the University, soaring in height above the surrounding buildings. From all approaches its turrets and mass clearly located the University within the surrounding landscape and became an instantly recognisable landmark.

On 25 January 1952 fire destroyed the roof and badly damaged the west wall of the Hall. This calamity was keenly felt by the University community which, over the following year, was polarised by a debate over whether to restore the gothic ruins or rebuild in modern style. Eventually succumbing to financial realities, the gothic splendour of the original Hall gave way to the modern 1950s building that we know today. Designed by the architectural firm Bates, Smart & McCutcheon (formerly Reed & Barnes) the building was completed in 1956. Today the new Wilson Hall, with its highly crafted interior and integral artworks, carries on the tradition of the original Hall as the ceremonial centre of the University.

Exterior presentation view of Wilson Hall c 1877
Reed & Barnes [attributed to AC Smart]
Watercolour on paper
Bates Smart McCutcheon Collection, 1968.0013 (Job 31)

Sir Samuel Wilson c 1879
Albumen silver print published in
Proceedings on laying the memorial stone for the Wilson Hall of the University of Melbourne
Stillwell & Co, Melbourne, 1879

Detail of design for doors
Drawing no 22, 1877
Ink, watercolour on paper
Bates Smart McCutcheon Collection, 1968.0013 (Job 31)

Wilson Hall south interior elevation section C-D
Drawing no 5, 1877
Ink, watercolour on paper
Bates Smart McCutcheon Collection, 1968.0013 (Job 31)

Wilson Hall fire, 25 January 1952
Photographed by J. Douglas Hicks from the roof of the Walter & Eliza Hall Institute
35mm kodachrome colour transparency
University Photographs, 1993.0058.00002

Firemen battling the fire at Wilson Hall, 25 January 1952
Herald Sun newspaper, photographer unknown
Gelatin silver photograph
University Photographs, 2017.0071.00464

Wilson Hall set up for examinations, c 1910
Photolithograph postcard
University Photographs, 2017.0071.00865