- This article is about Bush House, London. For Bush House, Bristol, see Arnolfini. For other uses, see Bush House
The BBC World Service broadcast from Bush House for 70 years (Winter 1941 – Summer 2012) until the final BBC broadcast from Bush House, the 12:00 BST English bulletin on 12 July 2012. The BBC World Service is now housed in Broadcasting House in Portland Place.
Sections of the building were completed and opened over a period of 13 years:
- 1923 – Centre Block
- 1928 – North-West Wing
- 1929 – North-East Wing
- 1930 – South-East Wing
- 1935 – South-West Wing
The building was commissioned, designed and originally owned by American individuals and companies. Irving T. Bush gained approval for his plans for the building in 1919, which was planned as a major new trade centre and designed by American architect Harvey Wiley Corbett. The construction was undertaken by John Mowlem & Co. At least one stonemason is known to have died during the construction, but overall the building had a very good safety record.
The building's opening ceremony was performed by Lord Balfour, Lord President of the Council, on 4 July 1925. It included the unveiling of two statues at the entrance made by American artist Malvina Hoffman. The statues symbolise Anglo-American friendship and the building bears the inscription "To the friendship of English speaking peoples". Built from Portland stone, Bush House was in 1929 declared the "most expensive building in the world", having cost around £2,000,000 ($10,000,000).
In January 1930, during the Bush House excavations for the South-East Wing, a marble head was uncovered from a pile of rubble. The head is an elderly, balding Roman man carved from Carrara marble. He has a finely chiselled face and a rather grim irritated expression. The point of his nose has been broken off, and his ears have been damaged. There are various ideas to its origin. It could be a remnant from a Roman bath or villa outside the walls of Roman London, or it could have been an Italian copy imported in the 18th century and used as a garden ornament. Old maps of the area show a large house occupying a site close by. The marble head is now on display in the Centre Block of Bush House.
It has frequently been suggested[by whom?] that the building is haunted; there have been several reports of a hazy female figure drifting around the basement, an area which used to house the BBC bar and gym.
After two Luftwaffe 800 pound bombs damaged Broadcasting House on 8 December 1940, the BBC European Service moved into the South-East Wing of the building; the rest of the Overseas Service followed in 1958.
In 1944 Bush House suffered external damage from a V-1 flying bomb dropped on Aldwych. One of the Bush House statues lost an arm. The statue remained damaged until 1970 when an American visiting his daughter at the London School of Economics, which is nearby, saw the damaged statue. He worked for the Indiana Limestone Company and persuaded the company to send a new arm and a stonemason to attach it in time for the Silver Jubilee celebrations of Queen Elizabeth II in 1977.
The North-West Wing was formerly occupied by BBC Online until they relocated to the BBC Media Village in 2005, with some studio and office space being retained until 2008. Following its ongoing expansion and renovation programme known as the W1 Project, the BBC also moved its World Service to Broadcasting House. The final broadcast from Bush was the 12:00 BST bulletin on 12 July 2012. All subsequent bulletins now come from Broadcasting House.
The BBC's lease with Kato Kagaku (the Japanese company that owns the building) expired at the end of 2012, with the keys to the building being handed over in a ceremony marking the end of the BBC World Service residency. Refurbishments are taking place under the management of Jones Lang LaSalle. John Robertson Architects has been appointed as the architectural firm undertaking this refurbishment. The stairways and lift lobbies will be refreshed but retain their existing finishes, and the external stonework will be cleaned.
There are plans to open up and enlarge the external receptions in the North-East Wing, South-East Wing and Melbourne House, to give each an individual identity, and the courtyard will remain as a car park/delivery point. Completion of this work is scheduled for June 2014. The floors of Bush House will then be re-let as office accommodation.
In popular culture
Author and journalist George Orwell worked in Bush House between 1941 and 1943 and the building is said to have given him the idea, when writing Nineteen Eighty-Four, both for the nightmarish Room 101 and the almost equally awful canteen at the Ministry of Truth.
For most English-language shortwave listeners (during the Cold War and after), Bush House has always been the unquestioned BBC World Service home. Although the Bush House complex was not designed for international broadcasting in the way Broadcasting House was, it nevertheless is perceived by many broadcasting professionals as being the stereotypical international broadcasting centre. With BBC World Service no longer at Bush House, a new era in international broadcasting has started for the UK. However, this new era begins with a new building that was built some 50 years distant from the Blitz (the event that led to Bush House's use).
- "Goodbye to Bush House, Episode 1", BBC World Service, London, 24 December 2011. BBC.
- Mowlem 1822 – 1972, p. 6.
- Conversation Forum for Bush House, London, UK, h2g2. H2g2.com.
- BBC Buildings: Bush House. BBC. (1 January 1970).
- Roman Head on Flickr.
- The BBC Story: Bush House. BBC.
- "Bush House Consigns Keys to Kato Kagaku", Jones Lang LaSalle, 14 December 2012. Joneslanglasalle.co.uk (14 December 2012).
- Klettner, Andrea. (2 August 2012) John Robertson Architects appointed for Bush House refurb | News | Building Design. Bdonline.co.uk.
- "For sale: the contents of Bush House, a landmark of BBC World Service history", ''The Telegraph''. The Daily Telegraph. (10 July 2012).
- BBC World Service: 80 years of international broadcasting. BBC.
- World Service: Bush House
- h2g2: Bush House
- The BBC Story: Bush House
- "World Service staff bid farewell to iconic Bush House", World Radio and TV, BBC News.