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Colston Hall was built to the designs of Foster and Wood in two separate phases. Constructed from yellow brick with limestone, sandstone, teracotta and faience dressings, the main hall was built in 1864-7 and the entrance front and lesser hall were built in 1869-73. The hall has two storeys and a seven-bay entrance range with a rectangular open-plan lobby and a stair well to the hall above. The entrance façade has an open arcade to the ground floor while the arcade to the first floor has been infilled with concrete render and three sculptures dating to circa 1960. The outer arches to the ground floor arcade were bricked up and had windows inserted circa 1900. In 1898 and 1945, fires destroyed the imperial staircase and the Great Hall. The internal reconstruction was carried out in 1951 and designed by J.N. Meredith.

On 4 November 1880, the Bristol and West of England Society for Women's Suffrage was involved in the 'Grand Demonstration' held at Colston Hall. Attended by more than 3000 people, two resolutions were passed. The first was to adopt a Memorial outlining their objection to the exclusion of women ratepayers from the franchise, and the second was to form a deputation of representatives from the provincial women's suffrage societies to meet with the prime minister.

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