History of  Tarmac

Back in the days when traffic was no heaver than a pony and trap and the stagecoach, roads were mainly made from crushed  stone and were easily damaged by bad weather and wear and tear. This type of road was developed by Scottish engineer John Loudon McAdam in around 1820, and was known as Macadam and was a state of the art road construction at the time.

Methods to stabilise macadam surfaces with tar were tried as early as 1834 which involved involved  sealing the macadam with a mixture of tar and sand. Tar-grouted macadam was in use well before 1900, although the use of tar in road construction was known in the 19th century, it was not widely used until the car arrived on the scene in the early 20th century.

The true ‘inventor’ of Tarmac came along purely by accident when in 1901,Edgar Purnell Hooley was walking in Denby, Derbyshire when he noticed a smooth stretch of road. This smooth surface he found out, was due to a barrel of tar falling onto the road, and someone pouring waste slag from the nearby furnaces to cover up the mess.Hooley noticed this had solidified the road, and there was no rutting and no dust. Hooley’s 1902 went on to patent ‘tarmac’ which involved mechanically mixing tar and aggregate prior to lay-down, and then compacting the mixture with a steamroller. The tar was modified by adding small amounts of Portland cement,resin, and pitch.

The very first tarmac road in the world was Nottingham’s Radcliffe Road. Although the modern day tarmac process is far more advanced than the original, uses a different mixture of materials and specialised equipment, we are still proud to be based in the same county as the inventor of Tarmac!