Monday, 24 March 2014

Chatham and Clarendon School, not a sinkhole but what is it

As you can see from the picture the shape is an oblong with curved ends and the brickwork extends down about 2 metres.

I guess it must date from somewhere between 1800 and 1900 and was in the grounds of Townley House and Townley Castle when it was built, click here for a potted history of both

The picture above is Townley castle built around 1800 it was on the Chatham House School site.

 I am pretty sure that this was a water well, but the shape is unusual, possibly that shape for a chain pump.

The water table there would be about 70 feet down so a suction pump wouldn't work.

This 1872 map shows the location of Townley Castle

and this map the sheet to the right or east of the previous one the red oval is roughly where the hole is.

Brick lining the top metre or so of a well is fairly normal practice.

I guess the nearest building was St George’s School so it could have been related to the water supply for that. I think Chatham House and St George’s School shared the playing fields

Looking at this map which I need to check the date of.  

I think Townley Castle may have been finished off WW1 bombing although the information from the time is a bit vague

I will add to this post as thoughts occur to me.


  1. The bottom of an ice store?

    1. Brian I put this to the engineer on the job and here is his reply:


      I think the thing we are looking at is much deeper than the ice house in the picture, although its only about 3m deep at the moment. The school say they have put about 40 tons of shingle down it since 2000 and the material keeps disappearing!

      I suppose if it was an ice house with a false bottom, as shown in the illustration, it's just possible that over the years water from the melting ice opened up a pre-existing solution feature in the chalk (an open fissure filled with natural debris). ESG will be drilling through it soon so more information should be revealed then.

      As with a well, I would have thought that an Ice House would have been shown on the old maps.

      Thanks for continuing to ponder,


      I relied to him thus:
      "I am going with water supply for Townley House and Castle but frankly don’t see why they would have needed such a big well. I can’t see it supplying water carriers for the town which doesn’t fit well with either the formal gardens of a mansion or later school playing fields.

      Frankly no one started washing a lot until late Victorian times, we had a moderate sized 16 rooms Victorian house in Salisbury built around 1890 and that had one bath.

      It does look to me like some industrial well using a chain pump and as far as I can see there was never any industry there, I would guess a brewery would be favourite.

      Another alternative is access to something underground, which doesn’t make a lot of sense either. The only underground galleries I know of in Ramsgate are in the costal cliffs, Pugin built one that collapsed in 1947, here are the pictures

      I can’t see an ice house creating a void of that magnitude nor can I see the surrounding area not collapsing with it if there was a natural void there, however I would say in view of these possibilities it may be worth looking for another access shaft in the vicinity.

      Best regards Michael"

      But am now wonder about the water supply for the formal gardens there.

  2. How very weird? Last night I read an item on here about physics being taught in Townley House, came back today to add a bit to it and, hey presto, it has disappeared. Now I wonder what was offensive about that, especially considering some of the other mindless anonymous comment that is permitted on this site.

    On the hole, my guess would be a well dating back to the time before the water beneath Thanet's towns became contaminated with sea salt.

    1. Allan it was soon followed by a spring of related comments filled with obscenities relating to the school in the 60s. I have had this before on threads relating to Chatham House and can only assume they are left by someone with mental health problems. This invariably starts with some innocuous comment about school life there in the 60s, but the comments are all left in the same time frame. I don’t really have any option but to delete the lot.

      The brackish (sea salt contamination) hasn't changed and still reaches back to around where the church is, although you wouldn't want to drink water from this source now as it is surrounded by residential properties with porcelain soil pipes the joints of which will be leaking.

  3. Thank you, Michael, although the item I read was interesting and without any obscenities. Additionally, the reference to a certain physics master and the use of Townley House was probably more 40's and early 50's than the 60's. From what you say it sounds as if you have some 11+ failure who forever attacks reference to the school of the sixties era.

    1. Allan, shall we say that a comment relating to a named person followed very quickly by a string of obscene comments relating to that person (anon talks to himself on his own agenda and nothing to do with holes in the ground) is something that I discourage by deleting them as soon as possible. Frankly the level of obscenity and the repetitive nature of the comment is more consistent with mental illness than irritation over failing an exam. Personally it isn’t something I want to wind up in court over.

  4. Replies
    1. Ever seen anything like the hole Don?

  5. Michael, talking of holes, you do seem to be rather digging one for yourself here. The person referred to, in affectionate terms, was a long deceased physics master who was also a WWI veteran, quite topical at this time and could have promoted further comments on Ramsgate characters from that era. Whilst I can understand the deleting of obscene comment I really cannot see why the original, on Townley House and the old physics department, also had to go. Quite why you feel that would wind you up in court beats me, but it is your call.

    1. Ok Allan let me be perfectly clear; I have several posts about Chatham House some of them several years old, periodically I get a do you remember old Fred Blogs comment followed within an hour by a string of obscene comments graphically detailing the paedophile activates of said Fred Blogs. As these comments are sometimes made in the early hours of the morning and I assume the first and innocuous comment to be a lead comment made by the same person. This is rather reinforced by the school having an old boys discussion forum where old boys can chat about their school life.

    2. Michael, the school also has a former pupils club, the Old Ruymians, an OR's website, an annual dinner, a golf day, a cricket week and a masonic lodge, none of which should prevent anyone from indulging in a bit of nostalgia when you post something about the school on your blog. I would also have thought it not beyond the capabilities of an experienced blog master like you to distinguish between a former pupil recalling the physics department at Townley House, mentioned in your post, and someone making obscene comments. Evidently not it would seem so perhaps us former pupils should not comment when you put up anything about the school.

    3. Perhaps he shouldn't mention Chatham House at all if it simply attracts some nutter who puts up obscene comment.

    4. The problem anon is a Catch 22 one that relates to around 38,000 views of the blog in the last 30 days. All sorts of subjects attract comment from people with mental health problems.

      I take the delete it when I see it approach as I don’t have time to operate comment moderation.

      Frankly I have a very limited amount of time to devote to the blog and a fairly hit and miss approach to deletion, obviously sometimes I will delete comments that I shouldn’t and sometimes I miss something inappropriate and leave it up.

      The only way to avoid comment is to stop blogging.

      Strangely at the moment I am getting a lot of comment and emails complaining about the way it treat comment, why do allow anonymous comment? why have I deleted this or that comment? truth is I do my best in a very limited amount of time.

      I guess the bottom line is that anyone who wants to can start their own blog, it doesn’t cost anything and doesn’t require much ability.

  6. Michael,

    Surely the answer is to block anonymous comments.

    You know the name and address of the chief culprit and his reasons for commenting, as do many of us. But as you say it is your blog, you will do as you wish and if we do not like it we are all free to start our own blog.

    1. Tried that John the net result is hardy any comment.

  7. Most likely a brick lined water cistern to store water for Townley House

    1. That don’t hold water anon it’s chalk below the top two metres, which is porous with the water table about 80 ft down. I am going with a well at the moment, the problem though is the shape, why isn’t it round like other wells? Possibly a steam driven chain pump, but that suggests a lot more water than would be needed for the house and garden.

    2. ok, the image looks like it is brick all of the way down. do you have any more images?

    3. Anon as it says in the post and comments brick for the top 2 metres and then chalk all the way down, what is it you want a picture of?

  8. This will soon become a nutters only need apply site.


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