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Sat July 04 2020

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History revealed in John Laing photo archive

13 Jan Historic England and the John Laing Charitable Trust have launched a 21-month project that explores the history of constructing modern Britain through the John Laing Photographic Collection.

Construction of Berkeley nuclear power station, circa 1960 © Historic England Archive. John Laing Collection
Construction of Berkeley nuclear power station, circa 1960 © Historic England Archive. John Laing Collection

Historic England holds Laing’s entire photographic collection of around 230,000 images. Breaking New Ground is a project that will digitise, conserve, catalogue and make accessible 10,000 images from this collection of social and industrial history.

As part of the project, the photo collection will be used for education material and to support oral histories with former Laing construction workers.

Laing was originally established by James Laing in Carlisle in 1848 as a building company. It grew to become a major construction company both in the UK and internationally. In 1953, John Laing & Son (Holdings) Ltd was listed on the London Stock Exchange. It built, among many other things, the M1 motorway, Sizewell B nuclear power station, Coventry Cathedral, Stansted Airport, Birmingham Bullring, the Second Severn Crossing and Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium.

It was the last of these that was to prove the ruin of the company, losing it so much money that it sold up its construction interests to Ray O’Rourke for just £1 in 2001.

If you would like to know more, or you are a former Laing employee wishing to take part in engagement activities, email breakingnewground@HistoricEngland.org.uk

Building the M1© Historic England Archive. John Laing Collection
Building the M1© Historic England Archive. John Laing Collection

A group portrait of Laing employees who worked on the construction of Coventry Cathedral, posed on the steps leading up to the cathedral © Historic England Archive. John Laing Collection
A group portrait of Laing employees who worked on the construction of Coventry Cathedral, posed on the steps leading up to the cathedral © Historic England Archive. John Laing Collection

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