Black and white photo of three men pouring concrete. They aren't wearing any hard hats or high-vis clothing.
A team of Laing builders concreting part of the roof of Coventry Cathedral during its construction © Historic England Archive, John Laing Photographic Collection. JLP01/08/058127
A team of Laing builders concreting part of the roof of Coventry Cathedral during its construction © Historic England Archive, John Laing Photographic Collection. JLP01/08/058127

Coventry School Children to Receive Special Insight into Local Construction History

This month, 30 primary school children from Coventry’s St Osburg’s Catholic Primary will explore fascinating archive images from the John Laing Photographic Collection. As part of the ongoing Breaking New Ground project, they'll also take part in a specially designed education workshop, organised by Historic England with support of the John Laing Charitable Trust.

Unique insight into the building industry of last century

Founded in 1848, John Laing plc was one of the most significant British construction companies of the 20th century, working on projects including Coventry Cathedral, Nottingham Center Parcs and Birmingham International Airport.

Throughout the 20th century, the company employed photographers to capture its work, which resulted in the John Laing Photographic Collection. Now held by the Historic England Archive, this Collection of over 230,000 images provides a unique insight into the origins of iconic British buildings and the professional development of the construction industry over the course of the last century.

View the collection

Kids meet ex-Laing workers who built Coventry landmarks

The education workshop will involve local ex-Laing construction workers talking to the school children about the images of Laing’s work in and around Coventry in the 1950s and 60s. They will share memories of their work on the construction sites, and the workshops will be rounded off with a tour of Coventry Cathedral.

Prior to the workshop, students will learn about the John Laing Photographic Collection and the Historic England Archive through a preparatory class with Historic England’s Heritage Schools and Archives team. The workshop’s aim is to develop the students’ sense of pride in where they live and help them understand their local heritage and how it relates to the national story.

We are pleased to have the opportunity for our year five pupils to be involved in Historic England’s ‘Breaking New Ground’ project. The workshop and cathedral visit will give pupils further insight into their local heritage, and the opportunity to learn from people who built Coventry Cathedral.

Sarah McDevitt, school teacher, St Osburg’s Catholic Primary School

The aim of these workshops was to engage students with the John Laing Photographic Collection, to share stories and to increase the students’ knowledge and sense of pride in their local heritage. They have been inquisitive, thoughtful and have shown real enthusiasm when spending time with former Laing employees, who have enjoyed sharing their stories and learning from these young people.

Ashley McKenzie-White, Breaking New Ground Outreach Officer, Historic England

These workshops are part of John Laing Collection: Breaking New Ground - a 21-month project run by Historic England that will explore the history of constructing modern Britain through the John Laing Photographic Collection. The project, which runs until autumn 2020, will result in 10,000 images being digitised and made accessible online via the Historic England Archive, and includes a nationwide engagement programme including education workshops and resources for schools.