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Where did 'tarmac' come from?

It was the start of a new century. The Boer War raged, Queen Victoria's long reign had just ended and the civilised world was starting to feel the effects of the new age of the motor car. The search was on for a material that would create better road surfaces. . .


As if by chance, on a road near Denby ironworks in Derbyshire in 1901, the county surveyor of Nottingham - Edgar Purnell Hooley noticed a barrel of tar had fallen from a dray and burst open.


To avoid a nuisance, someone from the ironworks had thoughtfully covered the sticky black mess with waste slag from nearby furnaces. . . and the world's first tarmacadam surface was born by accident!


Hooley noticed that the patch of road, which had been unintentionally re-surfaced, was dust-free and hadn't been rutted by traffic. So he set to work and by the following year, 1902, Hooley obtained a British patent for a method of mixing slag with tar, naming the material Tarmac.


By June 1903, Hooley formed the TarMacadam Syndicate Limited, the origin of what is now known as The Tarmac Group, the UK's leading supplier of building materials.



A Working History



To mop up spilt liquid tar, the road was covered with waste slag from a nearby ironworks. The two materials blended into a hard-wearing, dust-free surface – Tarmac was born.



The TarMacadam Syndicate was formed on 17 June 1903 with a nominal capital of £25,000



The name of company changed to Tarmac Limited on 26 May 1905 and Sir Alfred Hickman, MP for Wolverhampton, became chairman.



The road fund report showed that 190 miles of arterial roads had been completed including the Kingston Bypass - the first dual carriageway of its kind



Machines were gradually being introduced into quarries and excavators were used to load stone into steam trains. 



The method of delivering tarmac changed from railways to roads and in this year the company switched from the classic but cumbersome Sentinel Steam Wagons to lighter motor lorries.



When the tide of World War II turned Tarmac was asked to complete a special rush job, widening and strengthening miles of roads in the south of England ready to carry D-Day invasion traffic to the coast. We also helped construct the 'Mulberry harbours' used in the invasion



Tarmac won a significant contract to surface the eight mile long Preston Bypass, which later became the M6 Motorway - the first motorway to be built in Britain



The 7 T's symbol of Tarmac was introduced and ten years later was voted one the world's top trade marks.



Tarmac International is created to reach the construction growth markets in the Middle East and West Africa.



The Thames Barrier is opened which Tarmac helped build and work starts on the Channel Tunnel, in conjunction with Costain and Hollandsche Beton Maatschappij. It was opened by Her Majesty the Queen in 1984.



The update of the Tarmac logo to the one seen today.



Anglo American acquires the Tarmac Group. 

Bought by Anglo American PLC in 2000 to sit alongside their global mining operations.



Following an evaluation of its fit within Anglo American's portfolio of assets, the group has determined that Tarmac is a strong business but not core to its future development as a focused mining company.  Anglo therefore confirmed its intention to sell Tarmac.



The Tarmac business separated into two business streams Tarmac Limited and Tarmac Building Products Ltd aligned to the distinct market sectors we trade in.



Tarmac Building Products acquired by Lafarge Tarmac. (a joint venture of Tarmac Limited and Lafarge UK).

Contact us

Blocks: 0845 606 2468

Packed: 08444 63 64 65

Topsport: 08456 00 77 04

Mortar & Screed: 08701 116 116

Pozament: 08444 63 00 46

Special Sands: 08456 00 77 03

SafetyDeck: 08456 00 77 02

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