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Business services
HeadquartersLondon, England
Key people
Joe Darby, (Chairman)
Sir John Gains, (CEO)
Number of employees

Mowlem was one of the largest construction and civil engineering companies in the United Kingdom.

The company was established as John Mowlem and Co. by John Mowlem and initially worked on behalf of various local authorities across London. It expanded throughout the nineteenth century, taking on increasingly prestigious undertakings. The company received the first of several Royal Warrants in 1902. One year later, John Mowlem and Co. was briefly incorporated before being reorganised as a partnership once again; the business was long operated by successive generations of the Mowlem and Burt families, including George Burt, and Sir John Mowlem Burt. During 1924, the company went public on the London Stock Exchange.

Throughout the Second World War, the company worked on numerous contracts issued by the British government, including the construction of the Mulberry harbour units. After the end of the conflict, it continued to developed its network of regional contracting businesses, often via acquisitions. During 1971, the company expanded overseas via its stake in the Australian contractor Barclay Brothers, which it would later take whole ownership of. Mowlem entered the private house building sector during 1986 although, following a recession during the early 1990s, it sold on the housing division to the rival homebuilder Beazer in 1994.

The mid-2000s was a period of great change for Mowlem. It entered a period of financial difficulties in part attributed to several high-profile projects not going to plan. After losses totalling £73.4 million were recorded in 2005, its construction services operation was restructured and 300 jobs were lost at the company. During December 2005, it was announced that rival contracting company Carillion was acquiring Mowlem for £291 million. Use of the Mowlem name was discontinued soon thereafter.


The firm was founded as John Mowlem and Co. by the stonemason John Mowlem in London in 1822.[1] The company undertook a variety of jobs across London throughout the mid-nineteenth century; early activities were centred around paving and roadworks at the behest of various local authorities. The business was able to expand considerably towards the end of the century, permitting it to perform prestigious activities, such as its involvement in preparatory works at Westminster Abbey for the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria in 1887.[1] During 1902, the company received a Royal Warrant from the Prince of Wales in recognition of the quality of its workmanship; additional warrants would be received in 1910 and 1920.[1]

By this time, John Mowlem and Co. had become a partnership that was operated by successive generations of the Mowlem and Burt families, including George Burt, and Sir John Mowlem Burt.[2] George Mowlem Burt, a civil engineer and grandson of George Burt, has been credited with successfully guiding the company through the construction of various large scale public works, including the Admiralty Arch and the Port of London Authority Building, as well as various maintenance contracts on behalf of the Office of Works, amongst others.[3] The company was briefly incorporated during 1903, but reverted back to being a private company in 1908.[1] During 1924, the company went public on the London Stock Exchange.[4]

During the Second World War, the company's reputation from its works during the interwar period led to it being awarded numerous contracts from the British government.[1] One particularly high-profile project that it was a contractor upon was the construction of the Mulberry harbour units.[5] Other wartime construction projects included the Royal Ordinance Factory Swynnerton as well as numerous tunnels and runways; the associated contracts were collectively valued at £29 million.[1]

Having developed itself as a long-standing national contractor, Mowlem developed a network of regional contracting businesses including Rattee and Kett of Cambridge (bought in 1926); E. Thomas of the west country (bought in 1965) and the formation of a northern region based in Leeds in 1970.[6] This network was further augmented by the acquisition of Ernest Ireland of Bath during 1977,[7] as well as the purchase of McTay Engineering of Bromborough together with its shipbuilding subsidiary McTay Marine during the late 1970s.[8]

During 1971, the company expanded overseas via the purchase of a 40% shareholding in the Australian contractor Barclay Brothers, in which it later took total ownership of. The Australian business, re-branded Barclay Mowlem, expanded into all other Australian mainland states, except South Australia, as well into Asia.[9][10] In 1982, the partent company was re-registered as John Mowlem and Co. plc.[1]

During 1986, Mowlem acquired the scaffolding specialist SGB Group;[11] its purchase of Unit Construction that same year gave the company a substantial presence in the private house building sector. Within two years, sales were up to an annual rate of 1,200 homes. However, a recession during the early 1990s led to Mowlem incurring losses in excess of £180m between 1991 and 1993, which placed pressure upon its banking covenants that compelled it to respond. During 1994, the company divested itself of its housing division via its sale to the rival homebuilder Beazer.[12][13] The company also opted to sell off SGB during the late 1990s.[14][15]

In 1984, a joint venture between Mowlem and GEC was awarded a contract to deliver the Docklands Light Railway (DLR), a fully automated transport system using light rail vehicles serving the redeveloped Docklands area of London.[16] Over the next two decades, the DLR would prove to be quite lucrative for Mowlem.[17]

During the mid-2000s, Mowlem entered into a period of financial difficulties; in 2005 alone, it issued four separate profit warnings and recorded losses totalling £73.4 million.[18][19] Several projects undertaken by the firm, such as the Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth and the Bath Spa, had encountered considerable difficulties.[20][21] Simon Vivian, the company's chief executive, ordered a financial review of its ongoing projects along with the restructuring of its construction services operation, splitting it into three divisions (Mowlem Building, Mowlem Infrastructure and Mowlem Engineering) and enacting roughly 300 job losses.[18][6][22]

During December 2005, it was announced that rival construction company Carillion was set to acquire Mowlem in exchange for £291 million.[18][23] The two companies were considered to be a good fit for one another, both having heavily involved themselves in various private finance initiative (PFI) schemes, taking on various responsibilities and functions traditionally performed by national governments. After the acquisition was completed, Mowlem ceased to exist as an entity, having been absorbed into Carillion's operations.[24][25] Carillion's management publicly expressed the view that the Mowlem acquisition had led to some difficulties for the company.[26]

Major projects[edit]

Tower 42 built by Mowlem

Major projects undertaken by or involving Mowlem included:

Mowlem was also the owner and developer of London City Airport completed in 1986.[46]

See also[edit]

  • John Mowlem - Biography of the founder of the company
  • George Burt - Biography of his successor as manager of the company
  • Edgar Beck - Biography of chairman then president between 1961-2000
  • Frank Baines History of John Mowlem unpublished typescript history held at London Metropolitan Archives



  1. ^ a b c d e f g "John Mowlem and Company Limited and Associated Companies". lma.gov.uk. London Metropolitan Archives Collections Catalogue. Retrieved 8 June 2024.
  2. ^ "Burt, Sir John Mowlem, Kt". National Maritime Museum Cornwall. NMMC. Retrieved 8 December 2015.
  3. ^ a b c d e Mowlem 1822–1972 – Mowlem Public Relations brochure, 1972, p. 8.
  4. ^ Mowlem 1822–1972 – Mowlem Public Relations brochure, 1972, p. 3.
  5. ^ a b Hartcup 2011, p. 94.
  6. ^ a b "Mowlem carves up construction division". Manchester Evening News. 30 June 2005. Retrieved 19 June 2022.
  7. ^ "Construction group John Mowlem". The Times. 1977.
  8. ^ "Mersey Notes" (PDF). Liverpool Nautical Research Society. 1 January 1980. p. 94. Retrieved 19 June 2022.
  9. ^ "New Firm". Papua New Guinea Post-Courier. 20 October 1970. p. 19.
  10. ^ "Barclay Mowlem up for grabs". Australian Financial Review. 28 March 2006. Archived from the original on 11 June 2022.
  11. ^ "Notes on Financial Times Actuaries Index 1986" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 January 2005.
  12. ^ Wellings, Fred (2006). Dictionary of British Housebuilders. Troubador. ISBN 978-0-9552965-0-5.
  13. ^ Stevenson, Tom (14 July 1994). "John Mowlem pulls out of housebuilding". The Independent.
  14. ^ Hoare, Stephen (27 November 1997). "The only way is up". constructionnews.co.uk.
  15. ^ "Mowlem sells SGB stake to focus on 'core construction'". New Civil Engineer. 16 September 1999.
  16. ^ "World Report". Railway Age. October 1984. p. 31.
  17. ^ Withers, Malcolm (8 March 2001). "DLR helps Mowlem ride high at £25 million". London Evening Standard. Archived from the original on 25 October 2012. Retrieved 25 June 2009.
  18. ^ a b c "Contracting giant Mowlem bought out". architectsjournal.co.uk. 7 December 2005.
  19. ^ a b "Mowlem dives into the red". Evening Standard. 4 February 2005.
  20. ^ "Mowlem in court over Bath Spa". constructionnews.co.uk. 2 October 2003.
  21. ^ "Mowlem hands over delayed Spinnaker Tower". constructionnews.co.uk. 14 October 2005.
  22. ^ Gardiner, Joey; Leftly, Mark (30 September 2005). "Mowlem's bitter lessons". building.co.uk.
  23. ^ "Carillion agrees £291m price for Mowlem". building.co.uk. 7 December 2005.
  24. ^ "Construction firms agree takeover". BBC News. 7 December 2005.
  25. ^ "Mowlem has been in the building business for at least 360 years". constructionnews.co.uk. 13 April 2006.
  26. ^ Monaghan, Angela (20 April 2007). "Carillion didn't buy a pup, it was a monster. How would it tame mowlem?". building.co.uk.
  27. ^ a b c d e Mowlem 1822–1972 – Mowlem Public Relations brochure, 1972, p. 4.
  28. ^ Temple, Philip (2008). "'Clerkenwell Road', in Survey of London: Volume 46, South and East Clerkenwell". London: British History Online. pp. 385–406. Retrieved 8 April 2023.
  29. ^ "History of the Woolwich Ferry". Royal Borough of Greenwich. Retrieved 8 December 2015.
  30. ^ a b c d Mowlem 1822–1972 – Mowlem Public Relations brochure, 1972, p. 7.
  31. ^ a b c Mowlem 1822–1972 – Mowlem Public Relations brochure, 1972, p. 6.
  32. ^ "Sign in to Photo Forums". time-capsules.co.uk. Retrieved 15 March 2015.
  33. ^ Smith, Denis (2001). Civil Engineering Heritage: London and the Thames Valley, p. 70. Thomas Telford. ISBN 9780727728760. Retrieved 25 November 2008.
  34. ^ "nuclear-sc-wl". industcards.com. Archived from the original on 19 July 2009. Retrieved 15 March 2015.
  35. ^ Civil Engineering, American Society of Civil Engineers, 1966, p. 59.
  36. ^ Mowlem 1822–1972 – Mowlem Public Relations brochure, 1972, p. 9.
  37. ^ "About the Falklands". Ministry of Defence. Retrieved 4 June 2012.
  38. ^ "Docklands Light Railway (D.L.R.)". Exploring 20th Century London. Archived from the original on 15 March 2013. Retrieved 3 September 2009.
  39. ^ "Past, Present and Future" (PDF). Metrolink. 2003. Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 March 2009. Retrieved 28 December 2008.
  40. ^ "Thames House and Vauxhall Cross". National Audit Office. Retrieved 15 March 2015.
  41. ^ "Mowlem for Albert". Construction News. 3 November 1994. Retrieved 5 June 2012.
  42. ^ "Moving three hospitals is a truly major operation". The Journal. 9 December 2003. Retrieved 31 March 2018.
  43. ^ "Spinnaker Tower, Portsmouth - Building #406". skyscrapernews.com. Retrieved 15 March 2015.
  44. ^ "Steel conversion for Twickenham". New Steel Construction. 1 September 2006. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  45. ^ "Dublin Port Tunnel settlement". tunneltalk.com. Retrieved 15 March 2015.
  46. ^ "Mowlem sighs with relief on pounds 15.5m disposal". The Guardian. 31 October 1995.


  • Hartcup, Guy (2011). Code Name Mulberry: The Planning Building and Operation of the Normandy Harbours. Pen & Sword Military. ISBN 978-1848845589.
  • Mowlem 1822–1972 – Mowlem Public Relations brochure, 1972