Good to “give something back”.

demolition diaries

A snapshot of Dave’s Demolition Diaries courtesy of Google Images

In commemoration of the previous 50 memorable years it is right and proper that our founders are properly remembered by the generous words of my father “This Country has been good to me, it`s great to be in a position to be able to give something back!” To this end, it was decided that we would raise £50,000:00 to be donated to THREE deserving charities, namely:-

  • Good Hope Hospital Sepsis Care and awareness. (They saved my life).
  • Teenage Cancer Trust, Birmingham Children`s Hospital.
  • Birmingham Fireside Centre for the disadvantaged.

To achieve this target of £50,000:00, Mark declared that he would run 50 miles in differing races, (he`s no Forest Gump by any stretch of the imagination), as commemoration of 50 years in business, to be named “Coleman & Company Triple 50 Charity Fund”. The target has been exceeded with donations and Coleman’s contributions reaching a total just shy of £100,000. These monies were raised by management, staff and employees alike, who have wholehearted contributed their time and effort to the cause by, selflessly arranging and participating in many different events such as cake making, tuck shops, car wash days, dress down days, swear boxes (great success), sponsored runs, sponsored walks, whilst not forgetting an extremely successful boxing night. Given the austere times we live in this is a truly incredible achievement.  It makes me very very proud.

The cheques will be presented to the nominated Charities on 20th April 2013 at a Gala Dinner Dance held at The Forest of Arden Hotel and Country Club, Warwickshire, in what promises to be a truly memorable night.

`The famous words of that never dying song are so realistically relative.

 “Through Joys and Sorrows, Keep Right On”



 Dad's signature - streamlined

David Coleman                                                                                 16th October 2012



God Bless all that have taken the time and have had the interest to follow a very unusual story.

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No one is an island

My family have been of tremendous support to me, I would not dream to take sole credit for all that has happened. My son Mark, having worked with me for nearly twenty years, has been “a pain in the butt”, an extra special friend, a reliable colleague, we have shared many highs and lows, he has been a support when needed, as I have to him, a mate to go to football with, to go boating or fishing, we developed a good honest and caring relationship that has been and is so special to both of us, as, indeed, I had with my father.  It is right and proper that he is now M.D. of an established demolition company that he has been instrumental in assisting with its development. I am sure that he will continue to be a credit to his Granddad and Grandmother as the years continue to roll along.


Everyone needs a hand from time to time…

My son Darren having been through University, achieving a PhD in Marketing, specialising in Company Branding and Image, creating and running his own enterprise, Wavelength Marketing Ltd., that is based in Birmingham, his name and work is becoming well known, both taking him to the far off shores of Dubai, Singapore, Taiwan and Asia. Like me, a keen Birmingham City Supporter, we have had many good times together, watching our beloved B.C.F.C. both home and away, we have spent much time with my “Mistress” in Torquay travelling to then enjoying many different ports and stop over’s, or indeed, not going anywhere, just enjoying our very special friendship.

My wife who has put up with the many out of hours phone calls and callouts, many broken holidays where I have had to return, due to emergency, or many holidays where I had been unable to accompany her and the boys. Where, in the early days we had so very little, because times were so hard. Austerity is not a new word, although, it has become much more common as the excesses of affluence is bought under control, we, like my parents, never knew what affluence was. I am sure that my parents would be extremely proud of what has risen out of the foundations that their initiative, blood, sweat and so many tears laid.

For some interesting stories and more background on my side of the family why not read the Coleman 50th Anniversary Book?

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A New Chapter for a Leading Demolition Contractor

A New Chapter for a Leading Demolition Contractor

A new Board of Directors has now been appointed at Coleman & Company, consisting of yours truly as Chairman, Mark Coleman as Managing Director, Lesley Morris as Finance Director and Company Secretary, Mark Carless as Contracts Director and Malcolm Garner as Non Executive Director.

Coleman & Company Demolition Contractors Directors
The Coleman & Company Board of Directors. From Left to right; Lesley Morris, Malcolm Garner, Mark Coleman, David Coleman and Mark Carless

This is the first time that persons other than Coleman family members have been instrumental in the management of the company in the form of Mark Carless. The fact that Mark Carless is a lifelong Aston Villa supporter makes this decision even more remarkable!  The board comprises of people whom have been known to me, as individuals in association with the company, for periods in excess of twenty years each. The company now, nationally, employing more than 150 people, with many more sub contractors or in the contract support sectors, is no longer “a one man band” but a leading contractor offering a broad range of demolition and associated services such as complex demolition, industrial demolition, explosive demolition, specialist deconstruction and dismantling, high reach demolition, tower block demolition in addition to specialist cutting, materials recovery, asbestos removal and most recently contaminated land remediation. The diversified and professional nature of our business makes me very proud.

In putting these words together, in recalling the trials, the tribulations, the effects on my life, both happy and sad, good and bad, of developing and running a successful company over a period of Fifty Years, the enjoyment and pleasure of being privileged to work my Father and then my Son it has been tremendously helpful in assisting my powers of recollection to recover from the “loss of memory” that I had suffered as part of the near fatal Sepsis illness of a little over two years ago. There are many more recollections that I have not wished to record here, but one thing is for sure that there can be no deviation from the fact, that is “success does not just happen it has to be made to happen, it has to be worked for, to be earned, it is not a thing that comes easy, nor does it just occur.”  People envy what Coleman & Company have and are, but little do most realise what has gone into creating the  business, the sacrifices that have been made in achieving and maintaining standards, that many would not even consider, but that is what sets us apart as a demolition contractor of not only national but global repute.

We are rightly proud in having a record that is to be envied, as a stable multi award winning contractor or as a caring, responsible employer, with a duty to its employees, as the employees have a duty to their employer proven by the fact that we have presented Gold Watches for long service of 25 years to John Burns (R.I.P.), Jim Williams, Roger Ratcliffe, Keith Burnham, David Nestor and John O Grady, the latter two having completed 30 years service, with the ever youthful and energetic John O Grady still in harness having completed 35years (can you hear him grinding his teeth?)!

We have always believed that` we should always treat others as we wish to be treated ourselves, that every employee is an ambassador for the Company`. As Lord Digby Jones recently wrote “every employee counts – I`ve always thought they are my equal, we just do different jobs.”

Why not learn more about the Coleman team who lie at the heart of Coleman story.

Posted in Aggregate production and supply, Commercial Demolition, Complex Demolition, Corporate Social Responsibility, Demolition, Explosive Demolition, Facade Retention, Family Business, Friendships, High Rise Demolition, Hospital Demolition, Industrial Demolition, Land Reclamation, Land Remediation, Recycling, Specialist Cutting, Temporary Works | Leave a comment

Reflecting on the demolition industry

As had always been the way, from when my father first saved and sold bricks, timber and anything else that had a reclaim value, the start of “recycling” we have looked to go that one step further, to make us more efficient, to save what we had earned, thus making us more competitive by reducing our cost base. Our power bills were becoming increasingly  expensive. We decided to install a solar panel power generating system on the roof of the wash plant roof.  Early days yet but it would appear to have been a very beneficial investment as power bills continue to escalate.

recycling and the demolition industry

Recycling has always played an important role in everything Coleman & Company do.

We are most probably the oldest demolition and excavation company that remains in the City of Birmingham.  All of our competition from “the good old days” have gone, once common names in demolition and excavation works such as Jack Regan, John Courtney, Jack Chapman, Vic Polachezck, Dan Doyle, John Ingram, Georg Groom, J.J. Gallagher, R.E.George, Rawlins Bros., W.J. Williamson names that were instrumental in carrying out the work that fashioned Birmingham from the Victorian era to the thriving Metropolis that it is today, hard but helpful men who gave nothing and expected nothing for nothing, men whose word was their bond.

We continue to progress with a current work load of major projects in Scotland, where the purge on removal of multi occupational high rise dwellings continues unabated. In Gateshead where the  award winning Owen Luder thirty two storey structure known locally as the Dunston Rocket due to its rocket like design. Then In Liverpool where two eighty five metre high gas holders are being dismantled.

Grafton Street Gas Holder Liverpool

In Swansea where a complete shopping centre is being demolished in readiness for new development. Not forgetting the intricate works that are carefully continuing to progress New Street Station Birmingham. We are also delighted that we continue to be of service to Birmingham City Council and Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council.

All major specialist works, all requiring innovative in house thinking for creative design and complex demolition methods.

To learn more about how Coleman & Company has developed over the years why not have a look at our 50th Anniversary book or some of the our more recent projects which show how we have grown and diversified?

Posted in Bridge Demolition, Civil Engineering, Commercial Demolition, Complex Demolition, Demolition, Family Business, Friendships, High Rise Demolition, Power Stations, Railway Projects | Leave a comment

Technical Demolition Case Studies: New Street Station & the A404M Railway Bridge

Birmingham New Street station demolition

The Coleman team hard at work removing colossal concrete structures at Birmingham New Street Station. Engineering and Innovation I’m very proud of.

During my period of confinement, Coleman & Company had started work on the Prestigious Multi Million Pound Birmingham New Street Station Remodelling Scheme for Network Rail. This was a very difficult, demanding and technical demolition project. It required the removal of an intermediate concrete floor of a car park, working within a live railway station environment, immediately above the busy rail network, and below the extremely busy Palisades Shopping Centre.

Working from a floor with a loading of just 0.3 tonnes per m2, in an environment that excluded the nuisances of dust, noise and vibration. Mass reinforced concrete supporting beams to the floor to be removed weighed up to 80 tonnes. In total 8000 tonnes of concrete was carefully and methodically removed, a highly successful project that led to Coleman & Company receiving The World Demolition Award in Amsterdam in 2011. The structure that was originally completed in 1964 certainly was a well built stubborn structure.

Technical demolition of A404M railway bridge

The team carefully moving a heavy piece of concrete from the A404M railway bridge. One of the most pressurised contracts we have completed.

The demolition of a motorway bridge deck on the A404M motorway, a bridge that carried a large volume of traffic over the main Railway from London to Bristol and the West Country. This also proved to be another extremely technical demolition contract that was to be carried out in four hour `rail possession` periods, the implications of restrictions of the live contract were continually assessed then being amended as the works progressed. The successful completion of this project was also recognised by receiving The World Civil Engineering Demolition Award in Amsterdam in 2011.

It was an extremely proud moment, to see Mark and the team receive World Demolition Contract of the Year Award when New Street Station project was the outright winner.

Then the World Civils Demolition Contract of the Year Award for the A404M Bridge Deck Removal as outright winner.

Whilst the highly successful Explosive Demolition of Octavia Court in Glasgow, that had to be carried out at 02:00 in the morning, due to nearby main line rail constraints, was highly commended. Three Major Awards in one extremely successful night.

Coleman & Company had been in competition against Contractors carrying out some of the most intricate and demanding projects in the World. This night confirmed that Coleman & Company certainly had achieved a lot in a professional, competent manner and therefore has a right to be justifiably proud. Its record of achievement in projects successfully completed, Awards and Commendations received is further confirmation of this fact.

Read more about the technical demolition projects we completed at Birmingham New Street and on the A404M railway bridge.

Posted in Civil Engineering, Complex Demolition, Demolition, Design Preconstruction Services, Health & Safety, Railway Projects, Specialist Cutting, Temporary Works | Leave a comment

2010 – what a year

Unfortunately, the 2010 recession, due to the banking crisis, led to  Government austerity measures that meant a dramatic cut back in work being awarded or started so the Liebherr 984 machine became surplus, as high rise blocks were now being mothballed or refurbished. The 984 was sold to Nikau Contractors in New Zealand to work in the earthquake affected zone in Christchurch. It was a sad day when it disappeared from the Coleman fleet.

life is fragile

April 2010 was a time of great difficulty for Mark and all of my family, friends and colleagues as I was suddenly struck down with life threatening Septicaemia, (Sepsis). On 10th April I was given 20 minutes or so to live, I was in an induced Coma on life support, suffering from multiple organ failure, little did I know at the time that the situation looked so very grim for me. It was, indeed, a miracle that I somehow recovered and pulled through, the medical team of doctors, nurses and staff at Good Hope Hospital, Sutton Coldfield, were incredible. Their care and devotion to assist my, what appeared to be hopeless, recovery after major surgery will never be forgotten. I was released from Hospital on 8th July 2010, after a period of thirteen weeks, walking small distances with the aid of a Zimmer Frame. It was a further nine long weeks before I could tackle stairs, then slowly regaining restricted mobility in October 2010. Although very limited, it was good to be out and about once more, proving that we really do not appreciate our blessings and good health when we have it, always taking the same for granted.

On the 20th November 2010 we were called to an emergency at Birmingham International Airport to supply heavy haulage in assisting with the removal of a laden 737 aircraft that had suffered partial undercarriage failure on landing on the main runway. The airport was closed, all scheduled flights were delayed or diverted, a crane had been arranged to lift the starboard side of the stricken aircraft (the collapsed side) to enable a low loader to reverse under the engine and wing. A tug was attached to the nose gear then the tug and low loader travelled in tandem to remove the aircraft to safety, enabling normal operations to be resumed after a short but inconvenient delay. It was only after we had completed our duties that we were advised that the “cargo was an explosive substance” this fact indicated the confidence that the Authorities had in Coleman & Company in calling on our services initially.

I would encourage all of you to review the work that UK Sepsis Trust do. Incredible people doing incredible things.

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Bigger Machines Required for more challenging High Reach and Tower Block Demolition Projects

In addition to the Cat350 and Hitachi 850 high reach machines, we decided to purchase a Super High Reach Demolition Machine. As with the other High Reach Machines we also purchased the excavator equipment. These were required for very high tower block demolition. The machine, a Liebherr 984HD with Telescopic 65 metre reach was at the time of delivery the largest in High Reach the U.K. A twelve month consultation, design and build period that involved and required confidentiality agreements to be signed between Coleman & Company, Kocurek, and Liebherr.

high reach demolition at Matthew Boulton College

Our super high reach equipment in action at Matthew Boulton College, Birmingham.

The awesome bespoke machine weighed in at 220 tonnes, a sight to behold, very effective at high reach equipped with a 3 tonne hydraulic pulveriser. The machine was delivered to the site of Bearwood House, where the seventeen storey building, had been stripped, awaiting its fate.  The block could not be demolished by explosives due to the close proximity of an elderly person’s home that meant temporary relocation of the residents was not an option. The 984 was assembled, going to work in August 2008 the machine reduced the block in a couple of weeks to the amazement of many and to the delight of its new owners. Like many of the 1960s buildings that we were clearing, Colemans carried out the initial site clearance and excavation work for John Laing Construction Ltd who constructed the block; it always seems strange to be demolishing buildings that we had previously helped create.

Many projects were to be delivered by the metallic monster, Mathew Boulton College, St. Lukes Estate, Phoenix Rise all local to Birmingham, three blocks at Broomloan Court Glasgow to name but a few. Foundation removal of buildings was of little problem when equipped with the back actor, at Worcester an industrial site was being cleared for new housing, the substantial brick and concrete buildings were demolished, all hardcore produced was being processed, the basements were emptied in readiness for the slab to be removed then the void filled with resultant crushed hardcore, compacted to specification for the new construction.

The site had an exceptionally high water table, removal of the heavily reinforced basement slab revealed massive concrete foundations and beams, even when broken the suction of the saturated underlying ground made it difficult for the machines to remove the concrete bases and beams. The basement slabs were removed in sections between the foundation beams, a crushed hardcore mat was then placed on which the 984 could stand in order to excavate and remove the partially broken bases and beams, even then the mighty machine struggled in lifting out lumps of concrete weighing upto twenty tonnes at a time, we persevered to a successful conclusion. One would never have realised all of the major obstacles that had been overcome when the peaceful site was handed back on completion.

Why not learn more about how we used the super high reach machine at Matthew Boulton College in Birmingham?

Posted in Complex Demolition, Demolition, Design Preconstruction Services, High Rise Demolition, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Specialist Machinery Required for High Reach and Tower Block Demolition.

High Reach Demolition of Bloomloan Court Glasgow

One of our high reach machines in action at Boomloan Court, Glasgow

Coleman & Company we were now very active in land reclamation, clearing sites, demolishing differing structures, demolishing high-rise blocks and preparing sites prepared for the more socially acceptable low rise buildings. This led us to purchase larger machines the first in 2004, a Hitachi 850 High Reach capable of demolishing 40m high structures. We also bought the Excavator equipment for this formidable machine. Contracts were secured for demolition works in the City of London at Westminster Bridge, also in the Financial Quarter in the shadow of the highly visionary Gherkin, also at Pollockshaws in Glasgow, in Edinburgh, in Peebles, in Cardiff in the shadow of the Millennium Stadium. The Cat 350 and the Hitachi 850 were the death knell to many structures, Villiers House, Cross House, Ranleigh House, Donnay House, Nettleton House, Beatty House, Jellicoe House to name a few of the ones to be gradually nibbled away, to be loaded up and off for recycling into construction aggregate, and another life. We had a quality fleet of plant for high reach demolition, tower block demolition and industrial demolition.  We were now a truly national demolition contractor with an extensive C.V. to its credit.

Even with our wide array of plant and equipment some buildings needed to be debuilt and dismantled by hand, due to local environment. Two such blocks were the twenty storey Alma House and Leys House, Darlaston both on a restricted site with high voltage cables situated between the two blocks, as is usual, with most high rise blocks, they were in a built up area, consideration of all these obstacles and difficulties removed any ideas of explosive demolitions.  A tower crane was erected on site between the blocks; the crane needed to be on piled foundations that had to be constructed either side of the High Voltage cables. The blocks then dismantled in the reverse order of construction reducing in height, floor by floor, both at the same time, thus keeping the crane fully employed. The concrete panels were pulverised at ground level then removed off site. Once the buildings had been reduced to six storeys the Cat 350 high reach machine was bought onto site to complete the demolition of the blocks to the delight of the local residents. Mark Carless, now Colemans Contracts Director, who, at the time, had no head for heights, was put in charge of the project; he did it well, soon becoming acclimatised as the contract progressed. Peat House in the centre of Birmingham was another extremely difficult `debuild`, a six/seven storey building occupying a complete corner site with neighbouring buildings housing solicitors, estate agents and other professional bodies, who do not accept any interference with their daily routine, all demolition works were required to be done without the nuisance of dust, noise and disruption!

Why not learn more about our high reach demolition services by reviewing the projects we completed at the Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham and Ravensworth Court in Gateteshead?

Posted in Complex Demolition, Demolition, Design Preconstruction Services, High Rise Demolition, Hospital Demolition, Industrial Demolition, Specialist Cutting, Temporary Works | Leave a comment

Specialist Demolition Projects

National Grid had embarked on a national programme of clearing redundant Gas Holders. Mark had chased this opening, being successful with the contract to dismantle and remove two multi stage gas holders on a restricted site at Nechells, Birmingham. This was nice and local for our first journey into another unknown avenue of activity. Gas holder demolition would prove to be a new and attractive line of business for us as our business continued to thrive and grow. We cautiously went about our task, learning as we progressed, National Grid’s strict safety policy always being stringently observed at all times. We were delighted to successfully complete the gas holder demolition. The successful conclusion of the project led to further opportunities.

Gas Holder Demolition Ponders End

Some of the intricate and bespoke engineering that went into the deconstruction of Ponder’s End Gas Holder. A million miles away from our ball and chain days!

Further success at Ponders End, London was rewarded with Coleman`s cautious approach to method, safe working practices and systems resulting in its excellent work being recognised by our employer, with National Grid awarding merits in safety and design, quite rightly it was a proud moment for the team, as they were being assessed on a national level against other national contractors for gas holder demolition who were far more experienced than Coleman in that type of work.

Our involvement in many projects became more intense as those works were becoming more contractually biased; a man’s word was now proving to become a Lawyers dream.

Specialist Demolition Birmingham City Centre

Birmingham City Town Hall. A stunning Grade 1 Listed Buidling

Birmingham`s 1834 Grade 1 Listed City Centre Town Hall was to be bought back into commercial use, after  being void for more than ten years. What was once the finest music hall in the country, a design based on the Roman Temple of Castor and Pollux was to be fully refurbished, at a cost of £35m by Wates Construction Ltd.

Complex Demolition Birmingham City Centre

Our team hard (and very carefully) at work in Birmingham’s Town Hall

Major internal restructuring and refurbishment was required.  Mark successfully negotiated the difficult contract that required much thought, innovation and above all specialist demolition skills. Coleman was to be working amongst some of the finest ornate plasterwork to be found, removing balconies, and creating openings. The plaster was upto 3” (75mm) thick bonded with animal hair, no one knew what would be found or what to expect. Damage was not acceptable irrespective of the cause or reason. The plan to remove the main balcony required the incorporation of a bespoke support system, to support the balcony construction that was being removed; this was to avoid any collapse, also to create a safe working platform.

Various other unrecorded works had been previously carried this out meant that we were unsure of what to expect. In places we encountered heavy concrete beams coupled with exceptionally heavy construction. Other areas of the construction were lightweight and difficulties were soon to become apparent. We decided to buy a remote control five tonne excavator and equip it with a special concrete cracker.  This meant that the operatives were safe should the construction contain unforeseen weakness when the machine was working at exposed edges.

The successful conclusion of the contract saw the building reopened for business on 4th October 2007, being officially reopened by His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales and Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall on 24th April 2008.  The iconic and proud building that was a stage for many novelists including Charles Dickens, generations of Parliamentarians, Prime Ministers and Rock Bands was again open for business.

Why not learn more about the demolition of the Ponder’s End Gas Holders and complex demolition work we completed at  Birmingham’s Grade 1 Listed Town Hall?

Posted in Civil Engineering, Complex Demolition, Demolition, Design Preconstruction Services, Facade Retention, Health & Safety, Specialist Cutting, Temporary Works | Leave a comment

Specialist Demolition in Glasgow

1, George Square, Glasgow was the home of the once famous General Post Office Headquarters, constructed in 1875, which was classed as the absolute central point of reference for the City`s postcode and mileage charts. The G1 building had been vacant for about ten years and was in need of specialist demolition. In 2000 the southern section had been converted into high class residential occupancy with an addition storey added for penthouse apartments. The northern section had been acquired by a developer with the intention of extending the residential and penthouse development from the southern section.

G1 Glasgow facade retention and specialist demolition

The G1 Glasgow. A stunning building

Due to the building being vacant for such long a period of time it had deteriorated extensively. Planning Requirements stipulated that the facade was to remain, the complete internal structure that had rotted and perished, was to be carefully deconstructed. To meet this objective a façade retention system was to be designed, this in turn was to be supported on bored piles, an opening in the facade was to be created, to allow access and egress to and from the site, all stone work being carefully removed, numbered and stored in readiness to be placed back on completion of new construction `as it was prior to the works starting`.  This was one of our most technical demolition contracts to date which required a number of specialist demolition techniques.

Facade retention Glasgow G1

A example of the complex facade retention supports we erected for the G1 Glasgow

There were many difficulties in boring piles due to the myriad of services that were incorrectly charted and positioned on services layout drawings. This in turn caused design problems for the footprint layout of the retention system. As is usual problems are there to be solved then overcome and we overcame the ones on the G1. Noise pollution then became a problem. The residential occupancy of the southern section was home to lawyers, footballers and business people whose homes were separated from our site by a mere 100mm (4inch) block wall, separation cuts in the concrete floors proved to be another particular problem, no noise or disturbance before 09:00 or after 16:00.

Complex demolition Glasgow G1

Even Nike got a kick out of our complex demolition in Glasgow!

The sandstone internal walls had perished to the point of collapse; this created a continual stability problem to the structure especially when working in close proximity to the site boundaries. We were pleased to hand the site back to our employers on completion of what turned out to be one of the most challenging specialist demolition contracts completed by Coleman to that date.

Why not learn more about the façade retention and complex demolition techniques we used to demolish the inside of the G1 building in Glasgow here?

Posted in Civil Engineering, Complex Demolition, Demolition, Design Preconstruction Services, Facade Retention, Health & Safety, Temporary Works | Leave a comment