Petersham Hole 1978 – by David Williams

The one big drama we had at the end of the 70s was the Petersham Hole.  The sewer collapsed right in the middle of Petersham where there is no alternative route between Richmond and Kingston apart from Richmond Park and it was patched up in the Spring of 1978 and almost immediately collapsed again and the Council engineers and the transport people decided they had to replace both foul water and rainwater sewers, I found out a lot more about sewers than I had ever realised I wanted to know because of all this.  For instance there is a brick culvert that comes from Sudbrook Park underneath Sudbrook Lane, down Petersham Road, down River Lane to the river, I think that’s supposed to be the rainwater drain and that was built in the 18th century and it was brick built and was in a terrible state when one of the two sewers had a problem.  The other one was something from the 1920s or even earlier which was the nine or twelve inch foul water sewer which was also in a terrible state as well.

When the road collapsed the second time the road was closed and the buses were coming from Kingston and turning round at Sandpits Road would you believe, I’ve even got a picture of a double decker bus reversing into Sandpits Road which is not a manoeuvre I would like to do even in a car and people then had to walk though Meadow Close up the footpath and get a bus the other side.  And this went on from the middle of 1978 to early 1980, the whole of 1979 we had the Petersham Hole.  There were even tee-shirts produced which somebody claims to have seen on somebody on a Greek beach with a tee shirt that said “I have seen the Petersham Hole!” and eventually it was re-opened when they got the sewers completely re-built.

The disruption to the community should have been appalling in that we simply couldn’t get out to the South except when Richmond Park was open, they allowed Richmond Park to stay open until midnight, no doubt had several deer sadly killed because of this, in the dark, but on occasions when you drove up Ham Gate Avenue through Richmond Park and down Richmond Hill that way was actually as quick if not quicker than it usually was when the road was open with all the congestion at the bottom of Star & Garter Hill and on the way into Richmond.  So the community coped surprisingly well and it was quite a shock when the road re-opened and all the traffic started up again on Petersham Road.