Congress House

The home of the British trade union movement

We call it home, but here are a few facts about Congress House, the workers and artists behind it and the communities from which materials were sourced.

The TUC Headquarters were opened in 1958 and commemorates trade unionists who lost their lives in the world wars.

In 1988, it became one of the earliest post-war buildings to be listed at Grade II.

The design for the building was commissioned through an open architectural competition in 1946, the first of its kind in the post war period.

The winner, out of 181 entrants, was the London born architect David Du Roi Aberdeen. His design was chosen because it was explicitly modern.

He employed real craftsmen who had a great passion for their work and used eclectic materials. All the labourers and craftsmen on site had to be a member of a trade union to work there.

Much of the wood for the panelling was donated from trade unions and labour movements around the world, while the Cornish granite was sourced from a variety of quarries in order to help relieve unemployment in those areas.

Controversial British sculptor Sir Jacob Epstein carved a stone sculpture showing a mother cradling her dead son as a war memorial. Carved in situ in the central courtyard, the scale of the installation means the final piece looks very different from the original model.

Although Epstein was invited by the TUC General Secretary to enter the competition he refused. He did agree to take on a paid commission though, arguing that he should be paid for his labour!

Known as an innovative, provocative artist, Epstein had previously cast a bronze portrait of the TUC General Secretary Ernest Bevin, commissioned in 1943.

Modernist sculptor Bernard Meadows composed ‘The spirit of brotherhood’, also in bronze, which stands at the front of Congress House. It was cast section by section by skilled craftsmen.