How Did Road Surfacing Begin in the UK?

Wide Range of Rollers, Dumpers, Mini Diggers, Skidsteers Hire for Construction Work in Hertford


Rhinos RollersImagine what life was like before Tarmac was used to surface roads in the UK, a bit of a bumpy ride to say the least! The first roads consisted of loose stones in layers decreasing in size, great for horses hooves, terrible for car wheels. Dust flew everywhere, jagged stones damaged tyres and rain created mud baths. The arrangement was perfectly adequate when road surfaces were first constructed, [or Macadamised] though, by John Loudon McAdam in 1756.

In 1901, Welsh inventor Edgar Purnell Hooley, was walking in Denby, Derbyshire, when he spotted a stretch of unusually smooth road near to an ironworks. When he enquired about it, he discovered that it was the result of a barrel of tar falling from a dray, and breaking open. The contents spilled and in order to cover the pool of liquid tar, somebody had poured waste slag, that came from nearby furnaces on top. This happy accident had resurfaced the road, and created a solid and even surface minus dust etc.

Hooley patented the process by 1902, which saw heated tar, slag and broken stones combined to produce road surfaces. The first road to be tarmacked in the world was Radcliffe Road in Nottingham! Hooley formed Tar Macadam Syndicate Ltd, registering Tarmac as a trade mark in 1903.

Edgar Purnell Hooley was not a businessman and experienced difficulty selling his new product, so it was sold to Wolverhampton MP, Sir Alfred Hickman. Fortunately Hickman owned a steelworks that produced large quantities of slag, perfect for use in tarmac production! 1905 saw the Tarmac company relaunched, and is to this day an incredibly successful concern.

Here at Rhinos, the vast majority of our roller hire is for projects involving road surfacing, whether for developers or local authorities.

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