John Loudon McAdam

Image credit: National Portrait Gallery, London

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The civil engineer and road surveyor McAdam invented a road surface which revolutionised road building and travel. In 1811 he reported the terrible condition of Britain's roads to Parliament and proposed a solution. His technique of draining and laying down roads made of successive layers of small broken stones, naturally compacted by traffic, became known as 'Macadamisation'. It was widely adopted and, by improving coaching times, it played a key part in Britain's development as an industrial and commercial nation.
In the background of this portrait workmen can be seen laying down a road. Beyond them lies Bristol where, from 1816, McAdam first applied his construction technique on an extensive scale.

National Portrait Gallery, London



John Loudon McAdam




oil on canvas


H 89.5 x W 69.2 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

Given by the sitter's descendant, Mrs Katharine L. Scott, 1950

Work type



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