Steam train in station with a placard on the front which reads, 'LAING -  STAFF OUTING - CORONATION YEAR'
A steam train chartered by Laing leaving Waterloo station transporting Laing's London office on a staff outing to Bournemouth © Historic England Archive. John Laing Photographic Collection JLP01/08/008843A
A steam train chartered by Laing leaving Waterloo station transporting Laing's London office on a staff outing to Bournemouth © Historic England Archive. John Laing Photographic Collection JLP01/08/008843A

Foundations Laid Then Buckets and Spades

Today Historic England has released nearly 700 newly-digitised, never-seen-before, post-war images from the John Laing Photographic Collection, which includes images of the company’s summer away days to the seaside.

Breaking New Ground

Also released today is a new film entitled “Building Britain”, which features filmed accounts of some of the men and women who helped construct some of the country’s most iconic sites including the Second Severn Crossing (now Prince of Wales Bridge) and London’s Barbican.

This marks the formal end of Breaking New Ground - a 21-month project supported by the John Laing Charitable Trust to digitise 10,000 images from the Collection, offering a unique insight into the building of post-war Britain.

Breaking New Ground has catalogued and digitised thousands of images and made them freely available on the Historic England website. The collection has had over 10,000 online visits to-date. The majority of the images are now on the Historic England website, with the remaining images uploaded in the coming months.

The project’s national engagement programme involved four primary schools, over 150 key stage two pupils and eight ex-Laing workers, with a further four ex-Laing workers taking part in filmed accounts. The programme has also resulted in new, free education resources for teachers to access online.

Post-war summer holiday photographs

Laing was one of Britain’s biggest construction firms and played a large part in rebuilding Britain following the Second World War. These images give us insight into work and play in the lives of the workers and their families as they headed out for a summer holiday.

Influenced by the religious attitudes of its founder, Sir John Laing, who was part of the Plymouth Brethren, the company had enlightened attitudes towards its staff for the time, with a strong focus on family values. It arranged company away days, events and trips to the seaside for the families of its workers.

Photographs were taken to record these events for the company’s ‘Team Spirit’ in-house newsletter, published from 1946-2001.

John Laing Photographic Collection

Founded in 1848, Laing was one of the most significant British construction companies of 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. The 10,000 newly digitised images focus on the company’s post-war heyday, with major projects including the construction of Berkeley Nuclear Power Station and Coventry Cathedral, as well as many everyday sites including social housing, schools and sewage works.

View the collection

Covering everything from seaside adventures to company sports days, these fantastic photographs evoke the joy of holidays and colleagues coming together, with thousands of images now available on our website for everyone to see and explore. The images show how our country was built and how it developed following the Second World War. We are grateful to the John Laing Charitable Trust for enabling us to catalogue and digitise such an important collection.

Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive Historic England

I am delighted to have been able to see the results of our collaboration with Historic England which have developed over the past 21 months and produced an amazing record of the achievements of John Laing. My grandfather Sir John Laing was passionate about the importance and well-being of his employees and this comes through in many of the highlighted pictures. His belief in the importance of people was continued by the Company for many years after he stepped down and continues today through the John Laing Charitable Trust whose primary aim is to look after its very many retired former employees and their dependents. The Breaking New Ground project has enabled his legacy to shine on.

Sir Martin Laing, Chairman of Trustees John Laing Charitable Trust
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