St Albans sinkhole: former land owner’s daughter and other residents recall clay pits at site

PUBLISHED: 17:25 15 October 2015

St Albans local Rob Antosik stands in front of the bank of the old clay pit where he used to play as a child. It has since been filled in and now lies beneath Bridle Close and Fontmell Close.

St Albans local Rob Antosik stands in front of the bank of the old clay pit where he used to play as a child. It has since been filled in and now lies beneath Bridle Close and Fontmell Close.

Archant

A 63-year-old woman is among several residents to contact this paper with stories about historic clay pits in the Bernards Heath area – where her pets were buried decades ago.

The concrete fence which runs along the boundary of the old clay pitThe concrete fence which runs along the boundary of the old clay pit

Karen Gray contacted the Herts Advertiser upon reading about the sinkhole last week, as she used to live at 61 Sandridge Road. Her father “owned the land behind” their home - which has since become Bridle and Fontmell Closes.

She recalls two dells on the property, and material being brought in to fill the holes, which were “left for 10 years to stablise, until about 1971/’72”.

The bank of the old clay pit which has been filled in and now lies beneath Bridle Close and Fontmell CloseThe bank of the old clay pit which has been filled in and now lies beneath Bridle Close and Fontmell Close

Karen added: “All my pets are buried there. We used to play in the dells, and camp in the bottom of them. I came back home from hospital and saw the story and photos in the paper and thought ‘that is my back garden!’

“The sinkhole is definitely where our back garden was and the dells were. They were very deep, I would say easily the height of a two-storey house.”

A steep former brick clay pit near Harpenden Road and the old fire stationA steep former brick clay pit near Harpenden Road and the old fire station

Her father sold the land and it was later developed.

Another local, Rob Antosik, showed the Herts Advertiser the still-visible boundary of the historic clay pit, which can be seen around the periphery of Bridle Close, and extending on to a nearby green space in Bernards Heath, near the former fire station.

He has strong memories of playing in the pit, which was ‘massive’.

Rob said: “I remember the pit where Bridle Close is now, being up to 80ft deep. People are living over the pit.”

Another local, who did not want to be named but is also familiar with the area, said: “We were forbidden from playing in the area of Bernards Heath which became Fontmell Close because it was heavily overgrown and dangerous. I recall that when the houses on the close development were first marketed, in around 1972, some building societies would only advance a mortgage loan with a collateral insurance policy in the event of a subsidence claim. The unsuitability of the ground for housing was known about and identified more than 40 years ago.

“The only miracle is that it’s taken so long for a big hole to open up.”


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