A Portrait of Achievement

Historical Projects, 1869-1919

From a mine chimney in 1869 to construction during the Great War, we have been building Britain's future heritage from our very first project.

  • Mine Chimney, Lanarkshire 1869

    The first commission undertaken by Robert McAlpine following the founding of the company in 1869 was the repair of a mine chimney, similar to the one pictured. Assisted by a single labourer, he was paid the sum of £2.9s

  • Singer Manufacturing Company, Glasgow 1882-1885

    The construction of the Singer Manufacturing factory was the first major building project and took just over two years to build. We were contracted again to build a considerable extension in 1904, and for further rebuilding work in 1906 following a fire.

  • Glasgow Housing, Glasgow 1883

    Housing accommodation represented an important part of Robert McAlpine's early construction work. By 1883 the company had built accommodation at Burnbank, Hamilton and Larkhill. Many of the houses were constructed of concrete, a technology pioneered by Robert to the extent that he became affectionately known as 'Concrete Bob'. He was also renowned for providing individual homes with gardens and this led to the creation of the first Garden City at Clydebank in 1905.

  • Lanarkshire and Ayrshire Railway, 1885-1890

    Construction of the Lanarkshire and Ayrshire Railway included 82 bridges and viaducts. Robert McAlpine is pictured (fifth from right) with some of his staff and engineers of the Caledonian Railway Company during construction of a viaduct on the Barrmill to Kilwinning section of the line.

  • Glasgow District Subway, 1894

    Forming part of what is one of the earliest examples of an underground railway in the world, a section of tunnel was constructed starting from just north of the station in Buchanan Street to St George's Cross. The company's first tunnelling project, work also included construction of stations at St George's Cross and Cowcaddens. 

  • Glenfinnan Viaduct, West Highland Railway 1897-1901

    Standing more than 30 metres high, this magnificent 21-arch viaduct is part of the 64km Fort William to Mallaig extension of the West Highland Railway.

    One of a number of structures constructed along this section of the line, it stands above the Glenfinnan Valley at the head of Loch Shiel.

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  • Island Barn Reservoir, East Molesey 1909-1911

    The reservoir covers an area of more than 48 hectares and can hold in excess of 4.5 billion litres of water. Most of the 764,000 cubic metres of earth removed to create the reservoir was excavated by steam navvies.

  • Methil Dock, Fife 1908-1913

    Construction of Methil Dock was a huge engineering undertaking carried out in the most extreme conditions imaginable. Operating on a site at the mercy of the ferocious gales that swept up the Firth of Forth, the project involved the creation of 1.6km of sea wall, a dock with a water area of seven hectares, 1,800m of quays a 550m long entrance channel and the complete reconstruction of siding and marshalling yards comprising 40km of railway,

  • Alwen Reservoir, North Wales 1911-1917

    Standing 27 metres high and 140 metres long, the Alwen Dam creates a 4km long reservoir capable of holding 14 billion litres of water. Alwen is just one of many dams and reservoirs constructed by the company.

  • Cuffley to Hertford Line Extension, 1912-1915

    This section of the Great Northern Railway is a further example of our involvement in the expansion of the UK's early rail network. In addition to the 21-arch Hertford Viaduct, major structures along the route included the 2.5km Great Ponsbourne Tunnel, construction of which required 30 million bricks. A purpose-built brickworks used clay excavated during the project to make many of the bricks required.

The Great War, 1914-1919

The company made an enormous contribution to support of 'Kitchener's Army' during the Great War. Frequently operating close to the front lines, we were involved in the construction of hutted camps and support buildings throughout France, such as this hospital at Etaples. Similar camps were also built throughout Britain.

On the Home Front our support for the war effort also included the constuction of munitions factories to help alleviate the ordnance shortage on the Western Front. As well as plants including Georgetown in Refrewshire and Perivale in London, the company constructed The British Dyes factory at Huddersfield, which was initially used to produce ingredients for explosives. Some 2,000 workers were employed on the project, erecting 130 buildings across a 670-acre site.

British Cellulose and Chemical Manufacturing Company, Derby

Hospital built by Sir Robert McAlpine in Etaples during the Great War

The company was also responsible for constructing many aerodromes and associated facilities including the Western Aircraft Repair Depot at Yate and the Loch Doon School of Aerial Gunnery.

The British Cellulose and Chemical Manufacturing Company in Derby was typical of many of the contracts undertaken in this period. The factory covered an area of eight hectares and was built for the treatment of aircraft fabric.

Our Portrait of Achievement

  1. Mulberry Harbour - photographs courtesy of the Imperial War Museum

    Historical Projects, 1919-1945

    06 Jan 1900

    From Wembley Stadium and The British Empire Exhibition to supporting the D-Day landings in Normandy, engineering excellence is at the heart of everything we do.

    Read more about Historical Projects, 1919-1945
  2. Cutty Srk Dry Dock

    Historical Projects, 1946-1970

    05 Jan 1900

    From iron and steelworks to power stations and motorways, we played our part in helping rebuild Britain's industrial strength after the Second World War.

    Read more about Historical Projects, 1946-1970
  3. O2 Arena on River Thames

    Historical Projects, 1972-1999

    04 Jan 1900

    From Sellafield to Canary Wharf, Hampden Park to the Millennium Dome, our projects changed landscapes across the length and breadth of Britain.

    Read more about Historical Projects, 1972-1999
  4. imperial war museum

    Historical Projects, 2000-2008

    03 Jan 1900

    From the Eden Project to the Emirates Stadium we overcome complex construction challenges to delivered some of the most Britain's iconic landmarks.

    Read more about Historical Projects, 2000-2008
  5. Marischal College

    Historical Projects, 2009-2013

    02 Jan 1900

    From the London Olympic Stadium to the M74 Completion in Glasgow, we played a significant role in shaping communities through infrastructure, leisure, and education projects.

    Read more about Historical Projects, 2009-2013
  6. Festive photograph of Glenfinnan Viaduct in the winter

    Historical Projects, 1869-1919

    07 Jan 1900

    From a mine chimney in 1869 to construction during the Great War, we have been building Britain's future heritage from our very first project.

    Read more about Historical Projects, 1869-1919