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This article is about the construction company. For the founder of the same name, see Sir Robert McAlpine, 1st Baronet.
Sir Robert McAlpine
Type Private company
Industry Engineering / Construction
Founded 1869
Headquarters Hemel Hempstead, England
Revenue £743 million (2011)[1]
Operating income £19 million (2011)[1]
Website www.sir-robert-mcalpine.com

Sir Robert McAlpine is a private British company headquartered in Hertfordshire. It carries out engineering and construction for the oil and gas, petrochemical, power generation, nuclear, pharmaceutical, defence, chemical, water and mining industries.

History[edit]

Sir Robert McAlpine, 1st Baronet who founded the eponymous company was born in 1847 in the Scottish village of Newarthill near Motherwell. From the age of seven he worked in the nearby coal mines, leaving at 16 to become an apprentice bricklayer. Later, working for an engineer, he progressed to being foreman before starting to work on his own account at the age of 22 (1869). He had no capital other than that he could earn himself and his first contract involving the employment of other men had to be financed by borrowing £11 from the butcher. From there, McAlpine enjoyed rapid success; the early contracts centred on his own trade of bricklaying and by 1874 he was the owner of two brickyards and an employer of 1,000 men.[2] (It was on one of the housing estates he built that he first experimented with using concrete blocks as well as bricks (from which he earned the nickname 'concrete Bob').[3]

With the capital he had acquired, McAlpine determined to build a garden city at Hamilton, South Lanarkshire. Relying now on the income from his estate, McAlpine’s attention moved away from his contracting business towards self-education. However, the financial panic following the collapse of the City of Glasgow Bank in 1878 virtually wiped out McAlpine financially: his mortgages were called in but his debtors did not pay him.[2]

The liabilities from the Hamilton estate were threatening the construction business and to protect it, Robert took his clerk into partnership, trading under the name McAlpine & Co; the clerk was bought out not long after. McAlpine’s first large contract was a building for Singer Manufacturing in 1883 and the profit from that enabled him to pay off his remaining debts. Almost immediately he faced further financial difficulties. Winning a contract for the Lanarkshire and Ayrshire Railway without the necessary technical knowledge, the subsequent rebuilding work and litigation meant another fresh start.[2]

In 1887, Robert took his two eldest sons, Robert junior and William, out of school to help him, with Malcolm and Alfred following soon after, and they did much to rationalise the firm’s administration and finances. Undaunted by his earlier experience, McAlpine took on further railway contracts, this time successfully, including the Mallaig Extension Railway and the Glasgow Subway. There was an increasingly wide range of building and civil engineering contracts but the firm was almost brought to its knees again with the construction of the Methil Docks between 1909 and 1913. It was argued that this led to a much more cautious approach to risk on the part of the sons – if not the father.[4]

The inter-war period saw the firm focusing solely on construction. Gray wrote that Sir Robert McAlpine “seemed to have been involved in every major building and civil engineering project that ever hit the headlines of the day.” They included docks, harbours, power stations, factories; the Wembley Stadium and the Dorchester Hotel were notable examples.[4] The Dorchester was of particular interest. When the client was unable to pay for the construction works, the company took possession of the completed building and operated it on its own account.[5]

In November 1934, Sir Robert died aged 87. Two weeks later the eldest son, the new Sir Robert, also died. William was appointed Chairman while Alfred remained in charge of the operation in the north-west subsidiary, where he had been since 1918. These two deaths must have had some impact on what followed. The two London partners argued that the recession was impacting more on the north than the south and proposed closing Alfred’s company. Alfred, however, did not wish to return to London and, on an informal basis at first, the two businesses were run separately. The separation was formalised in 1940 and the northern business was renamed Sir Alfred McAlpine.[4] The two McAlpine firms had non-compete arrangements and sites had a common “McAlpine” board irrespective of which firm it was. When both companies first went public, they did so under the names Newarthill for Robert and Marchwiel for Alfred. These arrangements continued until 1983.[6]

In 2003, Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd. sued Alfred McAlpine plc over the use of the family name and won.[7] The dispute centred on Alfred McAlpine's intention to trade under the name "McAlpine". There was previously a long standing agreement within the McAlpine family not to make such a change but, following the death of Alfred McAlpine, the board of Alfred McAlpine sought to make the change in any event. The effect of the judgment was to prevent Alfred McAlpine trading under the name "McAlpine". In 2008, Alfred McAlpine plc was acquired by Carillion and dismantled, thus making the "name war" irrelevant.[8]

The Irish Connection[edit]

From the 1930s onwards, the company employed large numbers of Irish who had come to England looking for work. The harsh working conditions with which McAlpine's management treated their labourers has gone down in Irish emigrant folklore. The song "McAlpine's Fusiliers" (written by Dominic Behan and made famous by "The Dubliners") described the realities of life on the building site for many Irish expatriates.[9]

Structure[edit]

The company is organised on a regional basis.[10]

It has offices in Hemel Hempstead, London, Birmingham, Cardiff, Bristol, Manchester, Newcastle, Leeds, Edinburgh and Glasgow. The plant section is based in Kettering.

Major projects[edit]

The Emirates Stadium, built by Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd

Projects undertaken by the company have included the Glenfinnan Viaduct completed in 1901,[11] the Maine Road Stadium completed in 1923,[12] the original Wembley Stadium completed in 1924,[11] the Dorchester Hotel in London completed in 1931,[11] the St. Enoch Centre completed in 1989,[11] the Millennium Dome in Greenwich completed in 1999[11] which the company also redeveloped to The O2,[11] the Millennium Bridge in London completed in 2000,[13] the ExCeL Exhibition Centre completed in 2000,[14] the Eden Project in St Austell completed in 2001,[15] the Bull Ring in Birmingham completed in 2003,[16] the Emirates Stadium completed in 2006,[17] the White River Place development in St Austell town centre completed in 2009[18] and the Olympic Stadium for London 2012 completed in 2011.[19]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Sir Robert McAlpine profits fall 38%". Construction Enquiror. 16 April 2012. Retrieved 2012-03-30. 
  2. ^ a b c J Saxon Childers, Robert McAlpine A Biography (1925)
  3. ^ “McAlpine The First Hundred Years” (1969)
  4. ^ a b c Tony Gray, The Road to Success Alfred McAlpine 1935-1985 (1987)
  5. ^ "Sir William McAlpine talks to Andy Milne". Railway People. 2006-06-30. Retrieved 2009-05-16. 
  6. ^ Wellings, Fred: Dictionary of British Housebuilders (2006) Troubador. ISBN 978-0-9552965-0-5,
  7. ^ Mark Milner (2004-04-01). "Court verdict finds for Sir Robert". The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-07-11. 
  8. ^ "Carillion agrees to buy McAlpine". BBC News. 2007-12-10. Retrieved 2008-07-13. 
  9. ^ "McAlpines Fusiliers". Free Lyrics. Retrieved 2009-05-16. 
  10. ^ Will Mann (2007-12-14). "Sir Robert McAlpine boss Benny Kelly to step down". Contract Journal. Retrieved 2007-07-11. 
  11. ^ a b c d e f "Sir Robert McAlpine Project Archive". Sir Robert McAlpine. Retrieved 2008-07-11. 
  12. ^ "Maine Road". Structurae. Retrieved 2008-07-11. 
  13. ^ "Millennium Bridge". Structurae. Retrieved 2008-07-11. 
  14. ^ "News from Worldwide". Worldwide Exhibition Specialists Ltd. Archived from the original on 2008-03-15. Retrieved 2008-07-11. 
  15. ^ "The Eden Project". Living Places. Retrieved 9 November 2012. 
  16. ^ "Building the BullRing" (pdf). Birmingham City Council. Archived from the original on 2008-05-29. Retrieved 2008-07-11. 
  17. ^ "First ball kicked at Emirates Stadium". Arsenal F.C. 2005-08-25. Archived from the original on 2008-04-24. Retrieved 2008-07-11. 
  18. ^ Rebecca Froley (2006-10-02). "Sir Robert McAlpine wins St Austell redevelopment". Contract Journal. Retrieved 2008-07-11. 
  19. ^ Tom Bill (2007-07-24). "ODA signs Olympic Stadium deal with Sir Robert McAlpine". Contract Journal. Retrieved 2008-07-11. 

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sir_Robert_McAlpine — Please support Wikipedia.
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1913 news items

Building.co.uk

Building.co.uk
Thu, 11 Dec 2014 23:52:30 -0800

Contractor Sir Robert McAlpine has been appointed to build Hammerson's £70m WestQuay extension in Southampton. The leaisure-led development will include a 10 screen cinema, up to 20 restaurants and a public plaza. It will sit next to the current ...
 
Construction News
Wed, 10 Dec 2014 06:48:45 -0800

Three contractors have been shortlisted for the first phase of Qatari Diar's £3bn Chelsea Barracks scheme, Construction News has learned. The shortlisted contractors are Balfour Beatty, Mace and Sir Robert McAlpine. Work in the first phase will include ...
 
CM
Mon, 01 Dec 2014 09:48:45 -0800

Kier Group has been ranked sixth in a listing of the most admired companies in the UK, beating McDonald's Restaurants UK and property investment firm Derwent London. Chemicals company Johnson Matthey was the overall winner in the poll, followed by ...

Building.co.uk

Building.co.uk
Wed, 01 Oct 2014 02:05:40 -0700

The boss of Sir Robert McAlpine's London business is leaving the firm after 30 years, Building can reveal. Sir Robert McAlpine confirmed Vince Corrigan, regional manager of the firm's London and South-east business, who is also a director of the ...

Telegraph.co.uk

Telegraph.co.uk
Mon, 05 May 2014 10:23:34 -0700

Accounts for Sir Robert McAlpine Holdings, the umbrella company for the McAlpine family's privately owned portfolio of construction and engineering interests, show a pre-tax loss of £37.7m for the year to October 31 2013, down from a £19.2m profit the ...
 
Insider Media
Wed, 17 Dec 2014 23:52:30 -0800

Enabling works for the first phase of the £70m scheme have already taken place and, following the appointment of Sir Robert McAlpine as the main contractor, further utility diversion and demolition works will begin on the same date. As part of the ...
 
Property Magazine International
Tue, 16 Dec 2014 09:48:45 -0800

Enabling works for the first phase of the development have already taken place and following the appointment of the main contractor Sir Robert McAlpine, further utility diversion and demolition works will begin on 5th January. This will facilitate the ...
 
Construction News
Thu, 18 Dec 2014 02:52:30 -0800

Overseas investment in London's prime resi market was criticised, but Chinese contractors made more serious moves on schemes, as Construction News revealed that talks were being held over UK joint ventures with firms like Mace and Sir Robert McAlpine.
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