An archive of old photographs has been digitised by Historic England that reveal fascinating images of construction sites in the past.

Ranging from family days out by construction workers to monumental construction sites, to scary photos of people at work before modern safety standards.

The collection, “Breaking New Ground” is the culmination of a 21-month project that explores the history of constructing modern Britain through the John Laing Photographic Collection.

Laing was originally established in 1848 as a building company based in the North West of England by James Laing.

Throughout the last century, the company employed photographers to capture its work. As a consequence, the Collection includes striking and unique photographs of some of Britain’s most significant infrastructure projects and public buildings.

Through it’s history grew to become a major construction company in the United Kingdom and internationally. In 1953, the company was listed on the London Stock Exchange, and worked on major construction projects as diverse as the M1 motorway, Sizewell B nuclear power station and Coventry Cathedral, ceasing its construction work in 2002.

Held by the Historic England Archive, the Collection contains over 230,000 images which chart this major British company’s work over the last century.

The whole archive is here – tip, use the filters on the side bar to narrow your searches.

A man preparing the precast gable beams with seating for precast roof slabs (c) Historic England

View showing the progress of construction for St Thomas’ Hospital (c) Historic England

Two workers fixing reinforcements inside a tunnel on the Barbican site (c) Historic England

View showing the construction of the British Library (c) Historic England

An elevated view looking down onto the Barbican during construction (c) Historic England


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