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D-Drill has to mind the monks on 12th century abbey

Removing concrete floors during the restoration of a 12th century abbey in Torquay provided several challenges for diamond drilling company D-Drill – including not disturbing the monks buried there.

Diamond drilling company D-Drill was part of the team that completed the first phase of the £6.5m restoration of the Torre Abbey in Torquay.

The 12th century building is the oldest in town and benefited from a £4.9m Heritage Lottery Fund grant to help restore the building and make it a more accessible visitor attraction.

D-Drill was contracted to remove the reinforced concrete floor across three levels and remove two concrete supports holding tombstones dating back to the 1100s.

“We were asked to complete some concrete removal within the oldest part of the Abbey, but I advised the main contractor that we should not break the area due to the age of the structure,” says D-Drill branch manager Ed Taylor.

Vibration risk prompts manual breaking

In ordinary circumstances, the firm would have used robotic demolition to break through the concrete, but that would have potentially damaged the building because of vibration.

“When it comes to breaking up the amount of concrete required here, we would normally use a Brokk robotic demolition machine,” Mr Taylor says “But we had to adapt to the building and went for an alternative method.

“I advised the main contractor that we should not break the area due to the age of the structure”

Ed Taylor, D-Drill  

“I decided to cut up the floor into square sections and then lift them manually, which caused next to no vibration at all.”

The three-day task saw over 70 sq m of 200 mm-deep concrete slabs removed. “The main contractor was very impressed with our first stage of works and invited us back in to carefully remove some concrete supports previously holding up some tomb stones dating back to the 11th century,” Mr Taylor says.

Don’t disturb the monks

Cutting concrete causes high temperatures and water is used as a coolant, which can cause problems when working in sensitive areas such as the abbey.

“The history of the building made it interesting to work on. Water control is not always an issue, but on works around electricity or wildlife we have to put special measures in place to ensure the water doesn’t cause any damage,” Mr Taylor says.

“This project was no exception; we had to filter every bit of water used and put into place measures to stop any water escaping into the soft shingle floor.”

Jelly solution for removing excess water

D-Drill used technology devised by Austrian company GOLZ to filter the water and waste and turn it into a jelly-like substance that could be disposed of offsite.

“In addition to this, we constructed a tent-like structure above the cutting area and below we built a pond to collect the water while pumping it away for filtration,” explains Mr Taylor. “For all this to work you need a good team who can work well together.”

The first phase of the project is now complete, allowing members of the public access to previously inaccessible areas of the abbey.

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