Bendcrete was founded in 1972
by 35 year old Gordon Bendall.
Their system of precast concrete panels was revolutionary by comparison
to what was currently available. It was a ferro cement system
based on the design of concrete container ships. It was subsequently
developed in 1989 into a hand rendered system that was built on
site, firstly with the Beach leisure Centre in Aberdeen.
The pinnacle of this system was and still is the Salford climbing
wall at Broughton Leisure Centre.
Over the years they have introduced rock coated and friction coated
plywood walls, as well as coated fibre glass systems and the occasional
cave system. They continued to be a significant leader in the
design and manufacture of climbing walls throughout the 1970's,
1980's and early 1990's.
In 2012 they celebrated their 40th year of trading as the longest
establish climbing wall company, but sadly on the 30th August
2013 they ceased trading. Around 12pm the staff were called to
the office for a meeting with their General Manager and told that
effecting immediately the company had ceased trading. All staff
were made redundant and told to claim statutory redundancy from
the government. Following the liquidation of the company Gordon
Bendall managed to buy back the company assets and has since started
a new company.
Other key members of staff have set up their own companies within
the climbing industry following the closure and liquidation of
Bendcrete Climbing walls Ltd:
John Hartley has formed Verticalis offering Auto descenders and
rope access equipment.
Matthew Taylor and Gary Thornhill form Tailored Climbing Wall
Solutions Ltd offering safety inspections (En 12572) and maintenance
on artificial climbing walls. To date they have had work for Universities,
Schools (both Independent and state), Outdoor Activity Centres,
Local Authorities and Climbing Wall Manufacturers. The work also
includes refurbishing and improving existing climbing walls but
also inspection and certification of belays under LOLER (lifting
operations and equipment regulations), or working at height regulation
12. Other work undertaken includes route setting and, consultation
and design of climbing walls.
The Story goes
that in 1972 Bendcrete was founded when Gordon Bendall, a
manager in Sports and Leisure Management, was working to progress a Sports Council project on thin shell concrete use
for climbing walls. The first Bendcrete wall panels went to the
Montgomery of Alamein School in Winchester in 1972, and were
used to clad an outdoor climbing tower.
As a keen climber, several years earlier, he indulged this
passion by building a climbing wall tower at Calshot. The
tower wall was a plywood based system with rock holds bonded
with epoxy resins. He even going as far as making bolt on holds.
These holds were based on a rock holds glued to a steel plate
with epoxy resin and either screwed or bolted on for route
tuning and route variation.
When, in 1973, The Duke of Edinburgh,
Prince Philip, was asked to open the newly built Sports Centre,
The Michael Sobell Centre in Islington, North London, he
asked, where is the climbing Wall? When he was told they did not
have one, he said to Seff Cohen, you've got to have one. The next
day organizer called the BMC (British Mountaineering Council) who
had visited the Montgomery School climbing wall and they contacted
Gordon Bendall. Thus Bendcrete Climbing Walls was officially
formed, and Michael Sobell became their first complete climbing
The Company was originally called D.F.S Equipment Limited. The DFS
standing for Designed For Sports, but they have always traded as
Bendcrete Climbing Walls. In the mid 1990's the DFS was dropped and
Bendcrete Climbing Walls Limited was formed. Bendcrete is a
portmanteau word, like Bildering,
derived from Bendall and concrete. It is not as they say in their
advertising, "Because we found we could literally bend concrete
into any shape."
Gordon Bendall is a graduate in Physical Education with an early
scholarship in outdoor activities. Whilst in the RAF he qualified
as an expedition leader and Mountain Rescue Assistant. He later
became a climbing tutor and examiner for Hampshire Teachers before
joining the Sports Council. He has also served as chief Recreation
Officer for Oxford City and Wokingham. As well as designing the
first Climbing Wall System for Bendcrete, he held design patents
for hydraulic training equipment, developed the first Bendcrete
bolt on holds and natural, or traditional, climbing protection system.
The original Bendcrete Climbing Wall system were precast reinforced
concrete panels attached to a supporting structure. The panels were made from reinforcing mesh covered in several layers of
chicken wire. Rocks were then wired to the panels before concrete
was poured over them and then stippled to create holds and a rock
system was made off site it was very quick to install. In those
early years climbing was a far smaller sport than it is now and
Bendcrete was very much a cottage industry. Many of the walls
were installed at the weekends and with help or labour supplied
by the Clients. One of these wall Was at Downside Youth Fisher
in London. It was delivered and fitted over one weekend by
Gordon and two volunteers. The wall, as built, is still very
much in use today.
In 1987 they built the
first ever articulated hydraulic Climbing Wall at the Link Centre
in Swindon, UK. The
In 1988 they built the first
hand rendered concrete wall at the Beach Leisure Centre in Aberdeen
In 1990 they built The
Berghaus Wall at Eldon Leisure Centre, on Newcastle, arguably
the best bouldering wall in the North East
In 1990 they organized the
first ever International Open Climbing Competition to be held
in the UK.
In 1991 they built The Broughton
Leisure Centre Bouldering Wall, on Camp Street in Salford, Arguably
the best bouldering wall in England.
In 1991 they built Monkton
Combe School in Bath their first spray Concrete Wall
Also in 1991 they created
Curved Resin a 3D rock coated fibreglass system,
by building The Wave, AKA Jerry's Wall (Jerry Moffatt), at The
Foundry, in Sheffield, England
In 1992, along with DR
Climbing Walls, they built the Goretex World Cup Finals
competition climbing wall at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham.
Autumn of 1997 Bendcrete launched their first website, most
of which is published here
In 1999 they built the Heeley
Millenium Boulder in Sheffield. This was to be the first of
many open access, spray concrete, climbing boulders
In 2002 they organized the
first ever Guinness World Dyno Competition, held at The Edge
Climbing Centre in Sheffield.
Sobell is an unsung gem in British Climbing Wall
history with developments going on from 1973 until the 1990's.
Today there is an 8
high top roping or leading wall. Features include an overhang,
jamming cracks, arêtes and a chimney. The competition
wall stands at 13 metres high. This was Bendcrete's original
competition wall from the 1990 Olympia, Open International
routes on this wall are up to F8b and changed regularly.
is a 5 metre bouldering wall over hanging with a large number
of routes from 4a upwards which can be bouldered or led.
corridor is a traverse wall of brick and embedded rocks,
25 metres long and 3 metres high. This is suitable for technique
and stamina training with a low level and a high level traverse.
University of Brunel
This is another important wall in the development of Bendcrete.
Originally an architect constructed wall. It was developed from
the early 1970's until 1991.
To Build A "Bendcrete" Climbing Wall
A short Photo representation of building the outdoor hand rendered
bouldering wall at the University of Southampton in 1990. Dave
Kenyon, Dave Garland and Rob O'Neil star in a cold December
long ago. Here
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