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A clean sweep for more than 100 years with Dorking’s Johnston Sweepers - Surrey Creations

PUBLISHED: 15:01 03 August 2016 | UPDATED: 15:08 03 August 2016

A huge number of road sweepers across the world are built in Dorking

A huge number of road sweepers across the world are built in Dorking

Philip Traill

Founded over a hundred years ago, Johnston Sweepers began life when road construction was in its infancy. Based in Dorking since 1924, they are among the most advanced sweeper manufacturers in the world

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine July 2016


When road construction was still in its infancy, JM Johnston and two of his brothers saw the opportunity to start importing road stone from Germany and the first incarnation of Johnston Sweepers was born.

Soon, the brothers saw the possibilities for improving the process and developed a tar-spreading system in 1908 – the first of many new ideas they would have in the field of road construction and, subsequently, sweepers.

By 1924, Johnston Brothers, as it was known then, had acquired the Road Plant Construction Co Ltd, which was based in Vincent Lane in Dorking, and the company was based there until 1992, when it moved to its present site at Curtis Road.

“In 2014, the company invested £11m in a new factory on the 13-acre site, designed to be the most advanced sweeper manufacturing plant in the world,” says engineering director, Clive Offley. “The factory was inaugurated by HRH The Duke of Kent and demonstrates Johnston’s commitment to sweeper production in the UK, and in Surrey in particular.”

The perfect complement to the business, the road sweeping developed naturally alongside, to collect the surplus chippings on construction projects, with the company producing the first mechanical machine in Dorking in 1937.

In the 1950s, they went on to pioneer the first truck-mounted vacuum sweeper and invented a groundbreaking fan system to power the suction. The sweeper was launched at the Public Works Exhibition in London in 1960, becoming the template for road sweeper design ever since. By 1965, Johnston had delivered its 500th sweeper and supplied 80 per cent of the UK market.

“Over the years, Johnston has honed and perfected this machine and it is now internationally recognised as the most reliable, robust, productive and cost-efficient machine in its class – and the most widely used, with more than 25,000 units sold all over the world,” says Clive. “Today, that machine’s latest incarnation, the V Range, is sweeping in 120 countries around the world. And they are all built in Dorking.”

Johnston sees alternative fuels as the next target and has already engineered a sweeper to run on CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) specifically for California and Paris. A clean sweep, if you will... 

• For more information about Johnston Sweepers, visit


Need to know:

Surrey Creations is a series by local photographer, Philip Traill, exploring people in their work environment, capturing the characters and 
what they do in a single image. Contact Philip by e-mail:

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