Abstract

In the afternoon of Wednesday 23 April 1997, a large subsidence crater opened up in front of a house on Ure Bank Terrace, on the northern outskirts of Ripon in North Yorkshire. Overnight its sides collapsed inwards, so that the hole had doubled in size by the next morning (Fig. 1). The subsidence crater was then 10 m in diam- eter, and 5.5 m deep to a choke of debris overlain by water 1 m deep. Its sudden appearance was the cause of considerable concern to the occupants of the adjacent house, and the event was widely reported in the national press and media.

A subsidence hollow was mapped at this site by the 1856 Ordnance Survey and documented by Cooper (1986). More subsidence had occurred at the Ure Bank site in previous years, but this latest collapse had rather more impact. Creeping movement of the soil towards the new hole meant that the adjacent house was destined for demolition. The event was the latest of a series of ground collapses that have occurred, at an average rate of about one per year, in and around the city of Ripon. While they are little more than an inconvenience in farmland, they have the potential to cause serious damage when they occur in built-up areas.

The immediate cause of the Ure Bank subsidence was the downward movement of soil, drift and recent fill into actively expanding voids within the ground. Ultimately, it was caused by the partial collapse of a cave

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