Mega Projects

In Pictures: Archive Images Reveal How Modern Britain Was Built

Mosque construction

Historic England has published online for the first time more than 2,000 newly digitised images from the John Laing Photographic Collection.

Laing was one of the UK’s biggest construction companies, which helped build modern Britain.

Here’s a selection of the images.

Breaking New Ground: the John Laing Photographic Collection
A steel frame is constructed for a prefabricated BISF (British Iron and Steel Federation) house in 1946 (Historic England Archive/John Laing Photographic Collection/PA)

Breaking New Ground: the John Laing Photographic Collection
A team of Laing workers smooth a concrete surface during the construction of the runway at Filton in Bristol, in 1947 (Historic England Archive/John Laing Photographic Collection/PA)

Breaking New Ground: the John Laing Photographic Collection
Ralph Beyer carves the foundation stone for Coventry Cathedral, in 1956. Mr Beyer (1921-2008) was a letter carver and sculptor who was commissioned to carve nave inscriptions for the new Coventry Cathedral which was built between the mid-1950s and 1962 (Historic England Archive/John Laing Photographic Collection/PA)

Breaking New Ground: the John Laing Photographic Collection
John W Laing and Captain NT Thurston sign the contract documents for the reconstruction of Coventry Cathedral (Historic England Archive/John Laing Photographic Collection/PA)

Breaking New Ground: the John Laing Photographic Collection
Laing builders concrete part of the roof of Coventry Cathedral during its construction in 1960 (Historic England Archive/John Laing Photographic Collection/PA)

Breaking New Ground: the John Laing Photographic Collection
Laing employees who worked on the construction of Coventry Cathedral pose on the steps leading up to the church in 1962 (Historic England Archive/John Laing Photographic Collection/PA)

Breaking New Ground: the John Laing Photographic Collection
An RAF Belvedere helicopter attempts to hoist the 80ft bronze spire for the new Coventry Cathedral from a scaffolding tower, in 1962 (Historic England Archive/John Laing Photographic Collection/PA)

Breaking New Ground: the John Laing Photographic Collection
RAF aircrew on the roof of Coventry Cathedral during Operation Rich Man, which involved Royal Air Force staff and Laing workers (Historic England Archive/John Laing Photographic Collection/PA)

Breaking New Ground: the John Laing Photographic Collection
Geoffrey Clarke’s 12ft aluminium sculpture of a winged cross, during Operation Rich Man, at Coventry Cathedral (Historic England Archive/John Laing Photographic Collection/PA)

Breaking New Ground: the John Laing Photographic Collection
Workmen straighten steel reinforcement rods during the construction of Berkeley nuclear power station in 1957 (Historic England Archive/John Laing Photographic Collection/PA)

Breaking New Ground: the John Laing Photographic Collection
Workmen face the lining panels inside the cooling water tunnel during the construction of Berkeley nuclear power station (Historic England Archive/John Laing Photographic Collection/PA)

Breaking New Ground: the John Laing Photographic Collection
A site nurse wades through mud during the construction of the M1 London to Yorkshire motorway in 1958 (Historic England Archive/John Laing Photographic Collection/PA)

Breaking New Ground: the John Laing Photographic Collection
Crowds and a police car at the opening of the M1 in 1959 (Historic England Archive/John Laing Photographic Collection/PA)

Breaking New Ground: the John Laing Photographic Collection
A customer fills up at a petrol station on the newly constructed M1 (Historic England Archive/John Laing Photographic Collection/PA)

Breaking New Ground: the John Laing Photographic Collection
A Roman Catholic priest speaks to an Irish worker on the construction site for the M1 (Historic England Archive/John Laing Photographic Collection/PA)

Breaking New Ground: the John Laing Photographic Collection
The site team at the London Central Mosque in front of the minaret on the penultimate day of the slipforming operation, in 1974. The minaret was constructed using a slipforming technique, in which concrete is poured into a continuously moving form (Historic England Archive/John Laing Photographic Collection/PA)

Breaking New Ground: the John Laing Photographic Collection
Steelwork for the domed roof of the prayer hall during construction of the London Central Mosque (Historic England Archive/John Laing Photographic Collection/PA)

Breaking New Ground: the John Laing Photographic Collection
The Barbican Arts Centre under construction in 1978 (Historic England Archive/John Laing Photographic Collection/PA)

Breaking New Ground: the John Laing Photographic Collection
Jacqueline Bowker, student engineer and Anita Manning, chain girl, with the Jay Robertson in the background, a large barge working in the River Severn during the construction of the Second Severn Crossing, in 1992. The Jay Robertson was was used to drill piles through the sea bed for two viaduct support piers close to the Severn Rail Tunnel (Historic England Archive/John Laing Photographic Collection/PA)

Breaking New Ground: the John Laing Photographic Collection
The partially constructed Second Severn Crossing in the mid-1990s (Historic England Archive/John Laing Photographic Collection/PA)

Breaking New Ground: the John Laing Photographic Collection
The Second Severn Crossing under construction, pictured in 1995 (Historic England Archive/John Laing Photographic Collection/PA)

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