Tarmacadam: an invention given an essential tweak


Tarmacadam: an invention given an essential tweak

The tarmac that covers our roads is famously credited to the Scottish engineer and inventor John Loudon McAdam. However, county council surveyor Edgar Hooley is the man that pioneered the world’s first tarmac road in Nottingham.

John Loudon McAdam – the man behind the Tar Macadam Empire – was indeed the first man to invent an actual method of stone road surfaces made from crushed rock and stones in the early 1800s. But his shortfall was that the stones did not stick.

When a road surface has loose stones, it was adequate enough in the days when there were more horse drawn carriages than cars. However, difficulties arose when the car became the vehicle of choice and horse drawn transport faded out.

This crushed stone road surface was becoming a nightmare for early car owners. Tyres would often puncture, ruts and divots formed on the surface and after a heavy downfall of rain the surfaces ended up becoming unnavigable. The early cars did not have a great deal of horse power, so often struggled to get through the mud and divots that destroyed the road surface.

In 1901 Edgar Hooley came across a discovery purely by chance which finally improved the road surface for modern transport.

Hooley was walking through an industrial site in Denby in Derbyshire. As he strolled near to an ironworks he noticed a smooth stretch of road. He had been informed by locals that some barrels of tar had fallen off the back of a dray delivery and burst open.

Some of the locals then poured waste slag gathered from the local burners to cover up the unsightly mess. This had solidified the surface and the “road” had no rutting or dust formation.

Hooley quickly patented the concept of heating tar, applying slag to the mixture and breaking up stones to create a viable road surface.

He pioneered the world’s first tarmac road in Nottingham. The five-mile stretch of Radcliffe Road was built using tarmac and proved to be durable, free from dust and dirt and lasted a very long time.

By 1903, Hooley had created Tar Macadam Syndicates Ltd and registered tarmac as a trademark.

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