Norton Priory in Runcorn was undergoing a transformation to renovate the museum and enhance the site as a tourist attraction. The most excavated monastic site in Europe, Norton Priory is over 900 years old, with a museum, medieval undercroft and priory ruins, and an 18th century walled garden.

The Heritage Lottery funded project to transform the site into an impressive visitor attraction began in 2015. Before the extensive programme of works could commence, a large amount of standing water in the unique medieval undercroft needed to be drained. The undercroft had previously been used for storage but a key part of the work was to restore this area to its formal glory. An added complication was the Victorian tiled flooring which had been added to the undercroft during the site’s use as a family residence.

With the sensitive nature of the site and restricted access, our specialist team were deployed to work alongside contractors and archaeologists to plan how to drain the area. We needed to channel the standing water that was collecting under the tiled floor in the undercroft into a drainage system. Due to the historical, protected location, it was vital that our team worked in a careful and precise way.

Our specialist equipment and expertise allowed us to “mole” between the cells to install 38mm drainage pipe at varying levels to channel the water out of the undercroft. This technique goes underneath the ground without the need for extensive trenching, meaning that the foundations weren’t damaged. Next the water was sent via a 110mm drain pipe under the foundations to a chamber, rerouting the water in another direction connecting to a main 225mm pipe, and then eventually outside to the main drain.

This project shows our flexible and diverse methods to solve difficult problems. Mole Utilities have a range of specialist equipment to drill at different lengths, depths and pipe widths, meaning that we can complete the whole task as part of one solution. We used moling between the cells, our 6 tonne pit launch rig to drill under the priory foundations (12m x 110mm) and our 14 tonne surface launch rig to install the 110mm (30m) and 225mm (35m) MDPE pipes.

We were excited to work on such a prestigious conservation project and help the project managers to continue with their important work on site. The site reopened in Autumn 2016 and is attracting over 34,000 visitors annually, providing an important educational and recreational resource for the community.

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