‘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 for the purpose of providing a venue for examinations, conferring of degrees and grand ceremonial occasions, the Hall has been at the very centre of University life for generations of students and staff. The original Hall’s destruction by fire in 1952 and subsequent rebirth in modern form remains one of the more significant events in the history of the University.’ From ‘The art of Wilson Hall’ by Emily Wubben and Jason Benjamin, University of Melbourne Collections, issue 7, December 2010.
This image of the first Wilson Hall, a hand-coloured wood engraving by an unknown artist, was published in The Illustrated London News on 31 May 1879 (reg. no. 2010.0001, Baillieu Library Print Collection).
Wilson Hall was named for Sir Samuel Wilson (1832-1895), a pastoralist from western Victoria, who was also a politician with an interest in higher education. In 1874 he donated ₤30,000 to the University which paid for the hall, and though the original gothic hall was destroyed by fire, the modernist building that replaced it and that we enjoy today retained his name.