The Skip That Broke The Road

Urban archaeology in Belgravia?

Some builders over-filled a skip on Chester Row (London SW1), and on Friday night it went crashing through the paving of the street into the old coal cellars below. It was a disaster for local residents who lost water (still not fully restored).

This morning ITN, BBC and Sky News crews were filming, trying to find residents who would go on camera. For me, as an archaeologist it was fascinating and I asked a friend if I could look into the hole from her house. "There's nothing to see, just a hole full of rubbish" she replied. What on earth do you think archaeology is!?! - was my answer.

What interested me more is that she hadn't realised most houses in Belgravia - and elsewhere in London - have deep cellars under the pavement (sidewalk for American readers). These used to be used to store coal for heating in Georgian and Victorian times. Today they got converted into spare bathrooms, storage or wine cellars.

I'll try to get better photos in daylight, but the plastered walls and ceiling of the brick cellar are visible now that the debris from the skip has been cleared away.

Update - 

I've started a Facebook album that I'll be adding to here.

This really is a scandal - any archaeologist or person with a shred of common sense could have seen that Victorian brick vaults cannot support that much weight. I suspect even a Hummer parking above them could be an issue.


  1. I do like your new definition of what archaeology is: Just 'a hole full of rubbish'. Too true :-)

  2. That was her description! But for once was literaly true ... will update the post soon, as it's interesting.


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