Foster Yeoman

Foster Yeoman

Foster Yeoman Limited, based in the United Kingdom, is one of Europe's largest quarrying and asphalt companies, owned by Swiss construction materials conglomerate Holcim.

Company history

The Company was founded by Foster Yeoman, from Hartlepool, at Dulcote, near Wells, in 1923. He was a former ship owner and had worked in the iron and steel business. Foster Yeoman had served in the First World War and went into quarrying to provide employment for ex-soldiers.

Between the wars Foster Yeoman Limited supplied contractors and local authorities in the South of England, reaching an early peak of prosperity in the 1930s. During the Second World War the firm supplied materials for the construction of airfields. Most stone was sent away by rail as it is today.

After the war, with Foster Yeoman ailing, business declined and the company came full circle, returning to the £20,000 turnover it had enjoyed in 1923. In 1949 Foster died and his son, John Foster Yeoman, became Managing Director at the age of 21. He employed Ron Torr to redevelop the plant. Despite his youth and inexperience, John Foster Yeoman turned the company round and within four years it was back in profit. Dulcote was not the best location and, with an eye to rising costs, competition and the need for future expansion, John Yeoman bought the under-exploited Merehead Quarry at East Cranmore in 1958. He developed this successfully in association with his chief engineer, Ron Torr, after whom the new quarry was named. This second Foster Yeoman quarry became operational in 1964 and was completed with the installation of the Nordberg Primary Crusher in 1970.

Since 1949, stone had been carried to its destination by lorry but now Foster Yeoman reverted to rail transport. The Merehead Stone Terminal was established in 1970. From there aggregate was removed by high capacity trains. This innovation was followed by the building of the railhead depot and coating plant at Botley in 1973.

John Yeoman had long been captivated by the idea of the super-quarry to be situated in a remote location from which stone could be exported by sea. To this end, and always looking ahead, he bought the Glensanda estate near Oban in Argyll in 1982. A pilot plant was installed (extended in 1996) which extracts granite by the 'Glory Hole' and conveyor belt method, a pioneering development in alternative quarrying technology.

Glensanda went into operation in 1986 when the first shipload of granite left for Houston, Texas, USA. The Production Director at Glensanda is Kurt Larson, John and Angela Yeoman's son-in-law. Production at the Scottish quarry has now reached six million tonnes a year.

Progress and innovation were not confined to Glensanda. In 1985 the O & K Mobile Crusher came to Torr Works quarry and four Class 59 locomotives were commissioned from the USA to pull even heavier and longer loads from Torr Works to stone terminals in Southern England. Foster Yeoman was the first national company to run private locomotives on the then British Rail track.

In 1993, Foster Yeoman and ARC came together to form Mendip Rail combining their locomotives and rolling stock in one streamlined operation. This created the third largest freight company in the UK, moving ten million tonnes of aggregate a year.

Foster Yeoman bought the derelict Marston House, a Grade II* Listed Building, [cite web | title=Marston House | work=Images of England | url= | accessdate=2007-09-02] near Frome, in 1984. The mansion dates in part from the early 17th century and has 106 rooms. It was restored over a seven year period as the company headquarters.

John Foster Yeoman died in 1987. He was succeeded by his widow, Mrs Angela Yeoman, OBE, DL. Their son, also John Foster Yeoman, became Managing Director in 1994 and vice chairman in 2004.

Notable landmarks in the company history have included the supplying of aggregate for the Thames Barrier and the M25 motorway. Foster Yeoman also supplied three million tonnes of rock used to make concrete segments for the English side of the Channel Tunnel. Eighty per cent of Glensanda granite is exported to Europe using Foster Yeoman vessels: the Yeoman Brook, Yeoman Bank, Yeoman Bridge and the Yeoman Bontrup.

With its substantial interests in Northern Europe, Foster Yeoman now runs a locomotive on German railways. Its other interests include civil engineering and recycling. In 1997, it acquired RJ Maxwell with its London asphalt works and wharves, and now operates a very successful contracting division. Foster Yeoman continues to be one of the major suppliers of coated stone products. These are used for projects as diverse as motorways and tennis courts. It remains an independent, privately owned, family company with an annual turnover of £250 million, employing over 800 people.

In 2006 Foster Yeoman was wholly acquired by the Holcim Group and is now part of its Aggregate Industries subsidiary and is no longer family owned. [ [ The Times: "Foster Yeoman founding family agrees £300m Swiss takeover"] ]

Rail logistics

Foster Yeoman transports most of its stone product from Merehead to various UK distribution points using the services of jointly-owned rail company Mendip Rail, with Hanson plc.


External links

* [ Foster Yeoman Limited website]
* [ Photos of Torr Works Quarry, Merehead Rail Sidings & Marston House in 3d (Anaglyphs)]

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