Solent Estuaries - Boreholes

Ian West,
Romsey, Hampshire

and Visiting Scientist at:
Faculty of Natural and Environmental Sciences,
Southampton University,
Webpage hosted by iSolutions, Southampton University

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Borehole Data

Records of more than 1400 shallow engineering boreholes in and around Southampton Water and the Solent have been collected many years ago by Ian West. Some are from published sources but most have come from civil engineering work connected with various companies. There might be confidentiality problems with publishing data from some of these and permission from companies might have to be obtained. These records are now held in the National Oceanographic Library, at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton. Much additional uncatalogued borehole information also exists, but is not in the library collection.

The data in these borehole records is most useful for determining the levels of the Pleistocene periglacial gravels beneath and around the estuaries, for following the courses of the ancient Pleistocene rivers (River Solent and tributaries). It also shows the thicknesses of Holocene estuarine mud and provides information on the Eocene strata (Bracklesham Group and Barton Clay and Sand Formations) which underlie the Pleistocene gravels.

There are some practical problems in using the boreholes. They are not in computerised form. They give information from various different datums such as:
Ordnance Datum Newlyn
Ordnance Datum Liverpool
Port Datum Southampton
Port Datum Portsmouth
Mean Low Tide Level
Ground level
and others

Thus each borehole needs correcting to a particular datum such as OD Newlyn. Much of the data is in feet and inches and therefore this must then be corrected to metric.

The boreholes are described in civil engineering terms and conversion to geological strata is required. In most cases this is obvious to anyone familiar with the local geology and who already knows the characteristics of the formations of the Bracklesham Group etc. Knowledge of the Earnley and Selsey Formations and Pleistocene gravel and Flandrian sequences would be good.

Thus the boreholes are useful and have been used in publications such as Curry, Hodson and West (1968), Hodson and West (1972), West (1980). The base of the Pleistocene gravels has been mapped over the area of Southampton Water and some of Solent from these boreholes. The Variolarius Bed of the Bracklesham Group has been mapped over the same area. They have also been used by the British Geological Survey when mapping the Southampton area for the Southampton Sheet 315 and Memoir by Edwards and Freshney (1987). Several archaeologists have consulted the borehole.

Unfortunately the boreholes, in spite of their value, take much time to interpret and recalibrate in metric terms etc. Thus no-one has as yet redrawn them all in digital form. This might take about a year or a year and a half of interpretation and computer graphics work. They are there, as library reference material, for anyone who wishes to do this. Most users prefer just to consult a small number of them. Please contact the National Oceanographic Library for further information. At the time of writing (2007) they are not on the library catalogue but held for reference in brown volumes in a locked storeroom.

Much further work on shallow civil engineering boreholes in the Southampton area is possible. There are probably thousands which could be collected from large organisations in the area.

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Copyright © 2013. Ian West, Catherine West, Tonya Loades and Joanna Bentley. All rights reserved. This is a purely academic website and images and text may not be copied for publication or for use on other webpages or for any commercial activity. A reasonable number of images and some text may be used for non-commercial academic purposes, including field trip handouts, lectures, student projects, dissertations etc, providing source is acknowledged.

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Dr Ian West, author of these webpages

Webpage - written and produced by:

Ian West, M.Sc. Ph.D. F.G.S.


at his private address, Romsey, Hampshire, kindly supported by Southampton University,and web-hosted by courtesy of iSolutions of Southampton University. The website does not necessarily represent the views of Southampton University. The website is written privately from home in Romsey, unfunded and with no staff other than the author, but generously and freely published by Southampton University. Field trips shown in photographs do not necessarily have any connection with Southampton University and may have been private or have been run by various organisations.