W.D. and H.O. Wills was founded in 1786 and its rich history makes for a compelling and interesting place to live. Located on the site of what was once a medieval hospital and then a tannery, the building is better known for being the first factory of tobacco importers and manufacturers, W.D & H.O Wills. The brothers moved their business from its premises in Redcliff Street to its first factory in Consort House (Factory No. 1).
W.D and H.O. Wills first shop was located in Castle Street in the centre of Bristol. Factory No.1 was built between 1884 and 1886 by Sir Frank Wills, utilising red Cattybrook brick, limestone and slate and continues to be one of Bedminster’s most recognisable landmarks. Initially, the factory was constructed fronting onto Bedminster Parade, bounded to the west by the rear of properties fronting onto Lombard Street, to the north by Brook Street, and to the east by a timber yard.
Prior to the construction of the Wills Tobacco Factory, the site was occupied first by the medieval St Catherine’s Hospital that was founded in the thirteenth century and, later, by a Tannery that was demolished to make way for the Tobacco Factory. Known as Wills Factory No. 1, the factory opened in 1886 and covered approximately 1.75 acres and included the street frontage that today forms Consort House. In 1886, celebrating the move with a high tea in the Cigar Room for all 900 employees. Famously both non-smokers, William Day Wills and Henry Overton Wills II were pioneers of the cigarette card used in packaging and were the first UK company to mass-produce cigarettes.
Their successful business launched many popular cigarette brands including Woodbine and Capstan. Towards the end of the 19th century and in response to challenges from the American Tobacco Company, W.D & H.O Wills joined forces with 12 other family-run tobacco manufacturers including John Player & Sons and Lambert & Butler. The Imperial Tobacco Company (Great Britain and Ireland) Limited was formed in 1901 (although the companies continued to trade under their own names) and Regent House became the company headquarters.
Tobacco products continued to be manufactured at Factory No. 1 until the late 1970s when both production and Imperial Tobacco’s headquarters were transferred to the Lakeshore building in Hartcliffe.
By the turn of the 20th century the housing along Brook Street had been demolished and the factory had expanded to the north and northeast. The Wills Tobacco Factory closed in 1988 and the buildings were largely demolished, retaining the Grade II Listed facades fronting onto Bedminster Parade and Lombard Street, the internal structures replaced by modern offices.
City & Country purchased Factory No.1 on 28th November 2014.