Playing away from home

The next Hypermarket was in Bristol, meant that additional Plant was required to cope with the work. Cat D8H tractors c/w 463G and 435F towed scrapers, were purchased, larger Low Loaders were required to transport the ever increasing fleet. D8H 68a 5107 turned out to be the last machine that was purchased by my father and me as a team. I learnt an awful lot from my father, a very hard but honest man, who commanded and deserved the respect that he was given.

Portishead power station

Portishead Power Station. A place of hard work and happy memories.

I ran the Bristol Contract, securing and completing a large Land Reclamation Project for the C.E.G.B. (now Powergen) in Portishead, whilst in the area, then works in the Portbury Docks. The works ran for 9 months, I lived in a Mobile Home on site, working 14 hours a day, with every second weekend off, holiday traffic in the summer meant a 4am Saturday start and 8am finish to maintain programme. We had 3 Cat D8`s, 3 Komatsu D65`s, 2 Cat 977`s, 2 Cat 225`s, Cat 215 2 Volvo Dumptrucks on site with 14 Maggies hauling off site.

Week 15 and resized image of Mac

My eldest Son, Mark, in front of one of our earlier low loaders.

During my time in the South West good friendship was formed with Dave Cripps the product support representative from Caterpillar dealer Bowmaker (Plant) Ltd, Highbridge Depot prior to its takeover by Finning in 1983. The first time that I met Dave was one evening when I was under a Maggie carrying out repairs or maintenance, as was usual. He did not know who I was; in his broad Somerset accent he asked “Is the boss about?” I asked “who wanted to know?” Dave replied “I`ll have a bet that he is at home, having a large Scotch, whilst you are under there getting covered in s–t!” I crawled out, he was right, I was covered in s–t, the look on his face was one to behold, one that I will never forget, he did not know what to say or do when he realised to whom he had been speaking. For the duration of the contract Dave was great in his role of Product Support. He was later transferred to the Cannock Branch where our friendship was rekindled, we had many trips to Malaga and Belgium, Dave knew exactly how to combine business with pleasure never applying excessive pressure thus becoming a nuisance. This remained the way until his sad passing.The target we aimed for was 200 loads per day off site on week days, 100 loads off site on Saturdays, we imported and laid upto 1,200 tonnes of stone per day for site capping, we did all the excavation works for foundations, drainage and landscaping. A massive project on a very tight programme successfully completed.

week 15 Volvo 244 Jubalee

A Volvo 244 Jubilee…not too dissimilar to the one I purchased.

Once the Bristol contract had been completed my car, a Toyota 2000, had just about run out; the time that it was used on site was clearly evident, scratches and scrapes, a dent in the bonnet, damage to the boot from carrying tools and spare wheels. I liked the look of the new Volvo; I decided to try to purchase a 244 Jubilee model, so along I went to Brooklands in Birmingham to see if a deal could be struck, I viewed and liked the new car, so I rather cheekily asked if they would take my car in part exchange? Sat opposite me looking over my shoulder to the window behind me, the salesman saw the car in front of my battered Toyota, asking if that was my car outside, I replied that it was. I was very surprised at how anxious he was to take a look at what he thought was my car. We walked out to where a line of cars were parked; he went to the car in front of mine, a very nice Jaguar, he, asked how much I wanted for it? The disappointment on his face was clearly visible when I informed him that my car was the one behind the Jag, hurriedly he offered me £250:00 take it or leave it, I hastily accepted his generous offer, shaking his hand on a very good deal.

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Oh, for a cup of tea!

By the mid 1970`s demolition works had gone very quiet, a lot of sites had previously been cleared, the Country was coming out of recession, new construction and refurbishment of the old Victorian buildings was all the go. Coleman`s were well suited to take advantage of the new opportunities that presented themselves.

week 14_skip truck

One of our 16ft. Leyland Skips (1979)

My father felt that it would be the right to offer a Skip Service to keep in contact with the personnel on construction or refurbishment sites once the demolition and excavation works, if there had been any, was completed. It was a good idea, we applied for a Waste Management Licence for Stechford, to enable us to bring Skips in to the depot for sorting and reloading, against all odds and after much difficulty we were successful with our application, we embraced and developed the new `string to our bow`, that initially proved to be a great success.

Hypermarkets and larger Shopping Centres were becoming more common place, sites were being developed in the Midlands and Bristol, our good working relationship with John Laing Construction led to our being awarded the substantial excavation works. Then in May 1976 we started work on our first Hypermarket at Minworth, on 1st June we awoke to find approximately 75mm of snow, this was then followed by a very hot summer with water shortages, hose pipe bans but great muckshifting weather! When the weather broke we endured heavy rain for weeks, good for the sale of hardcore.

week 14 tea advert

Anyone for a cuppa?

My Father ran the Minworth site he enjoyed every minute of it, taking sandwiches and a flask every day, out in the sunshine, no phones. One very funny incident that I witnessed one really hot day that typified my Father, he had parked his car in the site compound, then, carefully placing his flask and sandwiches in the shade of a large tree, which was to be removed but later. At the time we had two D8 & scrapers, stripping top soil, on hire from Watney Plant Ltd a company owned by Percy Carless (Uncle of Mark Carless, now Coleman`s Contracts Director). My Father was seeing to something on site, when one of the D8`s went a little too close to the tree that was giving shelter to the “flask and sandwiches”. The scraper wheel running over the goodies, my Father was not best pleased when he saw what had happened, calling the D8 drivers to the scene, one did admit to an error of judgement in anticipating the line of the scraper wheel. My Father, with a bright red face, to this day I am not sure whether this was caused by sun or rage as he shouted with a strong Irish accent “ you have a site of over 25 Acres on which to work, my ——- flask and sandwiches take up 12 square inches and you ——-well have to run over it!” I had to leave site trying to contain my hysterics, returning soon afterwards with replacement provisions for the boss. After a short while my Father began to see the funny side of the incident, although he never really appreciated it!

To learn more about our 50 Years of Progress click here.

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Our first business premises.

1974 saw Coleman & Co (Plant Hire) Ltd purchase 43, Station Road, Stechford, and move, from the not too far away, rented property in Albert Road, Stechford, Birmingham.

Week 13 Our First Premises

Coleman & Company’s first offices were located in Stechford, Birmingham. Moving from our Albert Road (home) office represented a big step for the business.

It was somewhere that the business could continue to develop and grow, somewhere that we could do something with, all facilities were on site. We made one building into a workshop where we could carry out repairs and maintenance to the plant and vehicles. Another was converted into an Office enabling the office to be moved from the house, my mother and sister worked away from the “home office” for the first time! The new site was fairly secure with hard standing that had main road access. We were all so pleased and proud of our latest acquisition, away from the primitive and restricted conditions of the rented Albert Road Site. Mother and Father went home in the evenings to a house that was a home, not a place of business (sometimes). They believed and hoped that at long last, they could work away from their usual place of residence.

Coleman & Company had become synonymous with the Stechford area, we were a prominent company, offering secure employment to many local people. In January 1975 I was asked to stand in the Local Government Elections for the Conservative Party in the nearby Labour strong hold of Shard End. The campaign was a completely new experience, meeting many people from all walks of society, it was very demanding on my time, especially when done after a hard days work! However on 1st May 1975, I was voted onto the Birmingham City Council for a term of four years. What hard work it turned out to be, my time was never my own, constituents always wanting more, making demands for housing improvements or transfers, complaints about neighbours, noise, car parking problems, it was seemingly endless.

Week 13 - Harold-Wilson-007

Harold WIlson, former British Prime Minister deep in thought.

There were of course pluses, the Civic Receptions; we met Her Royal Highness, The Queen and Prince Philip at the official opening of the National Exhibition Centre on 2nd February 1976. I was fortunate to meet Prime Minister Harold Wilson, ex Prime Minister Edward Heath, future Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher also Parliamentarians from all political persuasions.

Komatsu machines were continually added to the fleet, very good machines, parts and product support, well that was another matter. It was decided to standardise on Caterpillar products. The first Cat 225 excavators in the U.K. came to Coleman`s, then Cat D6d dozers, Cat 977k loaders.

Cat 225 hard at work

One of our Cat 225’s (“back actors”) hard at work. Please note the health and safety precautions taken by one of our labourers. How things have changed.

The first Cat 977 that was bought was Serial No. 48J172, was bought by yours truly at an Auction in Tamworth, my Father left me to it, he told me the price that he thought that the machine should be bought for, we disagreed as I believed the machine was worth substantially more, nervously, I successfully bid for the machine, so then I had to tell the “Boss” as was usual my ears were ringing due to the tones of his displeasure. I found work with Sir Alfred McAlpine for that machine and several others; it had paid for itself within six months and worked without fault for many years thereafter.


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My first acquisition

In 1971 we decided to replace our AEC Mercury Tractor Unit with a new heavier Tractor Unit.

1971 Atkinson_Final image

Me standing in front of our 1971 Atkinson. My first purchase. A proud moment.

I found such a vehicle at Commercial Motors, Clay Cross, an Atkinson Borderer powered by a Rolls Royce Eagle diesel engine, David Brown gear box, 40 ton Kirkstal axle, it looked good, sounded good, so I brokered the deal. We proudly took delivery of our new asset Reg. No. XOG 558J, then within a short period of time Rolls Royce went into administration. My Father was of the opinion that I should have known that Rolls Royce were in difficulties before I `did the deal`, an opinion that I could not understand! That unit ran for many years without any problems, sometimes being operated 24 hours a day, transporting the Coleman plant and equipment, also many differing types of machines for our suppliers, competitors and many others. Rolls Royce is today a name synonymous with world class engineering, also it is one of our employers.

Crude oil pices

Astronomical fuel prices during the 1970’s and 80’s made the business environment exceptionally challenging.

Early 1973 saw the start of the Gulf Crisis and the phenomenal escalation in the price of fuel due to crude oil cut backs leading to shortages and increased oil prices, ration coupons were issued, fuel was allocated dependant on necessity of the usage. This was the beginning of high fuel prices that have never receded.

Athur Scargil

Mr Scargil in action. As you can imagine I was his number one fan.

Following on from this the country went into recession, the coal miners decided to strike, as if things were not bad enough, power shortages led to power cuts, industry went onto a 3 day week, shortages of food, in particular bread, became common place what little was available was then rocketing in price.

Business was very difficult, but we managed to keep finding work, the builders went on strike which led to all construction sites being closed down by strike action. My father had the respect of many friends and contacts; work was found clearing sites in preparation for new construction projects to start once the strike was over; we were not classed as strike breakers or blacklegs, so as a consequence we were not unduly affected by the situation that badly affected some of our competitors, but fuel supply continued to be a real problem.

All companies were urged, by Government, to “Buy British”, in support of the home economy, we needed vans so we decided to purchase new Leyland Sherpa Vans from Evans & Kitchen, Birmingham, they were delivered on a Friday evening, looking the part, we thought another good acquisition! By 10:00 on the following Saturday all were broke down, all with engine trouble, one in Wales, one on its way to the one in Wales, the third one in London. Buy British – we had nothing but trouble with them for the short period that we kept those vehicles.

After three years we decided to upgrade the commercial fleet, the new vehicles were to work on many major projects such as the Brenig Dam in Wales, London`s M25, sites all over the Country as well as in the Midlands, M69 and the Sutton By Pass, to name but a few, works involving all sorts of Building and Civil Engineering, the downside was a heavy unladen weight and fuel consumption, the thirsty V8 engines drank expensive fuel as we had never seen before. The coming years saw prices harden and fuel become a real issue.

To see more images that share the Coleman story click here.

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Decimalisation – oh dear!

It was about this time that we changed banks from Lloyds in Sutton Coldfield to the newly established Allied Irish Bank, who are still our Bankers, who have over the years been very have proved to be supportive of one of their first clients in the Midlands.


The home office (later to become the grand children’s table tennis room) in 1970 with Maureen, Nora and John Coleman.

My sister Maureen, joined the company in April 1969, to help out in the office with accounts, our dear Mother could not cope with the ever increasing demands and work load of book keeping, typing, wages, answering the phone as well as being a domestic engineer masterminding all and looking after a hard working husband coupled with the demands of a growing family. Coleman & Company (Plant Hire) Ltd. was now a real family firm, embracing all the values of such.

The 1970`s everything appeared to be changing, what we had learnt at school was all to be changed. February 1971 our Pounds, Shillings, and Pence were to disappear. 12 Pennies in a Shilling, 20 Shillings in a Pound was to become 100 Pence in a Pound. Therefore our 6 Pence became 2.5 New Pence, a Shilling became 5 new Pence, a 2 Shillings became 10 new Pence and the old half crown was to disappear. It was difficult for everyone, and then within 2 years our Imperial Measures were also to disappear! Our Inch, Foot and Yard were to become Millimetres, Centimetres and Metres.

At this juncture in time my Father stopped pricing work, it was all too much for him to take in, too confusing. We priced work together he would give me a price  (in old currency) per Cubic Yard expecting me to work out the price in new currency per Cubic Metre, needless to say, mistakes were made – always my fault – so I decided to take on the responsibility of pricing of the work, of course my Father would pile up all the work for me, my social life was forgotten, a non entity. I would price a Schedule of Rates then my Mother would extend the rates to arrive at a Contract Sum.


A “Series C” £5. I’ll never forget what one of those looks like!

The system seemed to work well, until the inevitable happened. I had priced for the demolition and excavation works that was to be followed up by a separate visit for a substation demolition, once the new substation had been constructed and commissioned, all as part of a Town Centre Development in Burton on Trent by John Laing Construction. For the separate visit that was required, I wrote 500 in the Pound column, my dear Mother, in trying hard to get used to decimalisation, interpreted this as £5:00. No one realised the innocent mistake that had been made.  We had successfully completed the first phase of the works, and then once the new buildings had been constructed, we were returned to site to demolish the Sub Station. On looking through the Bill we then realised our mistake, Laing agreed a mistake had been made, as a good will gesture they offered to give us what they had in their Rates, we were all dismayed to see that Laing had the princely sum of £5:25. Coleman`s went back to site to demolish and clear away the Sub Station all for £5:25 Lump Sum. Needless to say the “Boss” had completely lost his `sense of humour`, he just couldn`t understand how such an obvious mistake could have been made!

To learn more about our 50 year history click here.

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Something’s Burning?

The 955F`s were updated with Cat 951`s, Case 750`s, 850`s also Case 1000`s and Komatsu D50s tracked loaders being purchased as business continued to flourish and expand.


One of our Komatsu D50S excavators hard at work at Whittington Barracks.

A large contract with the Ministry of Public Works at Whittington Barracks near Lichfield was secured. This contract was to demolish completely, including foundation removal, many large accommodation blocks, ancillary buildings comprising of a gymnasium, recreational facilities, kitchens etc. before landscaping the site on completion. Again, as was the Coleman way, we developed and nurtured a very good working relationship with our employers; this led to many variations being issued to cover incidental works whilst we were on site.


Simple, arguably rudimentary but highly effective demolition of accommodation at Whittington Barracks during 1969. How times have changed.

JCB backhoe loaders had been added to the fleet, then in 1969 JCB 6d tracked excavators, which proved to be very good reliable machines, new model JCB 5c`s were also purchased, later these machines were the cause of a fall out between Coleman and Modern Plant Sales Ltd (JCB Distributor) which led to all JCB machines being sold. Jack Coleman was a man of principle, who knew when he was being “had over”. Case machines also proved to be very unreliable, so, they also had to go – but the Cats kept on working.

I had priced and won a contract at the British Waterways Depot, Sampson Road, Small Heath. A disused canal arm was to be blocked off and sheet piled at its juncture with the main canal, it was to be cleaned out, and then filled in with brick hardcore in readiness for new concrete hardstanding. When the piling was completed we were given permission to start our works, each day we began to pump water out the canal arm, each night the canal arm would partially refill with water seeping through the joints in the steel piles. We were not allowed to leave pumps running out of hours, so each day we were losing a mornings work in pumping out the overnight water that was then continually soaking the materials that had been scrapped up from the bottom in readiness for removal off site. We persevered, gradually building a dam inside the sheet piles that stemmed the water flow, enabling us to slowly complete our works.

Week 10 Land Rover Fire Tender_Older

The fireman’s transport without the uniform or perks!

In readiness for the job we had previously bought a Land Rover fire tender from the ex military service auctions at Ruddington, it was in good working order, painted bright red, flashing lights, bells the lot, and it was also fitted with a Godiva Water Pump. I would drive the Land Rover to and from site each day, one evening a late finish on site meant a hurried journey back to the yard, we encountered heavy traffic congestion in Bordesley, we were getting nowhere fast, the idea to switch on the flashing lights and bells seemed to be a good one at the time, all the traffic moved over to allow clear passage through. Great or so I thought, then I looked in the rear view mirror to see another vehicle following but displaying BLUE flashing lights either side of a POLICE sign, they wanted to know where the FIRE was!!! Taking a harsh telling off I was pleased that I had managed to talk my way out of that difficult situation; once that contract had been completed we sold the vehicle to remove further temptation.


Six of our early Magirus Deutz (“Maggies”) at Sutton Coldfield’s Gracechurch Centre in 1970.

We purchased air cooled Magirus Deutz 6 x 6 dump trucks for on and off road haulage, a fleet of six initially, soon to be followed by four 6 x 4 models. The trucks were very successful, they were reliable and on site traction proved to be a real winner, demand was high. Work was secured for John Laing Construction on a new Gracechurch Shopping Centre in the Royal Town of Sutton Coldfield; we came across and overcame much public opposition to our using the `Maggie’s` on the Public Highways of the Royal Town. A new office building at Redditch, new Government Buildings at Five Ways Birmingham, a Hotel and business complex at Great Barr, another in Birmingham City Centre. Most were Brownfield sites where demolition had been previously been completed, either by us or by others soon followed.

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Railway works start – another string in the bow.

As a result of the Beeching Rail Cuts, we secured work with British Rail Property Board, clearing abandoned and isolated Level Crossing Gate Keepers Cottages anywhere in the country; at this we were very successful.

Week 9 Hixon Rail Crash, Staffordshire  January 1968

Hixon Train Station, Staffordshire (January 1968)

One of the consequences of the `Cuts` was the possibility of a disastrous rail crash, as indeed happened at Hixon, Staffordshire in January 1968, when a low loader carrying a 120 ton transformer was crossing a new continental styled un manned level crossing, the low loader driver was not aware of the approaching express passenger train, that was travelling at high speed from Manchester to Euston. The train smashed into the transporter killing 11, with many more injured and trapped. We were called to provide plant and equipment to assist in making access roads for the heavy cranes to get to the wrecked carriages in which many people were trapped and injured.

Before long we were asked by British Rail to supply on hire Side Tipping Tracked Loading Shovels for track maintenance, another new opportunity, my Father, as always, willing to oblige, bought a Caterpillar 955F putting me in the saddle, whilst gladly accepting the challenge little did I realise that the work was mostly on Saturday Nights. (Hoodwinked again) usually from start time of 22:00hrs to completion sometime on Sunday. Each week end the bucket had to be changed from 4 in 1 to side tipper, then changed back every Sunday after the shift, ready for work the next day. After a short time I was driving Low Loaders, which then meant that the machine or machines could be delivered and returned, sometimes 2 on one load, yes by now we had three such machines. The Cats were good, very reliable and they all had cabs but no heaters, I suppose that you can`t have everything.

Week 9_Cortina 1600e

My 1968 Ford Cortina 1600e. Love at first sight.

By my 21st birthday in 1968, I had saved enough to buy my first car. I became the proud owner of a Saluki Bronze Ford Cortina 1600E Reg. No. MOL 686F, it was my dream car, hard work certainly paid. I had many very happy times because of that car! My friend Malcolm Oliver, nephew of the founder of Edward Oliver Ltd Rowley Regis, owned a two litre Ford Corsair, we used race (never exceeding the speed limit – that would be illegal) my car was 1 M.P.H. slower than Malcolm`s car!!!

To see details of our work at Birmingham New Street Station click here or if you’d like to see more pictures of me in my youth and how Coleman & Company has evolved over the years click here.

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Necessity is the mother of invention…

Clearance of war time prefabricated bungalows was now becoming a requisite of society; new affordable accommodation was required and expected. The Prefab was dismantled and removed from its concrete base, then usually exported overseas.

week 8_prefabricated bungalows

A typical post war pre-fabricated bungalow. We demolished hundreds of these.

The concrete base removal was out to Tender by Department of Public Works, (now D.E.F.R.A.) my Father was successful with his bid, so we then found ourselves with literally hundreds of concrete bases in varying numbers from five or six on a site, to sites containing hundreds in differing suburbs of the City, the bases varied in thickness from a few inches to a foot or more, some were reinforced others not. The price was the same for one and all. A 10RB was purchased to break the concrete by lifting and dropping a demolition ball on the concrete bases to break them, then sell as hardcore, a good idea, well that was the plan! As with every plan there is usually a problem, this time, because the concrete bases were usually very thin over the larger area, with each having a perimeter edge beam, ring beam or thickening varying from 6 inches  upto 2ft thick.

Dropping the ball on the concrete slab, broke the slab and the edge beam, problem being the concrete slabs and edge beams would be driven into the ground by the weight of the ball dropping onto them, making it virtually impossible to recover the clean concrete without digging up the earth underneath, very seldom was there a hardcore foundation to the bases. ALL the concrete had to be removed. As a temporary measure the slabs were broken and left in place; the dividing hedges were grubbed up and then burnt on site.

week 8_riddle-shaker-bucket-13-tonne,62bde7bd

Necessity is the mother of invention – a riddle bucket.

Thinking caps on, we decided to obtain an old but serviceable scrap bucket for the Hymac and cut slots in the bottom of it, our very first “Riddle Bucket” what a success, the concrete was routed out and stockpiled in heaps on site, a good home had to be found the ever accumulating number of broken concrete stockpiles.

Week 8_Cat_D8_2

The classic Caterpillar D8. A real “war horse” of an excavator.

Elmdon Airport (now Birmingham International Airport) was to have the Runway extended at the Marston Green end. The Contractors were looking for large quantities of hardcore to make up levels – Colemans had the hardcore, a material that was clean and fit for purpose!!! Seven days a week we hauled broken concrete to the new runway extension site. This is where I saw a Cat D8 dozer for the first time, it was being used to level and compact the broken concrete, the weight of the machine breaking and crushing the concrete even more. One lunch time I talked the driver into letting me “have a go” on the machine, it was awesome, the roar of the engine, a cloud of smoke from the exhaust, nothing would stand before it let alone a 7 or 8 cubic yard load of broken concrete.

To learn more about our eathworks and the range of other services we provide click here.

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We were starting to motor

Business had continued to steadily progress and expand carrying out many differing demolition and excavation works; we were now also hiring out the plant and equipment. New Motorways were to be built, we received an opportunity to tender for the demolition, site clearance and foundation removal works for the new M6 from Gravelly Park, the site of Spaghetti Junction (completed 40 years in May 2012), upto and including the M5 to Cakemore, Rowley Regis and Quinton.

week seven spaghetti-junction-pic

Spaghetti Junction, Birmingham. One our earliest, high profile contracts.

We secured the contract, comprising of the demolition of two storey houses in Smethwick and Oldbury, factories, industrial properties in Oldbury, and West Bromwich, including the Chance Bros Glass Works also heavy works in the I.C.I. Oldbury, to Rowley Regis, where we were to work through the Shell Fuel Storage Depot, all working under the ever watchful eye and control of Consultant Engineers, Sir Owen Williams and Partners.

All sections of the project were a challenge, none more than a double hip roofed nine storey brick building in Chance Bros that had very restricted access, it was all hand work strip out and demolish. The building was completely stripped, by hand, of roof, all timber floors and joists that were sold for reuse, cross beams and one set of stairs remained. The walls were reduced by hand – top down – standing on the walls that were being demolished which thickened from 9” (225mm) to 3ft (1metre) as they went top to ground, starting at about 120ft (36M) high, there was no room to erect scaffolding, the men knew what they were doing, I have never heard of any incidence of operatives falling off the walls that they were demolishing by this method, with care not carelessness was the way we worked.

We decided to buy our first hydraulic excavator, a new concept, the beginning of the end for roped machines. The Hymac 580, this machine could reach two story buildings, and then dig out the foundations, or so we thought, a new concept and we expecting too much created many problems, these were overcome as our knowledge of the machines capabilities grew.

week7 ball and chain

The classic ball and chain. A rudimentary but highly effective demolition tool. We now use remote control excavators controlled by our operatives from a safe distance. How times have changed.

The faithful 22 RB (digger and ball) was called into service, not that it ever really went out, in the I.M.I., at Oldbury, on the line of the new M5, the underground structures were so heavy that Coleman used explosives for the first time, under the guidance of Quarry Explosive Engineer, Norman Cull. The works were all completed in about 18 months, as I recall, without accident or incident. The progression of the contract saw new larger machines purchased, the older smaller ones replaced.

To learn more about our demolition services click here.

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Floods, friends and a diesel Land Rover!

One evening in the spring of 1967 we received a phone call from Peter Rowe, who owned a motorboat, which he moored on the River Severn near Tewkesbury. There had been a period of exceptionally heavy rain that had caused severe flooding. Peter was concerned about the security of his boat, he asked that I take him to see his boat; to make sure that it had not broke from its mooring, in one of the Diesel Land Rovers that we owned at the time.


“Hail Mary full of grace…..”

As was the way, always being prepared and willing to oblige, we met and set off on what was to be a very scary adventure. All was well, but as we approached to within a mile or so of the mooring, we could see the flooded fields the waters were deep. We had to travel along country lanes, then we saw the flood waters on the road ahead, I was very concerned at what I saw, I was even more concerned when Peter calmly said “just stay in the centre of the hedge rows” I stopped and engaged low range on the Land Rover, being pleased that it was diesel powered, wondering what I had let myself in for! Carefully following Peters instructions, I stayed in the centre of the road, the water getting deeper the further we travelled, when I could not see the road anymore. I asked Peter about turning around and heading back, when he told me that there was nowhere to turn, I began to pray, the deep water was now lapping onto the bonnet, I prayed even harder. Driving the Land Rover hard low gear, high revs, concentrating on the hedgerows, I was relieved to see the river bridge parapets ahead. However, little did I realise that there was worse to come, to reach the crown of the bridge then higher ground we had to travel through the fast flowing water, water that could not go under the bridge. As main current hit us side on, I thought that we were going to lose the vehicle with us inside, the Land Rover leant heavily to the offside but continued to safety, a big sigh relief from me was met with Peter saying “thanks Dave, the boat is O.K. did you see it? The warps (ropes) are holding no problem, right, we can head back now!” he seemed oblivious to the concerns that I had by asking me if had seen his beloved craft. We went on a massive detour to return home safely always on dry land, we often laugh as we recall the adventure. When Peter bought his next vehicle it was a Land Rover, he has owned Land Rover Discovery ever since that time.

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