The public buildings are somewhat overshadowed in interest by the ecclesiastical. The council house, at the "Cross" of the four main thoroughfares, dates from 1827, was enlarged in 1894, and contains the city archives and many portraits, including a Van Dyck and a Kneller. The Guildhall is close by - a modern Gothic building. The exchange (used as a corn-market) is a noteworthy building by the famous architect of Bath, John Wood (1743). Edward Colston, a revered citizen and benefactor of the city (d. 1721), is commemorated by name in several buildings and institutions, notably in Colston Hall, which is used for concerts and meetings. A bank close by St Stephen's church claims to have originated in the first savings-bank established in England (1812). Similarly, the city free library (1613) is considered to be the original of its kind. The Bristol museum and reference library were transferred to the corporation in 1893. Vincent Stuckey Lean (d. 1899) bequeathed to the corporation of Bristol the sum of £50,000 for the further development of the free libraries of the city, and with especial regard to the formation and sustenance of a general reference library of a standard and scientific character.
The central library was opened in 1906. An art gallery, presented by Sir William Henry Wills, was opened in 1905.
Among educational establishments, the technical college of the Company of Merchant Venturers (1885) supplies scientific, technical and commercial education. The extensive buildings of this institution were destroyed by fire in 1906. University College (1876) forms the nucleus of the university of Bristol (chartered 1909). Clifton College, opened in 1862 and incorporated in 1877, includes a physical science school, with laboratories, a museum and observatory. Colston's girls' day school (1891) includes domestic economy and calisthenics. Among the many charitable institutions are the general hospital, opened in 1858, and since repeatedly enlarged; royal hospital for sick children and women, Royal Victoria home, and the Queen Victoria jubilee convalescent home.
Of the open spaces in and near Bristol the most extensive are those bordering the river in the neighbourhood of the gorge, Durdham and Clifton Downs, on the Gloucestershire side (see Clifton). Others are Victoria Park, south of the river, near the Bedminster station, Eastville Park by the Frome, on the north-east of the city beyond Stapleton Road station, St Andrew's Park near Montpelier station to the north, and Brandon Hill, west of the cathedral, an abrupt eminence commanding a fine view over the city, and crowned with a modern tower commemorating the "fourth centenary of the discovery of America by John Cabot, and sons Lewis, Sebastian and Sanctus." Other memorials in the city are the High Cross on College Green (1850), and statues of Queen Victoria (1888), Samuel Morley (1888), Edmund Burke (1894), and Edward Colston (1895), in whose memory are held annual Colston banquets.