What lies beneath: drilling down into the past

Everyone says that the most unpredictable part of any building project is the ground work. Like the human psyche, you never suspect what lies concealed under the surface. So, with this renovation project in Southwark, near the Thames, the foundation work even of this small extension has been causing problem after problem. First the engineer says that because of the unstable made ground (artificial ground the result of previous human activity) that the house is built on, we need 6 metre deep piled foundations. Made ground because the whole site is built on the old Courage bottling plant, demolished in 1981. Here it is in the 1950s:

and here is the entrance to our estate today, from street view compared with the year before it was demolished (1980), with the Sold to Saville’s sign in evidence:


The piling company finally arrive, after abandoning their first appointment because their truck would not fit under the Park Street bridge just by the site of Shakespeare’s Globe and the route through Borough Market is now restricted since the attacks on London Bridge. But, finally they get 1 and a half metres down and come up against a concrete slab – in all four locations that they are drilling down.

The four holes of the piling maching

Piling company retreat and now diamond drilling companies are being approached to find one willing and able to cart their machinery into our back garden, through the front door to drill through what might be 2 metres of concrete. And then who knows what is under that: a hollow vault? Roman remains? Both are feasible.
So the project is delayed so far by 6 weeks and getting in by Christmas is maybe possible, when before we joked about it because of course we would. But the fundamental unpredictability about what lies beneath still remains.

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