Today's BBC News talks of a large hole which has appeared in Fontmell Close overnight. But what do you expect when a Council allows houses to be built on a former brickpit, clearly marked on old maps, which almost certainly contained 100 year old unconsolidated town refuse.
Fifteen years ago I gave a talk on the History of Bernards Heath, St Albans (copy online), with particular reference to the brick works. When I gave the talk I was approached by someone who lived in the newly built Fontmell Close because their house was beginning to show signs of subsidence, because water off the roof was washing a hole under the corner of the house.
The brick pits are shown in the following map.
"5" is the location of Fontmell Close. The booklet records "Possibly William Bennett between about 1833-1865, later almost certainly Miskin’s until about 1893. Disused by 1897 Ordnance Survey"
The quarried area is clearly shown on the 1897 OS map - but it was later filled in. This was probably done by my Grandfather, Harry Finch Reynolds who, in addition to being the Town Vet, was a "Job Master" and who, for a few years before the first world war had the contract for the rubbish collection for all of St Albans - and the rubbish was used to fill the open brick pits on Bernards Heath. The rubbish would have been taken there by horse and cart and almost certainly would not have been significantly compacted. It was probably covered with earth to allow the ground to be used for farming.
It is interesting that in the early 20th century Bernards Heath had a bad smell. The suet factory boiled bones, the effluent from the cows at Heath farm ended up in "the Black Pond" (a disused brick pit), initially there was the smell of burning bricks - only to be replaced but the smell of decaying town garbage.