The other day I was sat with my friend outside the library and it suddenly dawned on me that the library was called David Wilson, and another of the buildings was called Charles Wilson- were they related?! That’s when I realised how actually a lot of the buildings had interesting names, and I knew nothing about them. So I decided to do a little bit of research and this post is the result: a small insight into the history/naming of the buildings on campus. I haven’t included all of the buildings, mainly just the one that I’ve been in/recognised, but it turns out I’ve been in quite a few! So here goes…
The site for the university was donated by a local textile manufacturer called Thomas Fielding Johnson. He wanted the to create the university as a memorial to the men who lost their lives in WW1. The Fielding Johnson Building is the oldest on campus, being built in 1837. Before the building was used by the university it was the Leicestershire and Rutland Lunatic Asylum. It is a Grade II listed building.
This building is named after the university’s first Vice Chancellor- a political scientist who led the institution to University status in 1957. Apparently after working at the University of Leicester he went on to become the Principal at the University of Glasgow, which means that both us and Glasgow have a building named after him! Our building opened in 1966 and is “an example of Brutalist architecture designed by Sir Denys Lasdun”… all I know is that it looks weirdly similar to Optimus Prime…I wonder if the Glasgow Charles Wilson has such a striking façade!
It soon became apparent as I utilised google that naming buildings after Chancellors/Vice Chancellors is a big theme on campus, so if you ever find yourself with a burning desire to have a building named after you- this is the job you need to be aiming for. As well as the Charles Wilson Building there is also:
Named after the Vice-Chancellor of 1987-1999. Sadly that appears to be all the trivia I could find on both the building and the man it was named after. On a personal note, I like the lecture theatres in Ken Edwards the most out of all the ones I’ve been in.
Named after the Chancellor of the University from 1986 to 1995, but there’s a bit more to George Porter than poor Ken Edwards on the internet. Apparently George Porter was a British Chemist who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1967, but I’m afraid you’ll have to do your own research on what he got the Prize for because I had a look and was completely baffled…something to do with photosynthesis and hydrogen possibly?!
Named after Sir Michael Atiyah, the Chancellor of the University 1995-2005. He is a mathematician specialising in geometry according to a quick google search, so it now makes sense why the Maths department building is the one named after him- and note the present tense, because apparently he’s still alive! Side note: the Michael Atiyah building also has a garden as part of it which was designed by Sir Isaac Newton- someone I have actually heard of.
The “MSB”. This is the largest building on campus, and is named after the Vice Chancellor at Leicester 1977-1987. I’ve not actually been in here because it’s not somewhere that English students tend to frequent very often- you have to show your student card to get in and there’s a fair bit of security. But simply for the reason that I’m not meant to be there I am desperate to go in before I graduate, even though I know it’ll be underwhelming, so it’s made the list anyway. The University is in the process of building a huge new Medical facility so maybe once that is finished the MSB will be more accessible. I can dream!
As far as I can make out there isn’t a connection between David and Charles Wilson, more’s the pity (and please correct me if I’m wrong), but the library is named after him because he is the premier benefactor of the library- basically he donated £2 million for the construction of the library. I can’t even comprehend such an amount! He is the Chairman of Leicestershire based construction group Wilson Bowlden plc, which would explain why when I googled ‘David Wilson’ the first few entries were all for ‘David Wilson Homes’. On a side note I then looked up how much the library cost to be built just out of curiosity (as this whole post is) and well, it came to… £32 million pounds!!! My mind is blown.
At 18 storeys tall the “cheese grater”, as it is affectionately known, is home to the tallest working paternoster in the UK. If you don’t know what this is then have a look on youtube– basically it’s a kind of lift except it doesn’t have any doors and it works on a kind of conveyor belt system, so you just step on into a three walled compartment and then step off at the floor you want, or you can just stay in and go all the way up the 18 floors, over the top, and back down again. When I first got to Leicester I decided that this was terrifying and I would only ever use the stairs, but after climbing 15 floors for registration I quickly changed my mind! The Attenborough Building opened in 1970 and is named after Frederick Attenborough, Principal of the University College from 1931 to 1951. And know who else Frederick Attenborough is? David Attenborough’s dad! This is my favourite fact about Leicester ever: David Attenborough grew up in in College House on campus!!! The building is now part of the Maths department but still, David Attenborough lived there once!
I struggled to find information on ‘Bennett’, and I only got the most measly of information: he was Dr FW Bennett, a surgeon by profession but also a keen amateur geologist. After some more digging I found this page which goes into more detail, and interestingly it says that Bennett’s daughter was one of the first students to enter the University College in 1921. She then went on to work at the university library, where she worked with Philip Larkin! Finally a name from English! Larkin worked at the library before he moved to the library at Hull University. One more interesting fact: it has the only juvenile Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton in Europe!
Last but not least, this is the building on campus that looks like a ship. It was the first major building done by an important British architect called James Stirling. It was built in 1963 and according to the university website, it “is notable for the way in which its external form reflects its internal functions”. It is now a Grade II listed building and was named on a list of ‘the 50 most inspiring buildings in Britain’ in 2008. Personally I don’t find it the most aesthetically pleasing building ever, but I can appreciate that it’s certainly different!
I’m aware that this information came from places such as Wikipedia, so if you read anything and it’s wrong then please do correct me in the comments section 🙂 I think I’ve had my fill of trivia for a while!