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The John Laing building company began in 1848 when James Laing (born 1816), his wife Ann and a few employees built a house in Carlisle. They sold it for £175 (around £17,000 today), allowing them to build two more houses.
Before the Second World War the now formed John Laing building company built more homes and won major government contracts. The business expanded to include ventures in Britain and overseas in investments, technology and even mining.
By the Second World War the fifth generation of Laings were with the company. John Laing remained a family business until 2001 when the construction side that started it all was sold after 156 years of building.
Queen Coventry model
John Laing pioneered Easiform, an innovative form of house construction enabling thousands of new homes to be built quickly.
The company was responsible for building much of the new town Milton Keynes; power stations like Sizewell B; the Second Severn Crossing; hospitals and schools all across England; the British Library; modern office blocks like the CIS Tower in Manchester (then the tallest inhabited building in Europe).
As well as rebuilding the Coventry Cathedral, it also built a Mormon temple, a mosque and redeveloped a synagogue.
Everyone’s lives were touched in some way by John Laing’s work. Some of the less famous, but no less important, undertakings of the company were the multiple car parks, sewage works, shopping malls and holiday villages constructed after the 1950s.
During a period of incredible growth for the company, the business focused on the care of their staff. There were welfare officers, site nurses on big projects and pioneering changes in health and safety that they supported, from flat-caps to hard hats.
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.