Workers' playtime: the unique photo archive that shows staycations as they used to be

A rare online collection of photographs has been released by Historic England featuring famous buildings and landmarks across our region.

They give a unique insight into the post-war building effort during the 1940s and 50s. The images come from the construction company Laing, which built some of the UK's best known post-war architecture, and among the evocative images are workers enjoying rare trips to the beach in Felixstowe and Great Yarmouth.

Workers enjoy the fun of the fairground with their families Credit: John Laing Charitable Trust / Historic England

The photos are part of a collection of 10,000 post-war images that have been digitised and catalogued by Historic England and are now available to the public online.    

The collection have been digitised and catalogued by Historic England Credit: Historic England

Ciaran Davis is the Project Manager for the Breaking New Ground Project. "Laing often took their workers on staff away days", Ciaran explains. "Travel was very different to how it is now and this would probably have been their main holiday of the year. It was very formal with everyone dressed to the nines. It's an insight into an era that's passed now."

The John Laing company was responsible for many well-known post-war buildings including the Barbican in London. Here in the East they built the Napp laboratory in Cambridge, the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, the M1, sugar silos near Kings Lynn, and laid gas pipes across much of the Fens and Suffolk.  They also constructed thousands of quick-build houses that gave post-war Britain somewhere to live.    

The Napp Research Centre in Cambridge was built by Laing Credit: John Laing Charitable Trust

Silos near Kings Lynn being built by Laing Credit: John Laing Charitable Trust
Laing laid thousands of gas pipes across the fens and Suffolk and Norfolk Credit: John Laing Charitable Trust

Ciaran hopes we can draw inspiration from the archives. "There are many conversations about how we rebuild our future, how we build a greener future", he says. "By looking at the images in this collection you can be quite encouraged. Because from the ravages of the Second World War, Britain rebuilt itself and these pictures are a testament to that."

By looking at the images in this collection you can be quite encouraged. Because from the ravages of the Second World War, Britain rebuilt itself and these pictures are a testament to that.

Ciaran Davis, Historic England

Workers and their families enjoying a horse ride on the seafront Credit: John Laing Charitable Trust

Now the public can take a walk down memory lane and see these evocative images and spot buildings and vistas we still enjoy today.

As the workers who built twentieth century Britain enjoyed a well-deserved break with their loved ones.   

Families outside the Royal Aquarium in Great Yarmouth Credit: John Laing Charitable Trust

The staff away days were a rare chance for workers to visit other parts of the country