Saturday, 12 November 2011


West Quay before the Flood defences were erected in 1982
A week after the carnival night collapse of the river wall flood defences along Bridgwater's West Quay, the townpeople are still waiting for the wall to fall into the river. Sedgemoor District Council says that no decision will be made on the security or otherwise of the riverside road and houses until the wall actually falls in.

Andy Mckay, the chief Engineer on site, says "We know the wall is moving and will inevitably topple into the river but at the moment we're glad it's still standing so that it acts as a waterbreak while we pump concrete into the foundations of the Quayside. It it wasn't there there would be more rapid tidal erosion under the road further undemrining the security of the buildings. We will make a decision on what to do next when it finally goes over. "
West Quay 10 minutes after the flood  of Nov 4 2011

Westover ward councillor Brian Smedley & Kathy Pearce, held an emergency meeting for the West Quay  traders  with Sedgemoor District Council this week and were told they wouldn't be allowed to return to their premises until the all clear was given for the whole of West Quay.  Cllr Smedley said "The waiting is excruciating for the traders whose busiest season is approaching. If  they can be told it's safe to go back they can start trading again. If not , and they can be given a timescale, then they can judge if to claim on insurance or seek re-location to other premises which Sedgemoor Estates Valuer Tim Mander has been deployed to help them with. Already the furniture store has been relocated to Highbridge,  but other premises-such as the Green Olive restaurant, are finding it harder to locate adequate premises. "

Dr Peter Cattermole from the Blake museum has supplied Sedgemoor with maps of the  archeaology of the area to help them identify the strong and weak points plus the history of the sewers , the collapse of which could have been the cause of the major water surge last friday. Dr Cattermole says "The castle wall is some 4 metres thick  and runs about 2m-3m behind the fronts of the buildings to at least ground level, sometimes higher (as in The Fountain). The rear of the properties is unlikely to fail given the substantial butressing effect of the wall.  However, the fronts may behave independently of the rears. A careful check for cracks is required. There are substantial masonry structures to considerable depth to the east of the sewer and in front of the present quay wall (which probably dates from ca. 1725). There are also significant lateral features which probably increase the stability of the underlying quay structure. Nearer the Town Bridge, there is a "mass of solid Lias masonry 4m wide at 2m depth", which probably represents the footings for an earlier bridge."
The 18th Century sewer unearthed in 2008

County Archaeologist Bob Croft, has further written to Sedgemoor "In addition to the statutory heritage interests, this is an Area of High Archaeological Potential and the line of the medieval waterfront adjacent to the scheduled Water Gate to the castle may survive below the road line.  Works in Castle Street in 2008 discovered the edge of the medieval foundations and an 18th century drain that ran down Castle Street towards the river. This drain may have been a contributory factor to the water discharging into the ground adjacent to the Quay. "

So far the Agencies have not agreed on what may have caused the wall to break away but the key factors were extensive rainfall on the landward side leading to heavy flooding and the sewers reaching overcapacity.  In 2008 works to the historic sewers by Wessex Water included an award winning innovation by Leanne Ford which reduced the 5' high sewers down into a 2' square funnel diversion at the bottom of Castle street in order to preserve the unearthed castle ruins, approximately where the wall broke last week. 

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