About Congress House and the Bevin Room

Issue date
18 Feb 2004
ABOUT CONGRESS HOUSE AND THE BEVIN ROOM

Congress House, headquarters of the TUC since 1958, was constructed as a memorial to the sacrifices made by trade unionists in two World Wars.

The idea for the building came from a resolution at the 1944 Congress. In addition to commemorating trade unionists’ war efforts, the General Council saw the creation of the new headquarters as an opportunity to promote interest in the arts and architecture. A competition for a suitable design, which attracted 181 entries, was won by David Du R Aberdeen.

The building is centred on a courtyard beneath which is a conference hall that seats 500. On three sides of the building are offices and meeting rooms. These originally included training rooms but the TUC’s educational work was transferred to the National Education Centre in Hornsey, North London when that opened in 1984.

As well as housing the TUC’s headquarters staff, the building is now occupied by a number of tenants, providing an important source of income for the TUC, and, when they are not in use by the TUC, the conference and meeting facilities are available for hire through the Congress Centre.

The fourth side of the building consists of the memorial wall with its imposing work by Sir Jacob Epstein, carved on the spot from a single ten-ton block of Roman stone. A plaster maquette (or miniature) for the work is displayed in the Bevin Room next to the general secretary’s office. It differs from the final work in a number of important respects, most notably that the figure of the soldier carrying a wounded comrade has become a mother carrying her fallen son. The Bevin Room also contains a bust of Ernest Bevin, the President of Congress in 1936 and former General Secretary of the Transport and General Workers Union, who went on to become the Minister of Labour in the wartime coalition and was Foreign Secretary in the post-war Labour Government.

The front of the building is dominated by a bronze sculpture by Bernard Meadows representing the spirit of trade unionism with the strong helping the weak.

In 1988 Congress House was listed by the Secretary of State for the Environment as a building of special architectural interest.