BBC's Bush House – the ultimate eBay auction item?


While the BBC’s foreign language broadcasting service had it’s beginning in 1938 from Broadcasting House in Portland Place, that building was bombed during the Second World War and the service re-located to Bush House in 1941. Now, it returns to where it all began, Broadcasting House with the rest of the BBC News division. The final bulletin was read at noon on Thursday, 12 July signaling the end of the BBC World Service broadcast service from Bush House in The Aldwych.

Photo: Paul Grover

From that point forward, it’s open season on the building’s contents, in an online auction. Minimum bid £10. The biggest lots, they estimate, will go for £10,000 plus. Bush House, home to the BBC World Service for the past 71 years is now, officially, on the auction block. Ok, just the inside will go up for auction. According to the ‘official’ release, the BBC isn’t selling the two limestone statues that stand atop the towering Bush House pillars either, but it is auctioning off everything else inside that is not actually fixed to the walls.

Going once, going twice….

When they say ‘everything’, they literally mean everything. From small clocks to a Steinway piano to a full-blown broadcasting studio, complete with mixing desk. It’s all there waiting for you. Obviously, with 71 years of British broadcasting history, there were some pretty amazing people that graced the hallways over the years. There are photographs of all kinds of famous people being interviewed, from Paul McCartney going out live on the Russian Service to Henry Kissinger being questioned on the daily news programme Outlook.

The coolest thing just might be the fact that this is the building where George Orwell worked, and which is said to have given him the idea, when writing 1984, both for the nightmarish Room 101 and the almost equally awful canteen at the Ministry of Truth.

Photo: Paul Grover

Altogether, according to those involved with the auction, there are some 3,000 lots up for auction, the first 1,500 at the end of this month, the second 1,500 in September.

A lot of overseas radio stations are interested in buying the large studios, such as S6, which is the one Paul McCartney [used to] broadcast to Russia,” says Elizabeth Sewell, managing director of Peaker Pattinson, the firm handling the auction. “We’ve had inquiries from India, from Pakistan and from all across the former Eastern Bloc.

Photo: Paul Grover

Instead of going into some sort of Waiting for God-style Bayview Retirement Home way of life, a lot of the Bush House reel-to-reel tape decks and vinyl-only record players will find a new lease of life, not broadcasting piano concertos, but pumping out dance tracks at 2am in packed warehouses. “We’ve been contacted by a lot of current DJs who use record turntables and tape decks for their mixing at club nights,” said Sewell.

“And while they can’t always be sure that the kit they’re buying is in good condition, they know that this will have been well looked after by the BBC.”

Word to the wise warning:

In a fashion that is quintessentially British, absolutely no eBay ‘sniping’ tactics for this auction will be tolerated.

A lot of people try and put in an online bid just one second before the deadline,” says Mrs Sewell. “We are making it a rule, though, that there should be an automatic two-minute extension of the deadline after each bid. In the interests of fairness.

Bidding opened on July 13; online only. To register, and to view an online catalogue, visit Peaker Pattinson Auctions, at ppauctions.com. To order a printed catalogue, or to book a viewing appointment at Bush House, ring 01778 590111. Bidding starts to close on July 25; deadlines expire in lot order, the last one on July 27.