History of BBC Television Centre

June 28, 2023
Television Centre

Today, I’m thrilled to be at the original home of British television – the iconic BBC Television Centre in White City. This historic site has seen the evolution of broadcasting and has been the backdrop to many legendary television moments. I’m particularly excited to showcase this development as we have a fantastic property for sale in the iconic Helios building.

On April 1, 1949, Norman Collins, the Controller of the BBC Television Service, announced at the Television Society’s annual dinner that a new TV centre would be built in Shepherd’s Bush. At that time, London broadcasts were made from Lime Grove Studios in Alexandra Palace, north London. After years of construction, staff began using the space in 1953, and the BBC Television Centre at Wood Lane in Shepherd’s Bush was officially opened on June 29, 1960.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II visited the Television Centre in 1961 for its grand opening. During her visit, she toured the £12 million complex with its seven studios designed to produce about 1,500 hours of programming annually. She watched the filming of the children’s show “Crackerjack,” met the crew, and visited the wardrobe and make-up departments and scenery block.

The BBC Television Centre quickly became the largest television centre in the world. Serving as the BBC’s headquarters from 1960 to 2013, it facilitated large-scale broadcasting. The Centre was the birthplace of beloved shows such as “Doctor Who” and iconic music programs like “Old Grey Whistle Test,” “Top of the Pops,” and “Later… with Jools Holland.” It played a pivotal role in the careers of many music industry giants, including Coldplay and Beyoncé.

One of the notable features of the Centre is a Grade II listed mosaic by John Piper, a prominent artist of the Mid-century Modern period. This mosaic, made of tens of thousands of ceramic tiles, has welcomed television talent for over half a century.

The Centre holds a special place in the hearts of “Doctor Who” fans, as the science fiction series that pioneered “hiding behind the sofa” viewing was first filmed here in 1963. It was also the site for the 1966 FIFA World Cup broadcast, where commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme famously proclaimed, “They think it’s all over! It is now.”

David Attenborough fondly recalled his early days at the Centre, describing the vibrant atmosphere of live recording. The last major drama series filmed at the Centre was “The House of Eliott” in 1994, after which drama production moved to film or single-camera video, making the Centre less suitable for such productions.

In 2012, the BBC sold the Television Centre, and it has since been extensively refurbished into premium flats and offices, while retaining three television studios on site, including the largest, TC1. BBC Studios, the BBC’s commercial production and sales arm, now has its headquarters here.

The Design and New Life of Television Centre

The design of the BBC Television Centre is distinct, featuring a circular main block known as the ‘doughnut,’ which housed technical areas, facilities for artists, and administrative offices. Surrounding it were the studios, linked by a covered walkway to a scenery block for easy movement of scenery. Architect Graham Dawbarn conceived the design while at a pub, sketching a question mark shape for the plot and realizing it was the ideal layout for the eight studios, production galleries, dressing rooms, camera workshops, recording areas, and offices.

In July 2012, Stanhope purchased the Centre for £200 million. The building closed on March 31, 2013, and underwent redevelopment to include luxury flats, office spaces, a cinema, and hotels. Studios 1, 2, and 3, along with part of the basement and offices, were refurbished and leased back to the BBC on a 15-year lease. The newly refurbished facilities officially reopened on September 1, 2017, with “Strictly Come Dancing: It Takes Two” being the first live broadcast from the updated studios on September 25, 2017.

The BBC Television Centre in White City has transitioned from being the nerve center of British television to a modern mixed-use development, preserving its legacy while adapting to contemporary needs. If you’re interested in owning a piece of this historic site, we have a fantastic property available in the iconic Helios building. Don’t miss this opportunity to be part of television history.

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