Sub Surface Limited was founded on 28th March 1972 by Clifford Marsden on a part time basis from his home on Abbotsway in Penwortham, whilst he was the Head of Civil Engineering and Building at Wigan & District, Mining & Technical College.
The purpose of Sub Surface Ltd was to provide Ground Investigation and Geotechnical Consultancy services across Lancashire. After a short period, he opened a small single room office in Priory Lane, Penwortham with a part-time secretary and gradually built up the company doing the work in the evenings and weekends, whilst still having a full-time job.
Department of Civil Engineering and Building at Wigan & District, Mining & Technical College 1967/8. Clifford Marsden (Head of Civil Engineering and Building) sat of the front row in the centre with a moustache and his legs crossed.
As the workload increased, Clifford rented two rooms on Liverpool Road in Penwortham, above what was then Proctors Opticians and the access to the rear of what is now the Spar shop.
One of the offices was a soil testing laboratory with a part-time laboratory technician. The other an office with a full-time secretary/receptionist, with the soil samples being stored and extrusion of undisturbed soil samples being undertaken in a shed behind Kensington Nursery School in Penwortham which Clifford’s wife Dorothy Marsden owned and ran. The extrusion of the soil samples were being carried out on an ad hoc basis by a local gentleman who we called “Fred from the Shed”.
At that time, Clifford also had a small drilling company Sub Surface DPG Limited which was run by an experienced driller John Burns with his son (also John Burns) as his Drillers Assistant.
Clifford’s son Chris Marsden undertook a Civil Engineering degree at University of Nottingham from 1973 to 1976 and then worked on a Graduate Training scheme with Cementation Group, a large international ground engineering company based in London. After becoming a Chartered Civil Engineer in 1980 Chris joined the company in 1981 with a view to expanding and growing the company.
In 1984 after expanding the workload of the company, Clifford and Chris leased an area of land off Peel Street in Preston from Preston Borough Council and designed and built their own offices, laboratory and store with a small yard area. As the workload increased, Sub Surface took on more staff across all areas of the company including Engineers, Laboratory technicians and Secretaries.
Top Left. Sub Surfaces new office being Built in 1984.
Top Right. Sub Surfaces Land off Peel Street and A6 Auto Factors Ltd which was later bought as a yard area, to store samples and for future expansion.
Bottom Left. Newly built office with a Cable Percussive Drilling Rig.
Bottom Right. David Parkinson Sub Surface’s First trainee Engineering Technician.
In 1988, Sub Surface expanded into the Midlands and started Sub Surface Midlands Limited and opened an office in Walsall, run by Michael Crane.
Following the success of the Sub Surface Midlands Ltd, Sub Surface expanded further in 1990 and opened an office in Ossett to cover the North East. Sub Surface North East Limited is run by David Simpson who is still with us today.
To facilitate the growth of Sub Surface across the country, additional offices were added in 1988 and 1990. Followed by a large extension in 1997 with an additional three offices, stores and toilets, nearly doubling the size of the premises.
In 2004 Sub Surface expanded further, starting Sub Surface South East Limited and opened an office in High Wycombe to cover the South East which was run by Matthew Locke.
Sub Surface Offices following the 1997 extensions (photo taken around 2005)
Chris’s daughter Anna Marsden undertook an Environmental Science degree at University of Nottingham in 2003 to 2006. Spending her university holidays carrying out soils testing and logging for the company and joined full time after completing her degree in 2006. After gaining experience in all facets of the ground investigation industry, Anna is now continuing the expansion of the company in the North West as the Contracts Manager/Director of Sub Surface North West Limited.
Sub Surface North West Ltd carrying out a Cable Percussive Borehole
Chris’s son David Marsden achieved a Masters in Civil Engineering from the University of Nottingham in 2013 and joined Sub Surface full-time in 2014. After gaining experience in all facets of the ground investigation industry David became a Senior Geo-Environmental Engineer.
David has also been the instigator and driving force behind many of the continuing technical improvements within the company. In 2018, he identified a lack of understanding of the ground industry and redeveloped the Sub Surface website (https://www.subsurface.co.uk/) to provide a learning platform for Clients and young Engineers to help them understand each aspect of the industry. The website has benefited over 100,000 users in four years and increased the volume of work across all regions. He has recently become Chartered with the Institution of Civil Engineers and is now a Director of Sub Surface.
Over the last 50 years Sub Surface has survived six recessions which is a good indication of its success. As we look towards the future, we bring forward the vision of Sub Surface, Building Better Through Continuous Improvement.
We are inspired every day by the genuine belief that through continuous improvement, the work we are doing today is better than the work we were doing six months ago. And the work we’ll be doing six months from now will be better than the work we are doing today.
Our vision provides our Clients with a site investigation, geotechnical and environmental service of the highest quality by inspired and knowledgeable professionals with the tools to develop their careers.
Sub Surface have big ambitions going forward. We are looking to hire a number of senior professionals and will soon be designing and building new state of the art modern offices in our yard area to facilitate the future expansion.
We would like to thank all Sub Surface employees, Clients and Subcontractors for all their work, time, commitment and loyalty over the last 50 years. They have been instrumental in the success and growth of Sub Surface and without them Sub Surface would not be where it is today. Many employees of Sub Surface have been with the company for over 20 years and a special mention and gratitude must go to:
David Simpson (33 years) who started as a young Graduate Engineer and is now Director of Sub Surface North East Limited.
Julie Beirne (33 years) who started from school at 15 years old, over the years carrying out everything from typing to receptionist to accounts to personal assistant to the directors.
David Ravenscroft-Jones (32 years) who started at 17 years old as a Trainee Laboratory Technician and has progressed to become our Principal Geo-Environmental Consultant.
Simon Gabbatt (32 years) who started as a Laboratory Technician at 19 years old after finishing at Preston College and is now our Laboratory Manager.
Wayne Cook (29 years) who started from school at 16 years old as a Trainee Laboratory Technician and is now our Senior Laboratory Technician.
Andrew Parker (24 years) who arrived as an experienced Geotechnical Engineer and is our Principal Geotechnical Engineer.
David Simpson and Julie Beirne 25th Year Anniversary working at Sub Surface. (David Simpson left, Chris Marsden Centre, Julie Beirne Right)
With all the excellent personnel within Sub Surface and with David and Anna now taking a great deal of responsibility in the day to day running of the company, Chris is hoping to step into the background, confident that the long-term future of the company is safe in their hands.