John Laing releases historic construction photos

13 January 2020 | By Neil Gerrard

Workers constructing the central reservation of the M1 motorway

A huge archive of previously unseen images charting the work of John Laing over the last century have been released.

View of the second Severn Crossing under construction (Historic England Archive/John Laing Photographic Collection)

The publication of the images is part of a project between Historic England and the John Laing Charitable Trust, called Breaking New Ground. It explores the history of constructing modern Britain through the John Laing Photographic Collection.

The entire project involves digitising 10,000 images from the John Laing Photographic Collection, which will be available to the public through the Historic England website. Meanwhile ex-Laing workers will share their experiences with local schoolchildren using the Collection’s photographs as talking points, and a short film called Making Modern Britain will explore the collection and the stories behind the images.

A man and boy looking through the viewing window for the construction of Coventry Cathedral (Historic England Archive/John Laing Photographic Collection)

Laing was originally founded in 1848 as a building firm in Carlisle by James Laing. By 1953 John Laing and Son was listed on the London Stock Exchange and worked on projects including the M1 motorway, Sizewell B nuclear power station and Coventry Cathedral before it ceased construction work in 2002.

London Central Mosque (Historic England Archive/John Laing Photographic Collection)

Sir Martin Laing, chairman of trustees of the John Laing Charitable Trust, said: “I am delighted that this unique record of the construction industry is being made available to a wide audience and demonstrates the evolving nature and contribution of an industry that impacts us all. As a company Laing has been a leader in this change and demonstrates how important the people who work in it are and how we have been able to affect their lives and working conditions.”

View more images from the collection here.

Workmen straightening the steel reinforcement rods within the thermal shield during the construction of Berkeley Nuclear Power Station (Historic England Archive/John Laing Photographic Collection)

Two Laing workers at the Carlisle Civic Centre construction site, showing I Blackett (left), a new member of the team, with Harry Varah, foreman bricklayer (Historic England Archive/John Laing Photographic Collection)


Brilliant. There are other companies out there that ought to consider a similar idea. We don't want to loose information like this. Maybe CIOB could set up something on their web site. I could see this becoming something really big.

sean Morgan, 13 January 2020

Thank you Sir Martin. A great idea. Nostalgic ,I did not work on those projects but it brought to mind, Easiform housing St Budeaux ,Plymouth , Portishead power station ( I still have a framed picture of the turbine hall) and later copper mines,Northern Rhodesia also Various civils South Africa ,Johannesburg office.All fondly remembered work and colleagues.

COLIN EMSLEY, 13 January 2020

Many individuals will also have worthwhile contributions from the pre digital era.

Chris Purves, 13 January 2020

These photos are fantastic,especially the one with the young boy and the man.
The boy and the man viewing Coventry Cathedral we think we are so clever installing viewing panels in the hording credit to John Laing site management to have this vision.
Lovely well done to you all.

Denis Lawler, 13 January 2020

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