In December 1874 the University received a bequest of £30,000 from the pastoralist and former politician, (Sir) Samuel Wilson to erect a ceremonial hall 'of suitable dignity in which the examinations of an annually augmented body of students may be held and in which degrees may be conferred with the solemnity usual in other kindred seats of learning'.
In late 1875 Joseph Reed submitted plans for a lofty hall in English Perpendicular Gothic/Tudor Perpendicular style but work did not commence until mid 1878.
Part of the delay was a dispute over its location. Some wanted it to form the south wing of the quadrangle building but Reed’s original plan on a north south axis to the south east of the Quadrangle building found favour with the majority.
Wilson Hall, characterised by architectural historian George Tibbits as both the 'architectural jewel in the 19th century university and its soul', was first used for examinations and conferring of degrees in 1882.