A large bronze sculpture suspended by crane with three workers on scaffolding manoeuvring it into position.
About this image
St Michael's Cathedral, Coventry. View of Jacob Epstein's sculpture of the devil being hoisted into position 1961-2 © Historic England Archive. John Laing Collection JLP01/14/00036
St Michael's Cathedral, Coventry. View of Jacob Epstein's sculpture of the devil being hoisted into position 1961-2 © Historic England Archive. John Laing Collection JLP01/14/00036

John Laing Collection: Breaking New Ground

The John Laing plc building company profoundly shaped post-war Britain. They built outstanding sites of worship like Coventry Cathedral, the country’s first motorway, the M1, and buildings which housed pioneering forms of technology such as Berkeley Nuclear Power Station.

Historic England holds Laing’s 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 the collection.

John Laing plc photo collection

Please click on the gallery images to enlarge.

Iconic British buildings and the people who built them

The collection provides a unique insight into the origins of iconic British buildings and the considerable human effort that went into their construction. Workers are pictured laying foundations in the depths of the earth or adding another floor to the top of lofty towers.

The collection shows how the construction industry became professionalised. In early photos men wear flat-caps. In later images the site uniform is strictly hard-hats and steel-capped boots.

Alongside images of famous visitors to Laing sites, the collection holds employee holiday albums which capture the inclusive company spirit that Laing created.

Four workmen fitting lining panels in a cooling water tunnel at Berkeley Power Station © Historic England Archive. John Laing Collection jlp01/01/082/49

Preserving and sharing employees' memories

Breaking New Ground is a project funded by Historic England and the John Laing Charitable Trust. The project will include engagement activities where former Laing employees will visit schools near major Laing sites and speak about their experiences working for the company.

The project will record these oral histories and convert them into films to preserve the memories of the employees. Uploaded onto the internet, the films will be used to educate future generations about Laing’s tremendous impact upon their local areas.

Upcoming highlights

  • The launch of the online collection in autumn 2019
  • Oral history workshops in Bristol, Swindon, Preston, Newcastle, Coventry and London in 2019 to 2020. The dates will be published here as soon as they're confirmed.

Get involved

If you would like to learn more about the project, or if you are a former Laing employee or work at a school that would like to take part in the engagement activities, please contact: [email protected]

John Laing plc photo collection

Please click on the gallery images to enlarge.

Supported by:

Logo for John Laing Charitable Trust
Was this page helpful?