Tarmac
Inventions>Transport
Tarmac sealed road surface
Edgar Purnell Hooley
Edgar Purnell Hooley
Born5 June 1860
Swansea Wales
Died26 January 1942 | Age 81
Oxford England
InventedTarmac


Edgar Purnell Hooley 1902

Hooley patented Tarmac in Britain, in 1902 (GB 7796). He called his company Tar Macadam (Purnell Hooley's Patent) Syndicate Limited registered in 1903, Tarmacadam in honour of J L McAdam. The Tarmac company was relaunched by Alfred Hickman in 1905.


Beginnings of Macadam

John Loudon McAdam was born in Ayr, Scotland in 1756. He moved to Bristol, England in 1802 and became a Commissioner for Paving in 1806. In 1816 he was elected Surveyor-General of roads for the Turnpike Trust. McAdam constructed his first 'Macadamised' stretch of road, Marsh Road at Ashton Gate, Bristol.

John Loudon Mc Adam
John Loudon Mc Adam

His Macadam method involved layers crushed stone decreasing in size to form a road surface. The technique did not include making the stones stick. This was fine in the days of horse drawn vehicles, but when cars started to become commonplace the surface became dusty and inadequate, the jagged material meant tyres often punctured. And when it rained, many roads became impassable due to ruts and mud.

The process was an improvement on methods used by Thomas Telford and Tr├ęsaguet.

Hooley is inspired
In 1901 Hooley was walking in Denby in Derbyshire when he noticed a smooth stretch of road close to an ironworks. He asked locals what had happened and was told a barrel of tar had fallen off a dray (cart) and burst open. Someone had poured waste slag from the nearby furnaces to cover up the mess.

Hooley noticed this unintentional resurfacing had solidified the road - there was no rutting and no dust.

By 1902 Hooley had patented the process of heating tar, adding slag to the mix and then breaking stones within the mixture to form a smooth road surface.
First Tarmac road. Radcliffe Road, Nottingham
First Tarmac road. Radcliffe Road, Nottingham

Having perfected the operation, Hooley began transforming road surfaces. Nottingham's Radcliffe Road became the first tarmac road in the world.
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