Chalk Mine Collapse at Field Road, Reading, Berkshire

18th July 2017

The collapse of a chalk mine in west Reading forced the immediate evacuation of dozens of residents. These residents then suffered for years due to the extensive and drawn out remediation of the affected area, but eventually had their patience rewarded after the works finished 12 years later and the area has been declared safe once again.

Key points:

  • In January, 2000, several cavities of a 19th Century chalk mine collapsed causing major subsidence of the overlying ground around the Field Road and Coley Road area in Reading.
  • 30 homes were immediately evacuated for residents’ safety with two homes later collapsing.
  • Many of these residents were later allowed to return to their homes (some up to two years later) once utilities had been repaired and the site deemed temporarily safe.
  • It took 12 years to fill the network of underground chalk mines with 1,742 tonnes of grouting, costing approximately £4.3 million.
  • During this period residents were unable to sell or even insure their houses and people were afraid to live in an area so severely affected by mining-related subsidence.
  • Remediation work eventually finished in September 2012 at which point house prices rose and residents were able to sell their homes again.

Berkshire is predominantly resting upon chalk and clays: two materials mined extensively in the county from Medieval times to as late as World War 2. There was abundant chalk mining during the Victorian era, concentrated around Reading leaving it with the largest populous of sub-surface chalk mines anywhere in England and as such, one of the areas with greatest mining-related risk. The chalk mines beneath Field Road and Coley Road were of this Victorian era and it is believed leaky pipes led to the weakening and eventual collapse of these cavities. This is a prime example of the hazards associated with mining-related subsidence, but also of the ability of local authorities to remediate sites. This part of Reading is now one of the safest areas to live now that the mines have been infilled and stabilised, and life has returned to normal, albeit after a dozen years of site works and disruption.

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Image left: Field Road house collapse, credit Peter Brett Associates. Image right: Reading chalk mine caves, credit Nick Catford.

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Blog written by Maura Partridge

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