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 You are in: Front Page > About Us

Why is BBC WS headquarters called 'Bush' House?

A Brief History of Bush House

Bush House in central London, which currently houses the administrative and production offices of BBC World Service radio, is named after Irving T. Bush of the Bush Terminal Company of New York, who built it.

Bush's vision
In 1919, Bush gained approval for his plans to create a vast new trade centre in London, at the Aldwych in the Strand.

His aim was to attract international traders, and he envisaged luxury accommodation where manufacturers could exhibit their wares to buyers from all over the world, within easy reach of the financial district of the City of London. The architect chosen was fellow American, Harvey W. Corbett.

A change of plan
However, by the time the Centre Block (one of five blocks which comprise the building) was completed in 1923, a slump had hit trade and manufacturing. The original purpose of the building had to be reconsidered and the other wings were adapted for more conventional office use.

Despite this, Bush kept to the original spirit of his plan, and above the main Aldwych entrance you can still see the two imposing figures which represent England and America. They hold between them the torch of human progress above the motto "To the friendship of English speaking peoples". The figures were carved from Indiana limestone by American sculptress Malvina Hoffman in her New Jersey studio.

Special features
On its completion, Bush House was declared the most expensive building in the world, costing $10 million. It was constructed of Portland stone and featured an innovative concealed central heating system, which is still in use on the landing areas today.

The Aldwych & Strand entrances and the internal staircases are clad in Travertine marble and are "listed" by English Heritage, meaning that no major alterations may be made to the fabric.

The original offices had Indian hardwood floors and the building had its own artesian wells, an indoor badminton court, a cinema and even a small swimming pool in the basement (this was never used, and a BBC World Service drama studio has since been constructed over the pool area).

The BBC moves in
In 1940, the European Service of the BBC moved into the South-East Wing of Bush House following landmine damage to Broadcasting House (a mile to the north), where BBC foreign language broadcasts first started.

Broadcasting continued from Bush House throughout the Second World War, only briefly interrupted in 1944 when a flying bomb fell in the Aldwych. In 1958, the BBC Overseas Services joined their European colleagues at Bush House, and BBC World Service (renamed in 1988) now occupies four wings of the building.

However, the BBC has never owned Bush House; its past owners have included the Church of Wales, the Post Office Superannuation Fund and it is currently owned by a Japanese corporation.

Unfortunately, public tours of Bush House are not available because of limited space and security restrictions, but it is possible to visit the BBC Shop and Information Centre located at the Strand entrance to the building.

The Future
Plans by the BBC to transform its famous London HQ, Broadcasting House, into a modern centre for global broadcasting were announced in October 2000. By the end of the present decade BBC World Service will move from Bush House to the new complex to join BBC Radio and BBC News. The aim is to create a unique state-of-the-art centre for BBC national and international radio, along with television news and online services.

Presidential connections?
We are sometimes asked whether Bush House has any connection with George W. Bush, President of the USA. As far as we are aware, George W. and Irving T. are not related!


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