The Exterior

Broadcasting House from the air
To the right of Broadcasting House in this aerial view is All Souls Church which would have a close association with the BBC, becoming the venue of the Daily Service.

In the bottom right corner is The Langham Hotel, which would be used by the Corporation in later years, as would some other buildings in this view.

BH and All Souls Church

In the top right corner is the Queen's Hall, used for many broadcasts including the Henry Wood Proms. It opened in November 1893 and was destroyed by bombing on May 10th, 1941.

left - All Souls Church and Broadcasting House beyond, the Bath Stone of the church contrasting with the Portland Stone facade of BH. The photo would appear to have been taken from the roof of the Queen's Hall. All Souls is the last surviving church designed by John Nash. It was consecrated in 1824.

The plans for Broadcasting House included various positions for groups of sculpture and carvings. Four of these were the work of Eric Gill who also produced 'The Sower' in the reception hall.

The south front
The book of views of BH published by the BBC in 1932 didn't include a picture of the largest of Gill's sculptures, that of Prospero and Ariel above the main entrance. A photo of the south face taken in June 1932 (and similar to the later one, right) does show the piece, but the original of that picture doesn't. Clearly some copying and pasting had been done for the book!

Prospero and Ariel

Prospero is interpreted as a draped and bearded figure, symbolic of wisdom and benevolence. Ariel is conceived as a young child holding in his right hand a pipe on which he plays unearthly music. Perhaps, though, Gill had a larger theme. Prospero is a very Biblical figure and the hands and feet of Ariel carry the marks of the stigmata. Maybe Gill's intention was to represent God the Father presenting God the Son to the world, on which they stand.

There was controversy about a certain part of Ariel's anatomy which was considered by some to be rather too generously proportioned. Gill reduced the size of the offending area, but there were still calls for the sculpture to be removed.

The west front

above - The west front, a photo taken before the sculpture of Prospero and Ariel was installed. The large area of this face is broken by the vertical breaks in the grouping of the windows and by the balcony at third floor level. The decoration on the balcony and the carving of the BBC coat of arms above it were executed by E. Aumonier to the designs of the architect Val Myer. The coat of arms incorporates the BBC's motto "Nation Shall Speak Peace Unto Nation."

The East front
The East front

Two views of the east side. These shots show the shape of the roof, made necessary by the existence of 'Ancient Lights'. Intake panels at the third floor level supplied some of the ventilating and air-conditioning plants.

In addition to the sculpture above the main entrance Eric Gill produced three further carvings featuring Shakespeare's Ariel, who, as the invisible spirit of the air, could serve as a personification of radio broadcasting.

Ariel hearing celestial music
left - situated on the west front above the windows of the book shop, Ariel is seen supported by two angels with a hand to his ear, hearing celestial music.

Ariel, Wisdom and Gaiety

right - Above the public entrance to the Concert Hall, this group shows Ariel between Wisdom and Gaiety, the latter having taken Ariel's pipe. Ariel's outstretched arms symbolise his willingness to embrace both.

Ariel piping to children

left - On the east front, Ariel is represented piping to children. The 1932 BBC Year Book said that "it gives an admirable effect of happiness and dancing."

On the roof

right - A general view of the roof showing the air extraction fans and the water coolers for the refrigerating plant in the sub-basement which are also seen below.

Water coolers

The Royal Standard

left - The building was in full use at the beginning of May 1932 but it was on 7th July that the royal opening took place, when King George V and Queen Mary visited. This event is recorded on a plaque in the entrance hall, between the inner and outer doors. The photo shows the royal standard flying on one of the four flagstaffs.

Aerial masts

Big Ben speakers

right - Aerial masts on the roof suggested the function of the building. The two on the highest part of the roof carried the aerial of an ultra-short-wave transmitter which was being used experimentally. The third mast, on the clock tower, was a spare. Also on the roof were various receiving aerials.

right - On the balcony either side of the tower were loudspeakers used for "broadcasting" Big Ben to the neighbourhood, at approximately its "natural" strength. These were used every day at one o'clock. In October 1937 "Wireless World" reported that "officials have been casting furtive glances [at the speakers] following the latest decision of the Birmingham City Council....[where] it has been decreed that a charge of creating a nuisance by private loud speaker can be laid if three householders lodge a complaint. Fines can be levied up to £5."

Night time view
Night time view

Two night views of Broadcasting House. The one on the left appears to have been taken from The Langham Hotel and the one on the right shows the columns of All Souls Church framing the building.

Prospero and Ariel
Girl's head
left - Prospero and Ariel in 2006 after cleaning and restoration. (photo: Kevin Johnson)

right - During the work this face was found carved on the back. There is a story about a cryptic message by Eric Gill saying 'the true face of the statue will only be seen when the building falls down'... (photo: Robert Greer)