The Edwardian end-of-terrace in Lewisham had been bought in January by a couple who intended to do it up and make it their family home. Zoopla had estimated the value at almost £700k, although it been purchased for £660k.
Work had been progressing on the property and hoardings had been put in place to protect passers-by from any debris. Neighbours became aware that something was wrong on the evening before the collapse – creaking noises were heard from the property, which was empty at the time because the builders had left for the day.
The police were called to cordon off the surrounding area and evacuate neighbouring properties, as it was obvious – even to a layman – that the building was unsafe. More bangs were heard during the night.
While builders were investigating the next morning with a cherry-picker, the front of the house crumbled and the roof slid forwards, leaving just the upright walls of next-door, and the gable-end.
No one was injured, but locals were shocked at the suddenness of the collapse. There was a loud crunch, and then the wall tumbled down. It was described as like a bomb going off, with brick dust and debris strewn all around. Numerous photographs and a video all show the state of the building both immediately before and after.
The builder who shot the video while on a job on a property opposite, said that he’d never seen anything like it in his 17 years building, and blamed “dodgy builders” for removing ceiling posts, rafters and beams while the roof was still on. He, and other locals, were of the opinion that all the internal walls had been removed, including the stairs. A neighbour said that the builders who were working on it – described variously as ‘clowns’ and ‘lunatics’ – had “done what the Germans couldn’t do” in the Blitz.
Our surveyor looked at the pictures, and noted that a lintel above the upstairs window was missing – whether or not it had already fallen before the photo was taken, or it had been removed deliberately prior to that, it is impossible to say without earlier pictures, but it does highlight the necessity of getting professional advice on what are – and aren’t – main supporting walls, and on any alterations you make to your property.
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