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Historic England releases previously unseen images of building post-war Britain

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Historic England has launched a substantial new image-based project, showcasing a selection of key post-war buildings

Made public for the first time today (13 January), Breaking New Ground is a 21-month project to digitise and explore the John Laing Photographic Collection – a unique record of Britain’s construction history. Around 2,000 newly digitised images have been released, free to access, on the Historic England website.

This is the first batch of a total 10,000 images that will eventually be made available to the public by autumn this year.

Exploring the history of constructing modern Britain, the John Laing Photographic Collection – held by the Historic England Archive – contains over 230,000 images which chart Laing’s infrastructure construction work over the last century.

According to the heritage watchdog, it offers ‘an unparalleled insight’ into the origins of iconic British buildings, the construction of important national infrastructure projects and the increasing professionalism of the construction industry over the course of the 20th century.

Laing was originally established by James Laing in 1848 as a building company based in Carlisle. It grew to become a major construction company in the UK and internationally. Major construction projects included the M1, Sizewell B nuclear power station and Coventry Cathedral.

Throughout the last century, the company employed photographers to capture its work. As a consequence, the collection includes striking and unique photographs of some of Britain’s most significant infrastructure projects and public buildings. 

Duncan Wilson, chief executive of Historic England said: ‘We hope the project will shine a light on prominent and everyday British landmarks, and inspire the next generation to enjoy and engage in the built heritage all around us.’

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