Click for home page Climbing Walls & Other Animals Me
Artificial Climbing Structures: Climbing Walls: Climbing Gyms: Bouldering Walls: Lead Climbing Walls: Traversing Walls: Boulders: Mobile Walls:

What is a Climbing Wall

Bildering And Bilderers
Geoffrey Windthrop Young
Arthur Pinner

First True Climbing Structure
Schurman Rock
Clark Schurman
Camp Long

Post War Development

1960's Boom
Britain's First Climbing Walls

1970's Development

Climbing Wall Manufacturers
Bendcrete Climbing Walls
DR Climbing Walls

Outdoor Open Access
Spire Rock
University of Washington

The 1980's Wall Development
The invention of the bolt on Hold

First Commercial Climbing Centre
Vertical, In Seattle
Mile End, London

The 1990's Beginning of the Golden Age

21st Century Climbing Walls and the Future


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.

More Information can be found here on UKClimbing Forum


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.
The Original Wall, Montgomery of Alamein School Winchester 1972
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 wall project.

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 like texture.
Because the 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. Downside Youth Fisher Climbing Wall, London, 1979. Click for Larger image

  • 1972 Bendcrete is formed and the first cast 'ferro cement' panels are produced for a climbing tower at Montgomery of Alamein School in Winchester
  • In 1975 they produced their first Brochure and introduced us to Fred.
  • They produced other brochures in the mid 1980's and early 1990's and their first bolt on hold brochure No Holds Barred.
  • 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.
  • In the Autumn of 1997 Bendcrete launched their first website, most of which is published here for posterity.
  • 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.

  • Early Walls
    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
    metre 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 Competition.The routes on this wall are up to F8b and changed regularly.

    There is a 5 metre bouldering wall over hanging with a large number of routes from 4a upwards which can be bouldered or led.

    The climbing 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.
    Sobell Leisure Centre Circa 1987
    Photo by: Ian Smith

    The Wall was heavily featured in Bendcretes 1980's brochure.
    The 1987 Sobell Guidebook/topo Here.

    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.

    How 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

    Modern Walls

    University of Surrey, Manor Park
    University of Warwick, The Bear Rock Climbing Centre
    West View Leisure Centre, Preston

    Recent Projects

    Victoria Park Boulder, at Stretford, Manchester

    Bolton - University of Bolton
    Bolton One Project

    Aldershot Scouts Climbing Wall And Cave System

    Salford, Clifton Park
    Boulder – Images of the Boulder
    Park – Images of the Park

    Manchester, Longford Park, Trafford
    Boulder – Images of the Boulder
    Park - Images of the Park

General Acknowledgments:

Gordon Bendall

Gary Thornhill

Material on this site is all rights reserved -This is a non-commercial, historical and hopefully educational website. No part of this site may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior consent.