Waiting for SWMBO in a Rochester car park, admiring the medieval city walls.
Just above present ground level you could see the tops of some windows
or maybe arrow slits - so the original 'ground' level when they were
built must have been at least 6' lower.
How does this happen? What causes 'ground' level to rise over the
Dave - The Medway Handyman www.medwayhandyman.co.uk
Well it depends where it is and what sort of ground we are talking about.
The continuous growth of plants, grass etc, lays down layers of last years
growth and gradually it will raise the level of the soil itself. Of course
other factors are in play, sinkage of foundations, errosion and
redistribution of soil and rock over time, then there is us of course in
more recent times moving earth about to create flat areas to build on and
I'm sure many more reasons can be found if you think about it.
Brian Gaff....Note, this account does not accept Bcc: email.
graphics are great, but the blind can't hear them
Global warming. The ground expands you see..:-)
Actually you would be surprised at how fast soil builds up due to leaf
fall and other rotting vegetation.
And castles typically were build with ditches and moats outside, and
those fill up even quicker.
(in-ep-toc’-ra-cy) – a system of government where the least capable to
I have an area that had a stone surface. The stone was, is, a foot deep.
That was twenty years ago. The area is under trees. The stone has
completely disappeared and the area is now grass. There has been no
intervention except grazing.
On Sun, 18 Nov 2012 12:05:42 +0000, The Medway Handyman
The same question occurs to me while watching 'Time Team'. Sometimes
the 'finds' are not far below the surface, while at other times they
are several feet down, with no obvious sign of a river in the vicinity
that might be responsible by depositing sediment.
When I dug a hole for our pond a few years ago, I came across a 'Fine
Fare' bread wrapper about 18 inches down, but in that case I think the
soil had been deliberately imported to raise the level.
And in urban areas, adding more hard material to road surfaces than
erodes away. The road outside my house is six inches above the path and
1780's front door. Over in the next town it's a couple of feet above the
doorstep of the oldest building which ISTR dates from 14th Century.
In churchyards, one side is usually higher than the other because
there's supposed to be a better side to be buried (relating to day of
A lot of old churches seem to be considerably below the current ground
level of the surrounding churchyard.
The ground level is supposed to have risen due the the mass (or perhaps
volume) of bodies & coffins which have been buried there over several
I'm not entirely convinced, I suspect that a heavy stone building
without much in the way of foundations has sunk down a bit.
A classic example of such sinking is Winchester Cathedral. It was built
on a 'footings' of large tree trunks across the wall. Underneath was
(typically) 14 or 15 feet of marsh/mud, then a very firm gravel bed.
Over the centuries the wood deteriorated, the walls moved, many columns
had great splits in them and the whole building nearly fell down. As
Colin wrote, it was a bit haphazard. And I suspect that some of the
buttresses by then were contributing to the problem - being added over
the years, they were differently built and would sometimes have been
tending to push parts of the walls down.
The diver William Walker spent years going under the building and
placing concrete bags and blocks resulting in firm foundations.
And to further endorse Colin, the whole building did not sink six feet
(or whatever) - it varied from one side to the other, one end to the
other and within even small areas. In fact, as the ground around is
almost level with the floor, it might not have sunk very much as a whole
considering how heavy the walls, how long it has been there, and how
unsuitable what it is built on.
Winchester was one of the cases I had in mind when making my comments.
Beauvais Cathedral currently has temporary timber supports to hold it
up, while they try to decide how to deal with problems it has. There is
also a quite well known leaning tower in Pisa and several less well
known ones in Venice.
Went to a splendid talk about "fasteners" by a man from GKN in the early
70's. He described a job where he had been asked to specify fasteners
stainless...........................yes, can do that
could take "x" tons.................yes can do that
can pass through a 2 inch hole......yes can do that
and need to be 60 feet long.
These were the bolts to go across the tower at York Minster, made out of
standard lengths of 1 inch stainless studding, about 20 feet long,
coupled together with threaded sleeves.
That was another one where the four "corners" were sinking at different
rates as the wooden Saxon foundations decayed.
The story I heard was that Winchester College, when building New Hall
down by the water meadows, pumped out the water lowering the water
table thereabouts, and that greatly accelerated the decay of the
timbers under the Cathedral, thus creating a crisis.
Never been able to verify it though ...
IIRC, there's a plaque to the diver in the nave. We're talking here
about painstakingly groping around in little or no light, gloved,
suited, booted, and helmeted in the old-fashioned way, not 'skin' with
aqualungs a la moderne, in case anyone hadn't realised. It truly was
an astonishing contribution for a single individual.
Please always reply to ng as the email in this post's
I vaguely remember some similar story re New Hall but have no idea if it
has any truth to it.
There is a full over-lifesize bust of William Walker (the diver) - not
much good at describing where but not inside the cathedral itself!
Lived with the clay version of that for years and years... Sculpted by
I think this might be (as it claims) a real photo of the full kit:
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