Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Brighton, Friday November 13th, 1987

At the bottom of our street is a row of Regency Terrace houses that face the sea.  At about 2am on a Friday November 13th, 1987, the face of the end unit collapsed, shearing off vertically when a giant hole -20 feet deep- opened up under it. The unit was being used as a student dormitory at that time.  Miraculously, no one was killed. The only person injured was the warden's wife, who had a broken leg.  The building was so dangerous that no one was allowed to claim any of their belongings, including all their class notes and books for their upcoming exams. The warden and his wife (with the broken leg) had lived there for 28 years, and lost everything.

The unit was demolished the next day.  There were rumors of Victorian underground plumbing pipes and hidden caves etc.  But the engineers who investigated decided it had been caused by erosion. The land underneath is a mixture of sand, silt and chalk which is very vulnerable to eroding and, when saturated, large holes can be created.  Most of this part of the city is built on similar ground, but since this is the only time in 200 years that this has happened, it's unlikely to happen again.

Here's a picture I took yesterday of the reconstructed unit - it's indistinguishable from the others in the row. The scaffolding on the right side is because it is being repainted.

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