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Construction powerhouses of the 1980’s, 1990’s and early 2000’s

1st July 2021   |   Liz Clarke   |   Reading Time: 5 minutes

Where are they now?

The recent comeback of the Tilbury Douglas name sparked nostalgia in Evolution5’s MD Jamie Barrett. This article is the result of that nostalgia and a trip down memory lane.

Read on for Jamie’s thoughts. 

I heard some news recently and it really got me reminiscing about my early years in construction. Join me for a look at some of the construction powerhouses of the 1980s, 90s and early 2000s.

Having started my career in construction in the mid-nineties I have seen substantial changes in the industry. One notable change, and it’s one that does fascinate me, has been the constant changing of company names. Whether through an acquisition, a merger, a straightforward name change, or in unfortunate circumstances the closing of doors. 

In fact, it very much seemed that in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s it was fashionable to change the company name – or in other words to not allow the competition to get a branding edge over you. 

In fact, the reality of many name changes and consequential rebranding efforts were probably more to do with the fact that construction did not have a great reputation. It was constantly plagued by its poor health and safety record, terrible designs and low-quality construction of buildings (I am waiting for a backlash from some of my architectural friends) due to rushed delivery in order to keep up with demand, and generally disgruntled clients and investors. 

Moreover, these issues were whilst operating in a very hostile environment. My recollection of the industry at that time was that relationships between the Client and Contractor were, let’s just say, contractual. With that in mind, it stands to reason that the industry giants wanted to reimagine themselves, typically through an image (and name) change. 

But where, and who, are they now?

Here is a list of some of the big names of the 1980’s and 1990’s that I have had the pleasure working for, with, or are very well-known to me. The list is biased towards London and the South owing to the fact that’s where I have worked in the industry for more than the last 25 years.

Tilbury Douglas 

Tilbury Douglas started its business life in 1935 as Tilbury Construction until 1992 when it became the name we know so well, Tilbury Douglas. In 2001 Tilbury Douglas changed its name to Interserve Project Services, which lasted until 2011 when the company further changed its name to Interserve Construction. In March of this year (2021) the company reverted to the name our industry is most familiar with, Tilbury Douglas. 

Mansell Construction

My beloved Mansell Construction. A company with a great reputation and known for its solid leadership through Steve Waite. I spent seven years working for the company during which time it was acquired by Balfour Beatty in December 2003. 

The company had actually started out as Derwent Builders Limited in 1975, changing its names several times (Hall & Tawse Eastern, Hall & Tawse Midlands, Mansell Midlands) before becoming Mansell Construction Services. Today the company is known as Balfour Beatty Regional Construction. 


Rok was one of the most popular construction companies in the early to mid-2000s. The company was as much known for its leader, the late Garvis Snook, as it was for its project. Snook helped reinvent the EBC Group through the newly formed Rok. EBC Group was originally Exeter Building Contractors founded in 1939. Rok took the EBC Group from a £4m revenue business to a £700m turnover public company that was reported to be valued at £450m at its peak. However, the company went into administration in 2010 and dissolved in 2012. 

This was not quite the end for Rok though. In 2010 Balfour Beatty paid £7m for some of Rok’s construction and affordable housing business and folded it into Mansell Construction. 

John Laing 

Originally founded by James Laing in 1848 this Carlisle based housebuilder became John Laing & Son in 1920 when it also moved its HQ to London. Over the years the company continued to grow and expand with ownership falling to the 6th generation of Laings in 1985. 

In 1998, as the company celebrated its 150th anniversary, profits were falling although it later enjoyed a period of recovery and further growth before the various divisions were finally carved up and sold off. 

In 2001 the construction division of John Laing was sold to O’Rourke for just £1. In the ensuing years, the property development arm was sold to Kier Group while the housebuilding arm was acquired by George Wimpey. Finally in 2006, John Laing plc was acquired by Henderson Group.

John Laing Group continues to be involved in a number of infrastructure and environmental consortiums although research at the time of writing shows that a further buyout was recommended to John Laing Group shareholders in early 2021. 

Tarmac Construction 

Tarmac Construction is where I started my career in construction management working out of its office in Chandlers Ford, Hampshire. The company was founded in 1957, although the Tarmac Group history goes back to 1903. In 1996 Tarmac Construction agreed an asset swap which saw Wimpey acquire all of Tarmac’s housing, and in return, Tarmac received Wimpey’s construction and minerals divisions. 

This part of the business was known as Tarmac Construction (Contracts), which in 1999 along with Tarmac Construction changed its name to Carillion Construction (Contracts) and Carillion Construction, respectively. Sadly, in 2018 Carillion entered into compulsory liquidation and finally closed the doors. Meanwhile Tarmac Group and associated companies still trade in minerals and infrastructure contracting today . 


Founded in the early 1900s and based in Portsmouth, Warings Contractors Ltd was acquired by Bouygues Construction in 2001.


Founded in 1822 Mowlem grew to become one of the UK’s biggest construction and civil engineering companies at the time of its acquisition by Carillion in 2006.

Mowlem was awarded the Royal Warrant in 1902 before becoming listed on the UK stock exchange in 1924. Over the years it continued to grow through the acquisition of other construction companies and accumulated an impressive project portfolio including landmarks such as Millbank Tower, Admiralty Arch and, more locally, the Spinnaker Tower. 

In 1994, due to the impact of the recession, Mowlem’s house building division was sold to Beazer. Mowlem was later acquired by the ill-fated Carillion in February 2006.

Edmund Nutall

Originally founded in 1865 by James Nuttall Snr, the company became Edmund Nuttall when James Nuttall’ s sons took the helm. 

The company grew throughout the 1900s remaining in the Nuttall family until 1978 when it was bought by the Dutch group HBG before becoming part of the Royal BAM Group in 2002. The company finally changed to BAM Nuttall in 2008.

Dean and Dyball

Hampshire based civil engineering firm Dean & Dyball was founded in 1969 providing its services to water utilities, marine and coastal sectors.

During the 1970s the business expanded into commercial, industrial and eventually property development.

Dean & Dyball’s strong and profitable presence across the south made the company an attractive acquisition proposition and in 2008 it joined other well known names as part of the Balfour Beatty Group. 


Longcross Group was founded in 1997 and went on to include Longcross Construction Ltd, Longcross Fire & Security Ltd, LX Engineering (North) and LX Engineering (South).

Longcross Construction was the group’s principal contracting division and grew to become a well known specialist in retail, education, health, leisure and commercial sectors. The company’s non adversarial and collaborative approach to projects was what set it apart from other contractors of the time.

When Longcross Construction collapsed in 2015 it cited the decline in the grocery sector as the reason for its financial losses owing to the company’s focus on retail projects. 

The above are just a selection of some well known companies. Among many other names that are unrecognisable today are; Bluestone Construction, Shepherd Construction, Leadbitter, Cowlins Construction, Brazier and many, many more. 

One thing is for sure, the UK construction industry has seen enormous change and will continue to do so. ‘Big names’ will come and go which demonstrates that, when choosing a professional team, you must look at the skills, knowledge and experience of the individuals within the business, not just the brand they represent. 

How can Evolution5 help you?

With extensive industry experience spanning decades, the team has long-established relationships with contracting companies which positions us well for the successful delivery of your project. Evolution5 is known for its collaborative approach and ability to create cohesive teams focused on the common goal of achieving your desired project outcomes. 

To discuss your project with one of the team just click the button below or call 023 8040 5073.