Demolition at the Wessex site had been proceeding at a steady rate until the machinery struck thin air, exposing a large chamber about three metres deep on the site of the large workshop building on the New Lane side.
The surprise find has been tentatively identified as the site of a coke oven, a Victorian red brick arch briefly visible in the void before the machinery was put back to work. The brickwork can still be seen in the image below, behind the iron joist structure which has since been removed.
As a salvage worker on site remarked, this was “completely unexpected” before adding “you never know what you’re going to find until you break up the ground”.
To the south of the void, five large cast iron pipes are now exposed, presumably relics from the former town gas works.
A lost opportunity for a bit of industrial archaeology perhaps? For those interested, the developer’s original ‘Heritage Statement’ for the planning application can be found here.
June 5th, the hole just gets keeps getting bigger.