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What is Tarmacadam?

Tarmacadam was patented in 1902 by Edgar Hooley, a Welsh county surveyor working for Nottinghamshire County Council. It is a material used in surfacing roads by combining tar and crushed stone (sand).

However, there are a degree of other tarmacadam materials used in the building and construction of driveways, roads, car parks and industrial parks.  

The Origins of Tarmacadam

If we go all the way back to 1815, John McAdam the man who invented tarmac created roads for horse-drawn vehicles but these were always liable to rutting and becoming very dusty. Macadam roads were tar grouted and well in use long before Edgar Purnell Hooley discovered tarmac purely by accident in 1901.

Macadam building processes quickly became defunct after Hooley’s unintentional discovery. It was a labour-intensive method of road building and the tarmac method of construction was much quicker, cheaper and more dynamic as a road system.

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Edgar Hooley Discovers the First Tarmac Road

Edgar Hooley was a county surveyor who stumbled across an unintended tarmac road in 1901. He was walking close to an iron manufacturing plant when he noticed a smooth and straight road made from slag waste and tar.

He inquired among the locals as to how this road came about. The locals informed Hooley a dray cart had spilled a number of tar barrels and all had burst open as they crashed onto the track. The locals tried to clean up the spillage by using slag waste taken from a local iron working site.

The unintentional surface had actually made a solid road. Moreover, there was no dust, no rutting and a completely ideal surface in which to move carts and other horse-drawn vehicles easily along therefore it was John McAdam, the man who invented tarmac.

However, back in the 18th century, the macadam road surface paved the way (quite literally) as the transport mode surface of choice. The surface consisted of a granite and green stone composition that had to be crushed by axe. This is used to help support the weight of the carriages that used the roads at that time.

Macadam construction still exists today. The crushed gravel mixture is placed at the base of the road and warm tar poured over the top. Asphalt cement is then used as a second method of binding.

A mixture of slurry and sand is sometimes used in macadam construction as an alternative bonding agent. This can often be found in runways, warehouse floors and car parking areas.


Tarmacadam Driveways Cannock
101 Hednesford Road,
WS11 6LB

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