A Portrait of Achievement

Historical Projects, 1919-1945

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.

  • Gareloch and Loch Long Road, Argyll and Bute 1922

    Just one example of the many roads that would be built by the company over the decades to come. This photograph shows rock being crushed to form the stone that would be used during construction. As the livery on the side of the lorry indicates, the company had by now become established in London, having moved its head office from Clydebank to Westminster in 1916.

  • Wembley Stadium and the British Empire Exhibition, London 1922-1924

    The acknowledged home of football for more than three quarters of a century, the construction of Wembley Stadium took just 12 months. The stadium formed part of a wider contract which also included the buildings for the British Empire Exhibition of 1924.

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Tilbury Dock, London 1926-1929

Capable of handling the largest ships afloat, a 230m dry dock and a 305m entrance channel were constructed at Tilbury in London along with a passenger landing stage.

The project was one of a host of contracts undertaken at ports around the UK and across the world, the company going on to build many of the major docks and wharfage facilities along the Thames, the Clyde, the Tyne, the Tees and the Wear.

 

construction works at Tilbury Dock

 

 

Southampton Docks

One such project involved a major extension to Southampton Docks where more than 10,000 tonnes of kentledge was required to sink into position the 78 monoliths that make up the 1km long quay wall. More than eight hectares of land were reclaimed as a result of the work, ground on which we constructed the Solent Mills for J Rank Ltd.

The company’s engineering expertise was also called upon at Takoradi on the Gold Coast of West Africa where the construction of 4km of breakwaters created 220 acres of the first safe anchorage on a coast dominated by heavy surf.

  • Mersey Tunnel, Birkenhead 1929-1934

    The Birkenhead section of the Mersey Tunnel consisted of a 13m wide tunnel with an 880m long open approach. The company went on to develop and build tunnel boring machines and carried out prototype trials in chalk in anticipation of the Channel Tunnel. Half the machines used to construct the tunnels for the Victoria Line in London were built by the company.

  • The Dorchester Hotel, London 1929-1931

    When it opened on April 18th 1931, the Dorchester Hotel on Park Lane was the most luxurious establishment of its kind London had ever seen. With its exquisitely styled interior and sumptuous rooms, the Dorchester quickly established a reputation under the direction of the McAlpine family as the epitome of hotel excellence.

    A landmark in innovative building techniques, construction involved what is believed to be the first use of a tower crane in Europe. The “Monotower” provided valuable service to the company into the 1970s.

    The company returned to the Dorchester in the early 1990s to complete a major restoration and refurbishment programme.

  • Cheddar Reservoir, Somerset 1933-1937

    Constructed on a flat moor below the Mendip Hills, this 250 acre reservoir is capable of holding six billion litres of water. Around 250 workers were involved in the project which included construction of a 4km long cut‑off trench designed to limit loss of water from the reservoir. A huge feat of engineering, the trench, which was 2m wide and up to 20m deep, was excavated mainly by hand using pneumatic drills and spades.

  • Amalgamated Studios, Hertfordshire 1935

    Designed to rival their Hollywood counterparts, the four self-contained units which made up Amalgamated Studios in Borehamwood played a major role in British cinema history.

    The complex was reconstructed and extended by the company for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer after the second world war. 

    MGM-British Studios was among the biggest of its kind in the UK and went on to establish a reputation as one of the best in the industry. Films shot at the studio include classics such as Ivanhoe and 2001:A Space Odyssey.

  • Mogden Sewerage Scheme, London 1936

    When completed, this 70-acre sewerage disposal works was one of the largest of its kind in the world. Some 48km of tunnels were also built, 38km of which were constructed using the McAlpine patented system of precast reinforcement tunnel lining.

  • Odeon Leicester Square, London 1937

    The 2,116-seat Odeon Cinema with its landmark 37m tall tower stands on the site of the former Alhambra Theatre. The cinema opened for business on November 2nd 1937 with the feature The Prison of Zenda starring Ronald Colman.

  • Great Ormond Street Hospital, London 1939

    A 'modern' hospital block and additional floors of nurses' accommodation were constructed at this world-renowned children's hospital. Major hospital projecs completed since include the redevelopment of St Thomas' London, extension of The Royal Gwent in Newport, Wishaw District General in Lanarkshire and Russells Hall Hospital in Dudley.

World War II

During a conflict in which the battle for air supremacy was crucial, the company constructed a large number of the RAF airfields which would play a vital role in the Second World War. 

More than 20 airfields were built or upgraded, including Lasham, Mildenhall, Fairford, Boscombe Down, Prestwick and Northolt, sites that would provide bases for fighter defences and bomber command as well as support during the allied invasion of Europe.

In 1948 we returned to Boscombe Down to further develop the airfield for the RAF and construct one of the largest strategic runways in the UK.

The company was also responsible for a number of explosive factories built during the Second World War, including the Royal Navy Propellant Factory, Caerwent.

 

world war II airfield

 

  • Mulberry Harbours, 1944

    A military engineering project of unprecedented size and complexity, Mulberry Harbours is perhaps our most important contribution to the war effort. We played a significant role  in the construction of the temporary harbours which supported the D-Day landings in Normandy.

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Our Portrait of Achievement

  1. 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
  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. Victoria Gate Leeds

    Historical Projects, 2014-2016

    01 Jan 1900

    From education institutions to mixed-used retail and entertainment complexes, and the New London Embassy, we proudly building Britain's future heritage.

    Read more about Historical Projects, 2014-2016