HR Wallingford was founded by the Government in 1947 following repeated calls from the civils industry for a national hydraulics research centre. Sir William Halcrow headed the committee that selected a site in Oxfordshire, above gravel aquifers and bounded by the River Thames. Neighbours include the Institute of Hydrology and the Environment Agency.
Early work was characteristically academic in aims and approach, with a heavy emphasis on the publication of learned papers. The institution produced its first major physical models in the 1950s, with studies of the Thames and Severn rivers. Its activities became more international as the 1960s progressed. By the 1980s HR Wallingford had evolved marine capabilities and facilities to conduct wave generation studies.
HR Wallingford was privatised in 1982, and is now an independent company limited by guarantee. This means there are no shareholders. Profits go directly back into the facility and research programmes.
The company has offices in Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur. Clients are international, with a significant amount of work won from the European Union and Government ministries as well as private-sector clients.
Computer modelling expertise gained during the 1970s led to the establishment of a closely associated but independent company, Wallingford Software, specialising in urban drainage.
HR Software, still part of HR Wallingford, is developing computer-modelling software for rivers, iSIS, with consultant Halcrow.