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Tarmac was invented when county surveyor, E. Purnell Hooley was passing a tarworks in 1901 and saw that a barrel of tar had spilled on the roadway and, in an attempt to reduce the mess, gravel had been dumped on top of it. The area was remarkably dust-free compared to the surrounding road, and it inspired Hooley to develop and patent Tarmac in Britain. He called his company Tar Macadam (Purnell Hooley's Patent) Syndicate Limited. Due to general incompetence, his company was soon bought out by the Wolverhampton MP, Sir Alfred Hickman, the owner of a steelworks which produced large quantities of waste slag. The Tarmac company was relaunched in 1905, and became an immediate success.26

In 1986 Tarmac went on a spending spree, first acquiring Aquaseal, a waterproofing and roofing products business, from BP; Hawkins Tiles; chemical company, Sevalco; Innes Lee Industries; Situsec, a family-owned asphalt supplier; and Moffatts, an aggregates company.27

During the 1980s, Tarmac donated more than £300,000 to the Conservative party and in return received nearly £250 million in cash and guarantees from ministers to take over the projects division of the privatised Property Services Agency.28

In 1996, George Wimpey Plc acquired McLean Homes from Tarmac, in return selling Tarmac its construction and quarrying businesses.29 In 1999, the Tarmac Board announced that Tarmac's construction and services business was strong enough to trade independently. It was demerged from Tarmac and launched on the London Stock Exchange under the name Carillion plc.30

In September 2000, natural resources giant Anglo American, acquired Tarmac for £1.2bn. However, to please the Department of Trade & Industry and avoid having its acquisition of Tarmac referred to the Competition Commission, Anglo American sold 14 Tarmac businesses to another construction company called Hanson for £32.9m.31

In what must have been a joy for residents of the Spanish Mediterranean coast, Tarmac became its largest ready-mixed concrete supplier in 2002 when it bought the Spanish Mavike Group for $55million.32 Tarmac also joined up with Group 4 to build HMP Lectors in Liverpool. Built under PFI, the companies had recovered their costs within two years. This gives another 23 years of profit and makes the prison one of the most profitable contracts with the government for any company.33


26'Tarmac,' Wikipedia. See: Viewed: 03.02.04 27 28'The Great Comic Relief Fraud,' Special Publications No. 5. See: www.geocities.com/carbonomics/MCsppub/11sp04/11sp04b_f.html. Viewed: 04.02.04 29'George Wimpey Plc – Today.' See: www.hemscott.co.uk/internet/custom/wmpy/history.htm. Viewed: 03.02.04 30'History,' Carillion website. See: www.carillionplc.com/aboutus/history.htm. Viewed: 05.02.04. 31'Anglo-American in the UK,' Synchronic.info. See: www.browneyedsheep.com/angloamericanUKso.htm. Viewed: 05.02.04 32'Anglo American Interim Report 2002.' See: www.angloamerican.co.uk/investor/downloads/IR02%20Full%20Report.pdf. Viewed: 05.02.04 33'Group 4 Falck A/S,' See: www.corporatewatch.org.uk/profiles/privatised_services/ group4/group4.rtf . Viewed: 04.02.04.