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Home   Canterbury   News   Article

M2 hole between Faversham and Sittingbourne may be on site of denehole dating back nearly 200 years

19 February 2014
by Bess Browning

When you look into it, the hole that has been causing nightmare delays and closures on the M2 might have a history dating back nearly 200 years.

The 15ft chasm that has closed the motorway and caused traffic chaos across the county was first thought to be a sinkhole.

But it has now been revealed to be an historic denehole - a man-made structure often used to mine for chalk.

The hole created a chasm in the motorway. Exclusive picture Simon Burchett

The hole created a chasm in the motorway. Exclusive picture: Simon Burchett

And it could well be the scene of a dramatic rescue dating back to 1820 - in which a woman fell down a large hole in the area now covered by the M2 denehole.

According to a story published in the Kentish Gazette on December 7 that year, a 20-year-old woman fell down the hole near Doddington.

The article read: "The well in which she was found, was about 30 feet deep and had been made for the purpose of obtaining chalk, and being carelessly left open, was the cause of the accident which had so nearly proved fatal to her.

Work is ongoing on the M2 to repair the hole. Picture Simon Burchett

Work is ongoing on the M2 to repair the hole. Picture: Simon Burchett

"The poor girl says that she has nothing to subsist upon during her 15 days and nights in this dreadful situation, but a little water, which she collected in a hole she made at the bottom of the well.

"After she was taken from the well, she was conveyed to the Workhouse at Doddington, when being treated in the manner that her situation, and great caution being observed in the kind and quantity of food given her, she is likely to recover.”

Other theories surrounding the area refer to it being dug sometime between 1904 and 1908.

According to the Kent Underground Rescue Group (KURG), the giant chasm near Doddington was the last of its kind to be dug in Kent.

Highways Agency workers at the site. Picture Simon Burchett

Highways Agency workers at the site. Picture: Simon Burchett

The M2 wasn’t built until 1963 so the hole would have been filled before the road was built.

In an interview with KURG in 1976, excavator ‘Tokey’ Higgins spoke about the Doddington hole, labelling deneholes as "dangerous places to explore since many are now in an unstable condition."

He said: "I had a small quarry and lime kell (kiln) just above the "Chequers" on Chequers Hill and, after an argument with the owner of the land, had to leave them.

"To stay in business, I moved up the hill on the same side and, on a small bit of ground, I built a brick kell and sank a draw well.

The hole as seen from above. Picture Simon Burchett

The hole as seen from above. Picture: Simon Burchett

"This was in 1904 and at first I pulled up the chalk in baskets by hand with an old well-top windlass but later used an old horse that walked downhill and brought it up by block and tackle.

"I worked as a casual day labourer on the farms and lime burning was a "fall back" job.

"When the well was 20ft deep, I began to widen it as the old timers did until 1908 when I gave it up."

Can you shed any light on the denehole's history? Contact with details.

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