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Historic Building Details

HB Ref No:

Extent of Listing:
Broadcasting house

Date of Construction:
1920 - 1939

Address :
BBC Broadcasting House Ormeau Avenue Belfast County Antrim BT2 8HQ

Town Parks

Survey 2:

Date of Listing:
07/04/1994 00:00:00

Date of De-listing:

Current Use:

Former Use

Conservation Area:

Industrial Archaeology:





OS Map No:
130/13 SE

IG Ref:
J3381 7365

Owner Category


Exterior Description And Setting

A six-storey multi-bay modernist BBC broadcasting centre and office block erected 1939 to the designs of architect James Millar. Curved floor plan and radio tower, adjoined by an eight-storey office block to the northeast (1975) and a three-storey “T.V.” block to the northwest (1984). Located at the junction of Ormeau Avenue and Bedford Street, adjacent to the Thompson Memorial Fountain (HB26/30/014). Asphalt flat-roof. Cast-iron rain water goods comprising hopper heads and circular downpipes. Steel-framed structure with sand-brick walling laid to Flemish bond with soldier courses; reconstituted masonry block plinth, string course and coping; redbrick, Flemish bond to the rear elevation. 16 paned Crittall windows with plain surrounds; soldier course heads. Replacement rotating door and roller shutter recessed into stepped moulded artificial block surround. The symmetrically principal elevation faces southwest. The general arrangement comprises a six-storey curved parapet façade13 windows wide; the parapet partially removed and replaced with galvanized railings. Central five-storey projection 11 windows wide; entrance located centrally; the immediately adjacent windows slightly diminished. Artificial stone balcony over entrance extending two windows wide to each side inscribed with “BRITISH BROADCASTING CORPORATION”; continuous full width plain string courses. The upper floors of the projection comprise a uniformly arranged series of vertical recesses incorporating four-storeys of fenestration; surmounted by copings and galvanized railing. The left elevation is asymmetrically arranged. The plinth and string courses continue at lower level. Three bays of windows six-storeys high to the right; three balconies centrally located on the 5th floor; comprising concrete base and steel railings; full height Crittall window with solid lower panels; three blank openings directly over on 6th floor with centrally projecting brick detailing. Seven-storey radio-tower to the left (see rear elevation for details). The rear elevation faces north east and is asymmetrically arranged. The right is abutted by the radio tower which is a continuation of the northwest elevation. The northwest and northeast faces of which are detailed with strong vertical art-deco style brickwork incorporating various windows to the upper levels; surmounted by large artificial stone coping. The northwest and northeast faces of the tower are abutted by a red brick three-storey “T.V.” block; post-modern style; of no significant interest. The central portion of the elevation is abutted by a full height stairwell and service core partially enclosing a light well to the right hand side with a full height Crittall window to the stairwell. The lower floors of the elevation are abutted by various stories of red brick and synthetic additions; of no interest. The upper floors of the elevation have retained their original window openings; some replacement Crittall windows. The left hand side of the elevation is abutted by a six-storey stairwell; extended by two-stories. The southeast elevation is abutted by the eight-storey office block; of no significant interest. Setting: Broadcasting house is prominently located at the junction of a busy intersection close to the city centre. The site is triangular shaped and Broadcasting house occupies the southwestern portion. The adjoining later buildings flank the northwest and southeast boundaries; the remaining portion of the site is enclosed by a red-brick wall. Within the compound are various other one and two storey service blocks including a tall modern chimney structure. The club house; a two-storey flat roofed structure; now facilitates storage and post; of no significant interest. Beyond the site are various multi-storey historic and contemporary structures. Roofing: Asphalt Walling: Sand brick Windows: Metal frame casement RWG: Cast-iron


Millar, John

Historical Information

In May 1936 the Belfast Newsletter reported that the BBC was to construct a new broadcasting studio for its branch in the city. The building was to replace the BBC’s earlier premises on Linenhall Street which it had occupied since the creation of the first regional station in the 1920s. The Linenhall Street studios were deemed too cramped to accommodate the developing station and a new site, at the junction of Linenhall Street and Ormeau Road, was purchased from W. J. Jenkins & Co. who owned a large linen factory and warehouse on the site. The warehouse was demolished to make way for the erection of the new Broadcasting House, construction of which was intended to commence in the autumn of 1936. The Belfast newsletter recorded that the BBC originally intended to model Broadcasting House’s ‘main characteristics’ and its entrance on the BBC Headquarters in London, and like that structure, the Belfast branch would be constructed of Portland stone. In 1936 the expected total cost of the purchase and construction at the site was estimated at £250,000 (Belfast Newsletter, 27 May 1936). The Irish Builder recorded that Broadcasting House was constructed between 1938 and 1941 to designs by James Miller (1860-1947), a Glaswegian Architect at that time in his mid-seventies who had also been a shortlisted entrant for the Belfast City Hall design competition in 1896. Broadcasting House was opened in 1941 after costing an estimated total of £70,000 to construct (Irish Builder, Vol. 79, 1937; Vol. 80, 1938; Vol. 81, 1939; Dictionary of Irish Architects). The building was opened at the height of the Second World War (in fact it opened on 5 May 1941 the day after the second Belfast Blitz) and it was not until 1956 that the government undertook the second general revaluation of property in Northern Ireland at which time Broadcasting House was first valued at £8,600; this was lowered to £6,880 under the 1957 Rent and Valuation Act, only rising slightly to £7,000 by the end of the revaluation in 1972. Northern Ireland’s first radio station was named 2BE and made its first broadcast in September 1924; it was acquired and merged with the BBC in 1927 and operated out of warehouse premises in Linenhall Street until the opening of the current building in 1941. The construction of the new headquarters was facilitated by the erection of a radio transmitter at Lisnagarvey in 1936 which, for the first time, allowed BBC broadcasts to reach across the whole of Northern Ireland and resulted in the expansion and development of the station and its services. BBC’s 70th anniversary history, ‘Broadcasting house: A portrait,’ indicated that the warehouse at the junction of Ormeau Avenue and Linenhall Street was not acquired until 1937, however, as the Belfast Newsletter records, this site was purchased in the spring of 1936. Construction of the building itself was not begun until 1938 and in May 1941 Belfast’s Broadcasting House was opened, although programmes were irregular during the course of the war and it was only from 1945 that the full regional service resumed at the new premises. Originally the building was to mirror the design of the BBC Headquarters in London, with Portland stone employed in its masonry (Belfast Newsletter 1936); however these plans were clearly abandoned as the current structure is primarily constructed of sand-faced bricks and artificial stone; similarly the design of the entrance does not bear resemblance to the entrance of London’s Broadcasting House. Television transmissions were first put out from Broadcasting House in 1953 to coincide with the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II; the erection of a television transmitter on Divis Mountain in 1955 further increased the scope of the studios’ TV broadcasts. During a period of civil unrest Broadcasting House was targeted, and on 14 June 1974 a bomb exploded outside the building causing substantial damage to the facade. The BBC in Northern Ireland continued to expand despite the periods of civil unrest; and in the 1970s the corporation introduced BBC Radio Ulster and BBC Radio Foyle. To accommodate increasing output the current redbrick eight-storey office block to the south-east elevation was constructed in 1975; a second redbrick three-storey extension was added in 1984 (‘Broadcasting house: A portrait,’ pp 5-6). Broadcasting House was listed in 1994 and since that time has continued to expand its range of services, now including digital technologies. Due to the many renovations carried out of the years, few internal features of interest survive. However, the exterior of the main broacasting building still maintains its original modernist character. References Primary Sources 1. PRONI OS/6/1/61/4 – Fourth Edition Ordnance Survey Map 1931 2. PRONI OS/6/1/61/5 – Fifth Edition Ordnance Survey Map 1938 3. PRONI VAL/4/B/7/52 – First General Revaluation of Northern Ireland 4. Belfast Newsletter (1936) 5. Irish Builder, Vol. 79, 1937; Vol. 80, 1938; Vol. 81, 1939. Secondary Sources 1. ‘Broadcasting house: A portrait’ Belfast: British Broadcasting Corporation, 2010. 2. Larmour, P., ‘Belfast: An illustrated architectural guide’ Belfast: Ulster Architectural Heritage Society, 1987. 3. First Survey Record – HB26/30/106 (1994). Online Resources 1. Dictionary of Irish Architects -

Criteria for Listing

Architectural Interest

A. Style B. Proportion C. Ornamentation D. Plan Form I. Quality and survival of Interior

Historic Interest

V. Authorship Y. Social, Cultural or Economic Importance X. Local Interest


A six-storey multi-bay modernist BBC broadcasting centre and office block erected 1939 to the designs of architect James Millar. Prominently located at the junction of a busy intersection close to the city centre and facing onto Ormeau Avenue and Bedford Street. An exercise in Art-deco style architecture with all its essential components retained. The primary external features are the principal curved façade and strong vertical styling of the radio tower. The additional blocks in 1975 and 1984 are also representative of the architecture of its time; erected in red brick they are clearly contrasting with the principal building. Typifying the modern era of national radio broadcasting, the building is representative of its time and function; and continues to serve its role on a now international level of importance.

General Comments

Additional listing criteria apply- R -Age, S- Authenticity, T- Historic Importance

Date of Survey

06 May 2011