We built this city: Meet the firm behind some of Norwich's famous landmarks

Will Littleboy (inset) still runs the firm 70 years after his grandfather founded it

Will Littleboy (inset) still runs the firm 70 years after his grandfather founded it with the firm overseeing many major projects around the city - Credit: Archant 2022

From Castle Quarter to the Lotus test track and from bypasses to university buildings, the very foundations of the Fine City can often be traced back to just one firm.

Thanks to family-run Longwater Gravel, architect drawings have become a reality courtesy of the hundreds of thousands of tonnes of sand and gravel extracted from its three quarries. 

William Littleboy, founder of Longwater Gravel

William Littleboy, founder of Longwater Gravel - Credit: Longwater Gravel

Will Littleboy, 51, whose grandfather William Littleboy set up the Costessey-based company 70 years ago, said: "It is nice we have been with so many projects. The projects would not have got off the ground without the gravel. The material is an unsung hero."

The company has supplied projects including Castle Mall which opened in 1993, the University of East Anglia in 1963, the A47 southern bypass in 1992 and parts of Norwich Prison.

Construction of Castle Mall in March 1990. Photo: Archant library

The construction of Castle Mall in 1990 - Credit: Archant library

Further afield it has also been involved in the construction of the new buildings at Colney training ground for Norwich City players.

It also aided the construction of overflow building for patients at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital during the Covid pandemic and the project to rebuild the Lotus test track at Hethel.

Norwich City are back at their Colney training centre, working under strict guidelines Picture: Arch

Colney training centre on the edge of Norwich - Credit: Tony Thrussell

Simon Smith, operations director of the firm, said the most challenging build was the new RAF Marham runway in west Norfolk two years ago.

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He said: "It was for the arrival of the RAF's new F35 Lightning II aircraft which are now based there.

Will Littleboy, managing director, right, and Simon Smith, operations director, in the yard of Longw

Will Littleboy, managing director, right, and Simon Smith, operations director, in the yard of Longwater Gravel who is celebrating its 70th anniversary. - Credit: Archant 2022

"This job was probably one of the most challenging we've taken on mainly due to the fact that every single tonne of the 70,000 tonnes that was supplied over the 18-month period had to be produced to a consistent high-quality specification.

"In addition to RAF Marham, we have supplied sand to similar work at RAF Lakenheath ready for the United States Air Force’s fleet of new F35 jets."

The F-35 Lightning making a first flypast over its future home at RAF Marham. Picture: Ian Burt

The F-35 Lightning making a flypast over RAF Marham in 2016 - Credit: Ian Burt

On the business side, challenges included the price of diesel for its vehicles and the availability of land to quarry in.

An old truck formerly used by Longwater Gravel

An old truck formerly used by Longwater Gravel - Credit: Longwater Gravel

It produces 200,000 of tonnes of aggregate each year out of its sites in Coxford, Horstead and Wymondham - two thirds of which is used on smaller building projects like driveways in the city.

Will Littleboy, managing director, right, and Simon Smith, operations director, in the yard of Longw

Will Littleboy, managing director, right, and Simon Smith, operations director, in the yard of Longwater Gravel who is celebrating its 70th anniversary. - Credit: Archant 2022