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A. W. BISHOP,* D. L. WEnn,t and P. I. LEWIN$

The sinking of the Ashford Common shaft by the Le forage du puits d’Ashford Common par le
Metropolitan Water Board has made it possible to Metropolitan Water Board (Service des Eaux
obtain a series of undisturbed block samples of Metropolitain) a permis d’obtenir une serie de blocs-
London Clay from the depths ranging from 30 to Cchantillons intacts d’argile londonienne a des pro-
140 ft. In this Paper are presented the results of fondeurs variant entre 9 et 43 m. Cette com-
an extensive investigation into the relationship munication expose les resultats d’une vaste enqu&te
between strength and effective stress carried out on sur la relation entre la resistance et la contrainte
these samples. Values of effective minor principal effective qui a et6 faite sur ces Bchantillons. Les
valeurs de contrainte principale mineurs effective
stress used in this series of tests have ranged from
employees dans cette serie d’essais variaient entre
0.2 lb/sq. in. to a little over 1,100 lb/sq. in. The
0.014 kg/sq. cm et un peu plus de 77 kg/sq. cm.
failure envelope for London Clay has been shown to
L’enveloppe de rupture pour l’argile londonienne a
have a very marked curvature.
revel6 une courbure prononcee.
Both drained and consolidated-undrained tests On a fait l’essai drain6 ainsi que l’essai consolide
have been carried out, and the significance of the a teneur en eau constante et on a Btudie la significa-
stress path in the latter case is discussed. The state tion du trace de contrainte dans le deuxieme cas.
of stress in the undisturbed ground is estimated L’etat de contrainte dans le sol intact est Bvalue
from the initial pore-water tension in the block d’apres la tension initiale de l’eau interstitielle dans
samples. les blocs-dchantillons.


Previous investigations of the variation with depth of the geotechnical properties of

London Clay have been concerned primarily with the index properties, with the undrained
strength and with the consolidation characteristics (Cooling and Skempton, 1942 ; Bishop,
1947 ; Skempton and Henkel, 1957). Only a limited number of tests have been carried out
to obtain strength data in terms of effective stress and these have been confined to the upper
layers of the blue London Clay and to the weathered brown London Clay which overlies it in
certain areas** (Skempton and DeLory, 1957; Henkel, 1957; La Rochelle, 1960; Skempton,
With the exception of some tests on block samples of the brown London Clay carried
out by Skempton and La Rochelle, these investigations have been limited to borehole samples
and to tube samples obtained from trial pits. It has become clear, however, from the work
of Ward, Samuels, and Butler (1959) on block samples obtained from tunnels in the London
Clay that sampling disturbance has an important effect on the mechanical properties of
samples from the deeper levels. The sinking of the Ashford Common shaft by the Metro-
politan Water Board has therefore provided a very welcome opportunity to extend the previous
investigations to include a study of the strength-effective stress relationships over a wide
range of depths and to make this study on samples obtained with the minimum of disturbance.
The investigation has been carried out jointly by Imperial College and the Building

* Reader in Soil Mechanics, Imperial College, University of London.

t Formerly a research student at Imperial College.
$ Experimental Officer, Building Research Station, Herts.
** Generally where the London Clay is exposed at ground level.
1 1

Research Station, with the co-operation of the Metropolitan Water Board. The work at the
Building Research Station has been directed mainly towards the comparison of in-situ loading
tests and undrained laboratory tests and towards the study of apparent differences between
field and laboratory values of water content, while the work at Imperial College has been
directed more towards the effective stress relationships. A considerable overlap in the two
testing programmes was arranged, however, both to spread the testing load and to see whether
differences in personnel, testing equipment, and technique had a significant effect on the
The present Paper on strength-effective stress relationships therefore includes work carried
out at the Building Research Station and the companion Paper by Ward, Marsland, and
Samuels (1965) includes undrained test data, etc, obtained at Imperial College.


The site of the shaft has been described by Ward, Samuels and Butler (1959), where it is
referred to as site A. The geological history of the London Clay in the Thames Valley has
been discussed in some detail by Skempton and Henkel (1957). Only a brief summary need
be given here.
The shaft is situated in the flood plain of the river Thames, about 2 miles north of the river
and 15 miles west of the centre of London. It is 25 ft in diameter and extends to 140 ft below
ground level, which is 41 ft O.D. at this point.
A geological section is given in Fig. 1. The clay is at present overlain by 16 ft of gravel,
the water level in the gravel being 6 ft below ground surface. The total thickness of the
London Clay at this point is estimated to be between 300 and 400 ft. Beneath the London
Clay are the clays and sands of the Woolwich and Reading Beds, and the sands of the Thanet
Beds, which rest on the chalk at an estimated level of about -450 ft O.D.
No piezometer readings are available from which to determine the in-situ pore-water
pressure in the clay at the depths from which the block samples were taken. Owing to the
thickness and low coefficient of consolidation (circa 1 x 1O-4cm2/sec at this site) the upper
third of the stratum, in which the shaft is situated, will have undergone little consolidation due
to pumping from the pervious underlying strata during the past century.* If the thickness
of the clay stratum is taken as 2H, the upper limit of the time factor c&/H2 is only 0.015 for
t = 100 years and c, = 1 x 1O-4cm2/sec.
Since it is reasonable to suppose that the water level in the chalk differed little from
ground level at this site before pumping began, and thus was almost equal to the water
level in the gravel, the present piezometric levels in the upper third of the stratum should
not differ by more than a few feet from the water level in the gravel. It is hoped to obtain
direct measurements in due course.
The London Clay was deposited under marine conditions in the Eocene period about
30 million years ago and was overlain by the Claygate Beds and the Bagshot, Bracklesham,
and Barton Beds. Subsequent uplift and erosion have removed these sediments together
with the upper layers of the London Clay, which is now covered in this area by the flood plain
gravels of the Thames. Tests on the E-level samples (114 ft below present ground level)
suggest a preconsolidation load of at least 600 lb/sq. in. (39 tons/sq. ft). This corresponds to
the removal of 1,200-l ,300 ft of submerged sediments. This is considerably in excess of the
figures of 500 ft suggested by Skempton (1961) for Bradwell, 50 miles north-east of London,
and 500-700 ft proposed by Skempton and Henkel(l957) for central London.7 This suggests
that the thickness of the overlying sediments increased in a westerly direction.
* The consolidation of the London Clay due to underdrainage is discussed in detail by Wilson and Grace
t From an earlier test on a borehole sample from the site of Waterloo Bridge, Cooling and Skempton
(1942) deduced a preconsolidation load of 20-30 tons/sq. ft, but the value was not easy to define accurately.
Average values of the index properties for each level are given in Table 1 and are plotted
in Fig. 1. It will be seen that there is no very significant trend in the Atterberg limits and
clay fraction with depth, although the uppermost level differs most from the average. The
average water content at all levels is below the plastic limit.
In Table 2 and Fig. 2 the index properties are compared with values from sites elsewhere
in the London Basin. There appears to be a significant trend towards a lower plasticity
index and a lower activity on moving in a westerly direction. Some caution must be exercised
in evaluating trends in these properties, since the dispersion technique used in the sedimenta-
tion test has been modified since the date of the Waterloo Bridge investigation. This will
10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80 90
+410D 0 . . .._
. .z *: .#
‘; 9v.:.. :. C.WL.

lo ;;. $5, GRAVEL

. . . ..PQ

20 G>.

30 --_ _ A



0.1 0.2 0.3 04 0.5 0.6 0.7 0.8 09 I.0

Pig. 1. Geological section and variation of index properties with depth

tend to increase the apparent clay fraction and reduce the apparent activity of the samples.
The liquid limit test has also been specified more closely and this may have tended to reduce
the liquid limit and thus the plasticity index. However the Ashford Common and Bradwell
tests carried out in the same laboratory within a period of a few years lie at the extreme limits
of the range. This suggests that significant differences in clay mineralogy, and possibly in the
electrolytes in solution in the pore-water, are to be found on moving across the London basin.*
Corresponding trends in the mechanical properties of the clay may therefore be expected.
* A detailed discussion of this point is outside the scope of the present Paper, but the variations between
Paddington and Victoria in the central London area should be noted and compared with the difference
between the values at the Ashford Common shaft and Site A (Fig. 2), a tunnel 90 ft below ground level and
only a few hundred yards away.
Table 1

Index properties
Level Depth Unit Rel. Water Liquid Plastic Plasticity Clay Activity: Undrained
below weight: density of content : limit: limit: index: fraction: WEtpI strength
G.L. : ft lb/cm ft grains : -~-- - % % % % < 2P vertical :
% clay
G, Field Lab. c, lb/sq. in.
% %
I------ -_
129 2.73 22.9 22.4 60 24
I _.*
I_50 127 2.75 26.9 25.8 69 29
___ _~~ _____ ____
C 66 127 2.77 25.6 24.8 71 29 42 1 53 1 0.79 1 44
----___ _--- -.
129 2.72 23.4 22.8 63 26
--___ ___- _-_-___-
_. -_~_ ____
128 2.75 25.5 24.2 70 27
__:’ II,::_ _. -~
F / 138 128 2.74 - 24.2 23.6 69 29 40 1 60 0.67 81
_ -

Table 2

Site “dLL _&PI. WP1 % 4cL Activity

IBradwell .. .. . 1 95 j 30 t 65 1 52 I 1.25 1
Waterloo Bridge . ..
Ashford Common shaft

Block samples of the London Clay approximating to 12-in. cubes were carefully cut from
the base of the excavation. After being marked for orientation the samples were covered,
raised to the surface, and coated with a thick layer of a mixture of microcrystalline wax and
Vaseline. Parings for field water content determinations were taken during the final trimming
operations. Details of the methods of storage and the investigation of any subsequent tend-
ency to dry out are given in the Paper by Ward, Marsland, and Samuels (1965).
Cylindrical samples, l$ in. dia. x 3 in. high, were prepared on a rotary soil trimmer from
rectangular prisms cut from the block samples with an electrically-operated bandsaw. The
surplus material was progressively removed with a sharp blade and parings were again taken
for moisture content determination.





*PI %




I V I I I I I I 1
0 IO 20 30 40 so 60 70 BO 90 100

Fig. 2. Comparison with index properties from sites elsewhere in London Basin

For this series of tests the cylindrical samples were cut with their axes either in the vertical
or in the horizontal direction. The investigation of samples cut with their axes at other
orientations was not attempted in this programme owing to the very low rate of consolidation
and pore-pressure equalization in intact London Clay, which put a limit to the number of
tests that could be carried out.
To determine the shear parameters in terms of effective stress both drained and con-
solidated-undrained tests with pore-pressure measurement were carried out. A few undrained
tests with pore-pressure measurement were also performed.
Filter paper strips were used to accelerate drainage and equalization of pore pressure.
The rates of testing in the drained tests were based on the expressions given by Bishop and
Henkel (1962), and, where practicable, were chosen to give adequate dissipation of excess

pore pressure well before the peak stress was reached. The estimated average degree of
dissipation of pore pressure reached 99% in some tests, and seldom fell below 95% at the peak
stress. The time to reach the peak stress was estimated from the rate of consolidation when
the all-round pressure was applied, and was typically from 4$ to 7 days, reaching 22 days at
very high pressures.
As the peak stress was reached at very small strains for samples tested in the low and
medium pressure ranges (Figs 3 and 4), the long duration of the shear stage presented several
difficulties. Horizontally cut samples failed at axial strains as low as l-S%, and for a test of
6 days’ duration a rate of deformation of the order of only 5 x 1O-6in./min was required.
Only testing machines with special gear boxes could therefore be used. In addition the very
sharp peak to the stress-strain curve necessitated the use of some form of recorder when the
operator was absent, in particular at night. An automatic camera was used for this purpose,
as it would record the volume change reading of the burette as well as the load and deforma-
tion values. The interval used varied from 6 hours in the early stages of a test to 1 hour, or
sometimes less, around the peak.
Similar rates were used for the consolidated-undrained tests, for although the theoretical
time for pore-pressure equalization was much less (Bishop and Henkel, 1962) there was some
evidence that where failure occurred in a very thin zone a testing time considerably in excess
of the theoretical one was desirable (La Rochelle, 1960). In the consolidated-undrained tests
at Imperial College the camera recorded only the load and deformation, such pore-pressure
values as could not be obtained by the operator being determined by interpolation. At the
Building Research Station an automatic null indicator gave a record of the pore pressure.
During the consolidation or swelling stage of all tests and the shearing stage of the drained
tests a back pressure of 30 Ib/sq. in. or more was applied to ensure full saturation and freedom
from air locks in the volume measuring system.* As the shape of the failure envelope was of
special interest in the low pressure range, a number of tests were run with values of the
effective minor principal stress (a, - u) in the range OSO~6 lb/sq. in., the effective stress being
measured directly with a differential manometer as described by Bishop and Henkel (1962),
p. 211.
At Imperial College triaxial cells with &in.-dia. stainless-steel rams in rotating bronze
bushes were used for all the high pressure tests and for some tests in the low and medium
pressure ranges. When these were not available $-in.-dia. rams in plain bushes were used.
Calibration tests indicated that use of a stationary bush led to a friction error of about 5%
in the axial load at peak stress and of up to 15% at the residual stress.? No friction correc-
tion z has been applied to the peak values quoted in this Paper, but residual values are quoted
only where rotating bushes were used.
At the Building Research Station &in.-dia. rams in plain bushes were used for all tests,
with the exception of those in the high pressure range, where a ball bushing was used.
The stress difference (al- ua) was calculated from the load on the basis of the average
cross-sectional area until the peak stress was reached. For compression test specimens of
2 : 1 height to diameter ratio this is likely to lead to little error (Bishop and Henkel, 1962),
especially as failure occurred in many of the tests at axial strains of only l&-4%. After the
peak the deformation was considered to be largely confined to a thin zone between two sliding
blocks, having a decreasing area of contact. The shear stress in this zone and the stress
normal to it are functions of the vertical and lateral loads on the end of the ram and of the

* At the Building Research Station a back pressure was used only on the F-level tests at high and very
low effective stresses, and was then equal to 50 lb/sq. in.
t This value is reduced to about 10% of the axial load if the loading cap is given freedom to tilt.
: Other than the zero correction at the beginning of the test when there is no vertical load on the sample.

; 1000

,” 800

2 600

2 400
c 200

0 2 4 14 lb 18

_ _ 14 lb 113 0 2 IO 12
AX:AL SiRAlN’-./. -- AX:AL

Fig. 3. Typical results of drained triaxial compression tests on vertical undisturbed samples
from level E ( uC’ denotes effective consolidation pressure)

cell pressure. Strain gauge readings on the ram indicated a lateral force equal to about 5%
of the vertical load for failure on a single plane, at the deformation at which the residual stresses
were calculated.


Typical stress-strain, volume change, and pore-pressure relationships are illustrated in

Figs 3 and 4, where the results of some of the drained and consolidated-undrained tests on
vertical samples from level E are presented.
Owing to the uncertainties involved in evaluating the principal stresses in the failure zone
after rupture has occurred on a single surface, values of the stress difference (al - u3) after the
peak stress are not in general quoted, the type of failure being illustrated by the relationship
between axial load and nominal strain.
The brittle character of the failure in the low and intermediate stress range is apparent.
In many tests the load fell off to less than half the peak value. This is particularly noticeable
with the drained tests where the pore pressure was held constant during shear. In the case
of E63, in the very low stress range, the residual load was only 15% of the peak load. Where
a clearly defined residual load was obtained, residual values of r and u’,, for the slip zone could
be determined. As the method of applying the axial load in the present apparatus tended to
restrain the sample from lateral displacement, considerable distortion of the two sliding
blocks followed the formation of a slip zone, particularly as the strain increased. This limited
the accuracy of the residual stress calculations and did not permit the effect of large relative
displacements to be examined.
The progressive change from brittle to plastic behaviour as the value of minor effective
principal stress (T’~is increased is clearly seen in Fig. 3 and reflects a similar trend to that
found by von KBrrnin (1911) in triaxial tests on marble. It may also be noted that in the
high pressure range (E68) the peak of the stress-strain curve is not associated with marked
dilatancy as it is in cohesionless soils (for example, Bishop, 1950), though at lower stresses
very marked dilatancy occurs. This probably indicates a greater tendency at high stresses
for particle aggregates to break down during shear.
It will also be seen that only a very small part of the dilatancy volume change occurs
before the peak stress. This appears to be a characteristic of soils in which failure is confined
to thin rupture zones and was noted in plane strain tests on sand carried out by Cornforth
The volume changes in the drained tests are reflected in the pore-pressure changes in the
consolidated-undrained tests (Fig. 4). The thinness of the rupture zone again influences the
change in pore pressure which occurs before the peak stress. On the basis of tests on re-
moulded samples (Henkel, 1956) much lower pore pressures at failure would be expected. A
limited number of tests were carried out with very short samples between lubricated end
plattens, and a slightly lower pore pressure was generally found to be associated with the
multiple slip zones which were then formed, the effective stress envelope not being significantly
changed. It is probably impossible to perform a test in which no migration of pore-water
occurs (if only on a microscopic scale) between thin slip zones and adjacent material, except
at transient rates of loading. Such an “ideal” undrained test would probably be less relevant
to the “undrained” strength actually obtaining at the rates of loading used in the field than
the conventional undrained test currently used.*

* Skempton (1961) discussed estimated differences between the pore pressure at failure in a rapid un-
drained laboratory test, a slow undrained test with pore-pressure measurement and in a full-scale slope
failure following excavation.

~I000 Y) 250

2 800 z200
L zi
e 5
: 600 0 150

-I 400
3 100
2 2
p 200 ” 50
5 E
0 0
0 2 4 b 8 IO 12 0 2 4 6 IO 2



0 2 4 6 IO 12

0 2 IO 12

Fig. 4. Typical results of consolidated-undrained triaxial compression tests on vertical undis-

turbed samples from level E ( uC’denotes effective consolidation pressure)



The Mohr envelopes representing failure conditions (peak stress) for drained tests on
vertical samples from levels C, E, and F are given in Fig. 5.
The two most significant features of the failure envelopes are (u) the very marked change
in slope in passing from the low stress to the high stress range, and (b) the very large values of
the cohesion intercept c’ and the angle of shearing resistance 4’ obtained from the best fitting
straight line envelope in the stress range u’~= 10 lb/sq. in. to 100 lb/sq. in. These features
are illustrated by the numerical values given in Table 3. For levels C, D, and E the average
values are c’= 18 lb/sq. in. and 4’=26” in the lower range* and c’= 113 lb/sq. in. and C’= 10”
in the upper range.
The caution to be used in applying a cohesion intercept obtained by extrapolating back
from tests in the stress range conventionally used is illustrated by the continuing curvature
of the failure envelope in the very low pressure range, Fig. 6. A similar curvature has been
observed in compacted soil where a very high compactive effort has been used (Matyas, 1963).
However, even at values of gfg as low as O-2 lb/sq. in. the value of (TV - u3 did not drop below
25 lb/sq. in. Thus no tendency to behave as a cohesionless material is evident even at very
low effective stresses.
In the low and medium pressure range there appear to be no very marked differences
between the effective stress parameters for vertical and horizontal samples, whether deter-
mined in drained or consolidated-undrained tests.? This is illustrated by Fig. 7 in which the
results of the various series of tests on E level samples are presented on a $(a1 - ug) against
W, + a’s) plot.
Advantage may be taken of this fact to compare all the results at the six levels on a
common plot. The low and medium pressure range section of this plot is given in Fig. 8
and the high pressure range, to a reduced scale, in Fig. 9. The numbers of tests at the various
levels differ considerably owing to the decision at Imperial College to concentrate on levels
C and E owing to the unrepresentative index properties of level A ; and to the shortage of
testing equipment at the Building Research Station, where tests of this type were run on
vertical samples only, with the emphasis on level F.
At levels C, D, E, and F a sufficient number of intact samples could be cut without too
much difficulty, and the results of a very limited number which failed prematurely on an
apparent fissure are not included in the data used to define the failure envelope, which there-
fore approaches that of intact clay.
However at A and B levels some apparently intact samples failed at strengths very much
below the average, while others, for example from Block A5 (Table 3), indicated values of the
shear strength parameters little different from those of the deeper samples. This suggests
that a change in the nature and scale of the fissure pattern may account for the marked
decrease in the value of c’ as the surface is approached. The average line for the block
samples from Bradwell (Skempton, 1961), taken at a depth of 11-23 ft, is also shown on Fig. 8.
Some of the lower values from B level will be seen to fall close to this line.
The differences between the four lower levels are generally less pronounced, though in the

* In the lower range the estimated values of the Hvorslev parameters K and 4. are 0.063 and 24.5’
respectively. While the accuracy of this estimate depends on the assumed shape of the virgin consolidation
curve, it is not necessary to invoke cementation to explain the observed values of c’.
t This implies that with present testing rates the dilatancy in the thin failure zone is almost independent
of the type of test. This is in marked contrast to the results of tests on sand (Bishop and Eldin, 1953) in
which the dilatancy in the failure zone in undrained tests, while probably not zero, was greatly reduced
compared with drained tests.

- - -

5: 6 :
- - -
I I >
- -

- - -

- - -

- -

- - -

- - -

- - -

I ‘I
- - -

I I ,

- - -
- - -

-z -

9 ?
N 10
- - -

- - -

- - -

z -


a R h

-- -
medium pressure range F level samples give values well above the average, while C level
values are a little below. At high pressures the differences are less marked (Fig. 9).
It is usually assumed that the failure envelope for normally consolidated samples can be
represented with sufficient accuracy by a straight line passing through the origin, i.e. with
c’ = 0. On this basis the tests on samples from levels C, E, and F at the highest cell pressures,
which are greater than the preconsolidation stresses, may be used to define this envelope.
The corresponding values of 4’ are given in Table 4.
The values for C and E levels are approximately 15&” for vertical samples and 164” for
horizontal samples. Level F shows a lower value (13$‘), possibly due to the higher value of
U’~ (1109 instead of 360 lb/sq. in.).*
The remoulded sample also shows a lower value. The undrained test on the sample
consolidated from a slurry is more difficult to compare, for, although the value of u’~ during




10 20 30 40 50 60

Fig. 6. Enlarged detail of Mohr envelope in low pressure range for level E

consolidation was 860 lb/sq. in., the rise in pore pressure during shear reduced u13to 445 lb/sq.
in. at failure. As the envelope from the slurry tests (page 17) showed marked curvature,
the initial slope being Zl”, the value of +’ would fall a little below the 16-l” shown in Table 4
at stresses comparable to those used in the drained tests.
It is perhaps of significance that the values of +’ obtained at high stresses lie close to the
residual value of 16” obtained by Skempton (1964) for London Clay subjected to large shear
strains. Skempton has shown that in the low stress range the drop in $’ with increasing
strain, from a peak value of about 20” to a residual value of 16”, is a consequence of the orienta-
tion of the flaky clay particles in the direction of shear. The present results suggest that at
high stresses a similar degree of orientation may have already occurred at the strain necessary
to define the maximum stress.
* There is some evidence from the E level test at 860 lb/sq. in. that the failure envelope may steepen,
at least temporarily, when the preconsolidation stress is exceeded.

Some support for this view is provided by a comparison with the properties of loose sand,
which is composed of particles tending to be spherical rather than flaky in shape. No marked
drop in the value of $’ occurs at large strains, and recent tests* show that 4’ drops by only
about 1” (from 34” to 33”) in passing from the range O-100 lb/sq. in. to O-1,000 lb/sq. in.
provided the comparison is based on tests failing at approximately constant volume.


The residual values of the shear strength 7 and the effective normal stress o’,, in the thin
slip zone are plotted in Fig. 10 for the low and intermediate pressure tests on samples from
C and E levels. In Fig. 11 the higher pressure tests on the samples from level E are plotted
on the assumption that only half of the post-peak displacement is due to slip in a single zone.
Values are quoted only for samples tested in a cell with a rotating bush.
Through the permissible displacement between the two sections of the test specimen was
rather limited, a fairly well-defined relationship was obtained, values at C level tending to lie

Table 4

Values of & for c’=O, for tests at highest stresses

Level Vertical Horizontal

4’ Time to +’ Time to
failure : failure :
days days

Drained tests .. .. 15.7” 16 16.3” 10

15.5” 22 16.80
13.8” 124
16.1” 4

Drained tests .. ..

a little below those at E level. The slope of the T-U’,, plot varies with increase in normal
effective stress. In the lower pressure range it approximates to c’= 3 lb/sq. in. and #‘= 17$“,
and in the higher stress range to c’= 13 Ib/sq. in. and +‘= 14”.
One test in the low pressure range (denoted F in Fig. 10) failed on a pre-existing fissure
and gave values of r and G’,, corresponding to c’ =0 and +‘= 15”. Five of the values repre-
senting the lower limit of the scatter in the high pressure range also lie close to the line defined
by c’ = 0 and I$’= 15”. These “low” values lie close to the values of c’=O and +‘= 16” obtained
by Skempton (1964) from direct shear tests in which very large displacements had been used.
Measurements of residual strength based on conventional tests with a limited displacement
will clearly lead to an overestimate if average values are used. The lower limit of the observed
values appears to give a better indication of the residual values which would be obtained at
large strains.t
* Reported by Bishop, Webb, and Skinner in a Paper submitted to Sixth International Conference on
Soil Mechanics and Foundation Engineering, Montreal, 1965.
t Two samples from level C were consolidated to effective stresses of 64 and 130 lb/sq. in., respectively,
after a potential failure surface inclined at 526’ had been preformed by cutting with a knife. The top cap
was also given freedom to move laterally on ball bearings without tilting and a rotating bush was used.
Uuder drained conditions residual values of 4’ of 11.6” and 11.5” respectively were obtained. Only small
nominal axial strains were used (2.7% and 3.5% respectively). Whether these low values can be obtained
on a natural failure surface is currently under investigation.

o +

. +




/ I , I I I I ’
0 200 220 240 260

Fig. 7. Relationships between $( (Jo- u3) and i( ox’+ u3’) for both drained and consolidated-undrained tests on vertical and
horizontal undisturbed samples from level E





Two series of tests on remoulded and slurried samples were carried out on material from
level E. In the first series samples were remoulded at their natural water content, formed
into cylinders by pressure from a hydraulic jack to give as nearly as possible the same void
ratio and tested, with one exception, under drained conditions. A back pressure of 40 lb/
sq. in. (in some cases more) was used to ensure full saturation.
In the second series the samples were cut from a block of clay consolidated in a large
oedometer from a slurry of 163% initial water content, a normal stress of 3 lb/sq. in. being
used for the low pressure tests, and 70 lb/sq. in. in an intermediate oedometer stage for one
high pressure test. These samples were tested under undrained conditions after further
consolidation in the triaxial apparatus.
The effective stresses at peak deviator stress are plotted in Fig. 7 (low and medium
pressure range), and Fig. 12 (high pressure range). It will be seen that throughout the low
and medium pressure range the remoulded, slurried, and residual values all lie in a fairly
narrow band. In the low pressure range the slurry test results lie below the remoulded* and
apparent residual values.

Table 5

F 138 110 66 1.7 2.0 132


The relationship between undrained strength and consolidation pressure is illustrated in

Fig. 13 for the undisturbed vertical and horizontal samples from level E. The results of the
slurry tests are also included in Fig. 13.
If the tests with a consolidation pressure of 860 lb/sq. in. are assumed to define the relation-
ship for normally consolidated soil, then the value of the ratio of undrained strength c, to
consolidation pressure p for vertical samples is found to be 0.27. This agrees well with the
empirical relationship obtained by Skempton (1957) between this ratio and plasticity index

c,/p = o-1 1+0*0037 (wpJ (1)

which, for ~,,=43O/~, also gives O-27.
For samples cut with their axes horizontal the value of c,,= is 0.29, and c, is also higher for
all the overconsolidated horizontal samples. At the highest pressure this difference is
accounted for by the slightly higher 4’ value of the horizontal samples (Table 4), the values of
* In the low stress range the remoulded samples show the characteristics typical of heavily over-
consolidated specimens, but residual values could not be defined at the strains used in the triaxial cell.

the pore pressure parameter, A, being 0.74 and 0.77 for vertical and horizontal samples
respectively. At lower pressures the difference between the failure envelopes is of less sig-
nificance, while the A, values are markedly different. At a consolidation pressure u’~ of
145 lb/sq. in. the values for vertical and horizontal samples are 0.42 and 0.19 respectively.
The value of c,@ for the samples consolidated from a slurry is 0.20 at the highest pressure,
and even in the low pressure range varies only between 024 and 0.22. This is significantly
below the value given by Skempton’s relationship, which is based on tests on undisturbed
samples and on in-situ vane tests. This suggests a well-developed structure in the samples
consolidated from a slurry.
The higher consolidated-undrained strengths obtained for horizontal samples in these
tests may be compared with the higher undrained strengths obtained for horizontal samples
by Ward, Samuels and Butler (1959) and Ward, Marsland and Samuels (1965).


In Fig. 14 the relationship is given between water content and major (vertical) principal
effective stress for a sample consolidated in the triaxial apparatus under the condition of zero
lateral yield. The stresses were steadily increased under drained conditions over a period of

Fig. 9. Comparison of results of tests on samples from levels C, E, and F: high pressure range

6 weeks. The maximum pressure reached is clearly insufficient to define the preconsolidation
stress using the Casagrande construction, but following Cooling and Skempton (1942) an esti-
mate may be made from the position of the point of intersection with the virgin curve obtained
from a slurry test.
As the slurry samples were consolidated under an equal all-round stress, except for an
initial low stress oedometer stage, use is made of the relationship between water content and
average effective stress ~‘(=Q(u’~ +~‘~+a’,}) to predict the water content -u’~ curve for the
condition of zero lateral yield. It has been shown by Henkel and Sowa (1963) that the
relationship between water content and average principal stress p’ is almost the same for
samples of Weald Clay normally consolidated under equal all-round stress and under conditions
of zero lateral yield. If this relationship is assumed to hold for London Clay and if K, is taken
as 0.7 for the normally consolidated slurry, then the relationship given in Fig. 14 is obtained.
The point of intersection occurs at a vertical effective stress of between 600 and 700 lb/
sq. in.* and at a water content a little below 22%. In the absence of more precise data it may
be assumed that the preconsolidation stress was of a similar order of magnitude. In two
oedometer tests on samples from Waterloo Bridge reported by Cooling and Skempton (1942)
* If, following the Triaxial Shear Report (1947), water content is taken to depend only on the magnitude
of the major principal effective stress, then the intersection with the lower curve is taken, giving 460 lb/sq. in.
and 22+%.

the points of intersection were at 330 and 400 lb/sq. in. respectively. These results clearly
indicate that the preconsolidation stress at Ashford Common must have been relatively much
greater than that at Waterloo Bridge (in the centre of London), although the accuracy of both
estimates, in absolute terms, is difficult to establish.
In Fig. 15 values of $(cl - u3) at failure for vertical E-level samples are plotted against
water content at failure. The results of consolidated-undrained tests are also included in
this figure, together with the results of two undrained tests with pore-pressure measurement,
for which similar rates of testing were used. These values appear to scatter about a common
line, which shows a marked break at a water content of 22.0%.
The corresponding relationships for the tests on samples consolidated from a slurry cover
a wider range of water contents, and only the relevant values are plotted in Fig. 15. A dis-
cussion of the significance of the results is limited by the fact that in the undisturbed samples
failure occurred in very thin zones, even when lubricated end plattens were used. The void

o?“’ P s I.

Fig. 11. Values of the residual strength as determined in the conventional triaxial test: high
pressure range

ratio and water content within these zones could not be determined by direct means. How-
ever, the results suggest the following general conclusions:
(a) For water contents below 22% (i.e. for stresses above the estimated preconsolidation
load), the strength-water content line for the undisturbed vertical samples lies
parallel to the strength-water content line for samples consolidated from a slurry,
the undisturbed samples having a strength about 60% greater than the slurry
samples at any given water content.
(b) In the higher water content range, where it was possible to remould the samples
after testing, the samples consolidated from a slurry showed a marked drop in
strength on remoulding. At a water content of 29.4% this drop corresponded to
a sensitivity of 185. Similar values of sensitivity have previously been observed
for London Clay at higher values of water content by Donald (1961) and for Weald
Clay by Skempton and Sowa (1963). These sensitivity values may be taken as a
measure of the ordered structure resulting from the process of consolidation.
Since the normally consolidated vertical undisturbed samples have an un-
drained strength 60% greater than that of the slurry samples, it may be inferred
that their sensitivity is of the order of 1.60 x 1*85=3*0.


(c) The strengths of the undisturbed samples in the higher water content range, where
the characteristic behaviour of overconsolidated samples is exhibited, he well
below the interpolated values for samples consolidated from a slurry and, by
inference, even further below those corresponding to normally consolidated
undisturbed samples having the same water contents.
While a local increase in water content will have occurred in the potential slip zone in the
overconsolidated samples even at the small strains at which the peak stress is reached, it is
very doubtful whether this can account for the whole of the difference between the normally
and overconsolidated strength-water content relationships. There is indeed no a priori
reason why the relationship between undrained strength and water content should be unique
and independent of stress history for soils which are subject to structural breakdown during
shear and exhibit sensitivity on remoulding. The theoretical basis for a unique relationship
(Roscoe, Schofield and Wroth, 1958 and 1959) depends on an idealization of the behaviour of
soils, to which clays only approximate when remoulded and tested within a limited range of
stress and strain.* The progressive modification, both by consolidation pressure and by shear
strain, of the structure of an undisturbed sample of soil containing a proportion of flaky
particles is complex phenomenon and is not yet fully understood. Correlations between the
peak strengths of samples which fail at widely differing strains are unlikely to be simple.7


In Figs 16 and 17 stress paths are plotted for representative consolidated-undrained tests
on E-level samples both in the undisturbed state and after consolidation from a slurry.
Some scatter in the points will be seen in the early stages of several of the tests but this appears
to decrease as failure is approached.
The results of tests in the high and intermediate pressure range are presented in Fig. 16.
The undisturbed samples El 11 and El 15 were consolidated under an effective all-round stress
of 860 lb/sq. in., which is in excess of the preconsolidation stress. Sample El 11 was cut with
its axis vertical and El 15 with its axis horizontal.
Sample El32 was consolidated from a slurry to the same effective all-round stress of 860
Ib/sq. in. and was also tested under undrained conditions. A failure line has been shown
through the point of maximum stress difference on the stress path of this test and the corres-
ponding points on the stress paths of the other slurry tests at lower consolidation pressures. A

* The concept of a unique “critical voids ratio ” line or “critical state line” is discussed by Roscoe,
Schofield, and Wroth (1958,1959) and Roscoe and Poorooshasb ( 1963). The critical state is defined as that
in which further strain produces no further change in water content, in strength, and in average effective
It is postulated that in undrained tests on both normally and overconsolidated samples the critical state
is achieved when &(ur- oa) reaches its maximum value and that apparent decreases in stress thereafter are
due to errors in testing technique. In the critical state there is a unique relationship between void ratio,
average effective stress, and the value of &(u1-u3). H ence it follows that the relationship between un-
drained strength and water content is unique and independent of stress history, for a given soil.
Evidence that the behaviour of clay soils approximated to this pattern was drawn only from tests on
remoulded samples (Roscoe et al, 1958 and 1959). There is, however, a considerable body of experimental
evidence which suggests that even in undrained tests on normally consolidated samples the peak strength
is reached at a point which does not correspond to the definition of the critical state given above. This
includes tests on undisturbed clay (Taylor and Clough, 1951; unpublished data from Imperial College and
the Norwegian Geotechnical Institute) and tests on clay consolidated from a slurry (Donald, 1961, and
Skempton and Sowa. 1963). Indeed. a soil which has a sensitivitv of more than 1. or which. when fullv
sheared, has an undrained strength less than its peak strength, cannot be said to be’in the critical state at
its peak strength.
t It may also be suggested that the undrained strength of brittle soils will always lie below a theoretical
maximum value due to local imperfections and to stress concentrations implicit in the method of testing.
The scatter in the results of the undrained tests reported by Ward, Marsland, and Samuels (1965) may be
noted in this connexion.
400 I I I



9: 200 -


Fig. 13. The relationship between undrained strength and consolidation pressure for vertical and horizontal undisturbed samples
from level E and for samples consolidated from a slurry

broken line is also drawn corresponding to c’ = 0 and 4’ = 1S’, which represent the best estimate
of the residual values for this group of samples (Figs 16 and 17).
It will be seen from Fig. 16 that the stress paths of the two undisturbed samples peak well
above the failure line obtained from the samples consolidated from a slurry. In the case of
E11.5, which showed a well defined residual strength, the stress path dropped rapidly after
failure and approached the residual strength line corresponding to c’=O and +‘= 15”. The
estimated value of the remoulded strength at this water content lies well below the residual
value of $(a1 -uJ observed in the test. This suggests either that moisture migrated away
from the shear zone as failure was approached, as in normally consolidated sensitive soils (for





I- 23
0 22



I9 L ul
5 IO 100 IO’ 3

Fig. 14. The relationship between water content and major principal effective stress for a
vertical undisturbed sample from level E consolidated with zero lateral yield

example, Taylor and Clough, 1951), or that a very thin slip zone of orientated particles can be
formed without the complete remoulding of a significant thickness of the clay.
The two samples in the intermediate stress range (ES8 and E91 in Fig. 16) showed a rather
greater decrease in strength after the peak, though the stress paths not quite reach the
residual line. Once again the residual values of &(ul -Q) were above those estimated for
fully remoulded soil at the respective water contents of the two specimens. In contrast,
the end point of the stress path of sample E62 in the low stress range (Fig. 17) lay well below the
remoulded strength corresponding to its overall water content, although the residual line was
not cprite reached. This clearly indicates migration of water into the slip zone in this case.
These results suggest that sensitivity as usually defined (i.e., the ratio of peak undrained
strength to undrained strength when fully remoulded) may not be a very satisfactory indication
of the drop in strength in passing from the peak to the residual state in soils in which failure
occurs in thin zones. This is obviously the case at the rates of loading used in current

+ f&q;-
Fig. 15. The relationship between t( o1- 03) at failure and overall water content at failure for
vertical undisturbed samples from level E and for samples consolidated from a slurry

laboratory practice and in the field, which permit local redistribution of moisture content to
occur, and to which the term “undrained” is not strictly applicable on a microscopic scale.
For materials containing a proportion of flaky particles the lack of correlation is probably
always to be found.
A comparison of curves 1 and 2 in Fig. 17 indicates the effect of remoulding on a sample
consolidated initially from a slurry. Curve 1 is the stress path of a sample consolidated from

a slurry with an initial water content of 163% to a water content of 29.4% and then sheared
under undrained conditions. The peak value of $(ul - u3) is 31.5 lb/sq. in.
The sample was then remoulded and retested at the same water content under undrained
conditions. Curve 2 is the stress path obtained from this second test and the peak value of
;(a, - u3) for the same water content is now seen to be 17-O lb/sq. in., corresponding to a sensiti-
vity of 165. At point P, where the test terminated, the value of $(~~-a,) is 14.0 lb/sq. in.
The end point would clearly be expected to lie on the residual strength line, but with present
apparatus the interpretation of the latter part of the stress path is somewhat controversial.
Had it been possible to continue the test on the “undisturbed” slurry sample to very large
strains it would be expected that its end point would lie on the residual strength line. If
local moisture content redistribution did not occur the residual strength would also be ex-
pected to coincide with the residual strength of the remoulded sample, unless, as suggested
earlier, it is possible in thin slip zones to pass from the undisturbed to the residual state
without the complete remoulding of a significant thickness of the adjacent material.


The initial suctions of the undisturbed samples were at all levels too high to be measured
directly. Their values were therefore taken to be equal to the applied effective stress at which
the samples neither swelled nor consolidated in the triaxial cell.*
These values were estimated from the consolidation stage of the triaxial tests on the
various individual samples, where the water content change on the application of the con-
solidation pressure was observed. This is illustrated in Fig. 18, which shows that, on average,
samples from level E swelled at effective consolidation pressures less than 100 lb/sq. in. and
consolidated at higher pressures. The points show some scatter, but the order of magnitude
of the effective stress ~5, is clearly established.
To calculate the in-situ state of stress before sampling it is necessary to assume that no
drying out has occurred in the block samples, an assumption which is discussed in detail by
Ward, Marsland and Samuels (1965). It can then be shown (Skempton, 1961) that, for a
stratum in which the coefficient of earth pressure at rest K, is greater than unity, the value of
K, is given by the expression:
p, = p{K,-A&K- 1)) . . . . . . . (2)
where p denotes vertical effective stress in situ
A, denotes the ratio d,/d(a, - us) corresponding to the removal of the deviator stress
when ul = u,>q
Equation (2) may be rearranged to give K, directly:

It can be seen that the estimated value of K, is not very sensitive to the value of A,
provided it is small, and the value of 0.3 used by Skempton (1961) is therefore adopted. In
the absence of piezometer readings in the London Clay, the estimate of p is based on zero flow
of groundwater in the vertical direction (page 2). On this basis the values given in Table 5
(p. 17) are obtained.
The values of K, are rather larger, for a given depth, than those calculated by Skempton
(1961) for Bradwell, but this is consistent with the higher preconsolidation stress estimated
for the Ashford Common site.
It is also of interest to see whether the corresponding values of lateral effective stress K&J
imply shear stresses which the ground is capable of withstanding. Strictly the relevant

* This procedure is valid only for fully saturated samples.


strength test is that with ul=uz >u3

(i.e. the extension test), but there is
some evidence (Taylor and Clough,
1951; Parry, 1956) that for clays the
effective stress parameters from ex-
tension tests are little different from
those from compression tests. In Fig.
19 the values of 9 and K,p are there-
fore compared with the values of uf3
and IS’~ at failure from the various
triaxial tests in the low pressure range.
It will be seen that the values of
the estimated lateral pressure at rest,
K,p, lie in all cases well below the pass-
ive pressure given by the shear tests on
relatively intact samples. However,
the weaker samples at the A and B
levels correspond to; a passive pressure
a little lower than the estimated at-rest
value. This suggests that K, might
well have been higher but for the
presence of fissures, and that the forma-
tion of the fissures may be associated
with a process of stress relief. The at-
rest pressures appear to be well in
excess of the passive pressure based on
residual values of c’ =0 and 4’ = 15”,
which is shown by a dotted line in Fig.
19. This may be taken as evidence
that beneath a level surface London
Clay can withstand long-term shear
stresses greater than those given by the
residual values of the shear strength


The Ashford Common investigation

is the first to provide data in terms of
effective stress on the strength of block
samples of London Clay from a wide
range of depths. The samples have
shown higher values of c’ and 4’ in the
low and medium stress range than have
previously been encountered in London
Clay and the failure envelopes have
shown a very marked curvature. At
very high stresses 4’ falls to values
lower than those usually quoted for

London Clay.
The Atterberg limits and activity of

_. -_
, t------z

the samples show a marked difference from those on the east side of London, and the pre-
consolidation stress appears to have been considerably higher. A more detailed investigation
of variations within the London Basin would clearly be of interest.
Within the low and medium stress range the samples show the characteristics of brittle
failure and only at the highest stresses (about 1,000 lb/sq. in. effective minor principal stress)
was a peak to the stress strain-curve not obtained.
The relationships between undrained strength and water content and the shape of the stress
paths for the consolidated-undrained tests are difficult to reconcile with current views on the
behaviour of an ideal soil. The drop in strength in passing from the peak to the residual state
in an undrained test is also difficult to relate to sensitivity as currently defined.
The residual strengths measured in the triaxial apparatus, though clearly defined, do not
in general represent the full reduction in strength which would occur at very large strains,
except where failure on a pre-existing fissure plane takes place.



= +*
+ -I
6 -3


0 100 200 300 400 500 600 700 800 900

Fig. i8. Determination of initial suction: the relationship between change in water content and
applied effective stress during the consolidation or swelling stage of the triaxial tests:
undisturbed samples from level E.

The initial state of stress in the block samples implies a lateral effective stress in the ground
of the order of two to three times the vertical effective stress, depending on the depth. These
values are consistent with the observed strength of the samples, but require the ground to
withstand long-term shear stresses in excess of the residual values.
The practical significance of the presence of fissures in London Clay cannot be discussed
on the basis of laboratory tests alone, especially when these tests are performed on samples
of the small size necessary to permit reasonably complete dissipation of pore pressure under
drained conditions. The data presented in this Paper on the state of stress at failure repre-
sents more nearly the behaviour of intact London Clay than the average strength of a large
mass of clay insitu.
This is the case more particularly at the four lower levels. Here the fissures appear to be
more widely spaced. In addition the stress release on sampling at the lower levels is greater
and the pore water tension in these samples when unconfined is very large. Any zone of

weakness tends to lead to complete

separation of the parts of the sample,
with the consequence that only intact
samples can readily be prepared.
Near the surface a number of
apparently intact samples failed at
stresses well below the upper limit of
strength obtained on other samples from
the same depth. This suggests that
near the surface there may be a closer
network of fissures, but with sufficient
adhesion or interlock for samples in-
cluding fissures to be prepared.
The relationship between the labora-
tory values of c’ and +’ and those
obtained from the analysis of full-scale
failures has been examined only for
the brown London Clay and the upper
and more weathered zone of the blue
London Clay. This examination has
been concerned with slope and retain-
ing wall failures (Skempton and De
Lory, 1957 ; Henkel, 1957 ; La Rochelle,
1960; Skempton, 1961; Skempton,
1964), where shear failure occurs under
decreasing normal stress.
Four factors are clearly operating
under these conditions:

(1) the brittle or work softening

stress-strain characteristics of
the intact clay under low
(2) the presence of fissures with their
lower strength and associated
(3) the non-uniform state of stress in
the problem analysed, i-
(4) the release of stored energy on
stress reduction under drained .L

conditions, which is of partic-

ular significance in clays such
as London Clay which show
marked swelling characteristics.

The relative importance of these factors

in problems involving the lower levels
of the London Clay and alternative
failure conditions will require full-scale / sd ,‘a P*D d
investigation in the field.

The work at Imperial College was carried out with the aid of grants from the South
African Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and from the Civil Engineering
Research Council. The work carried out at the Building Research Station is published by
permission of the Director of Building Research.
The Authors are indebted to their colleagues for assistance at various stages of the work,
and in particular to Professor A. W. Skempton for discussions during the preparation of the
Paper and to Mr S. Smotrych who carried out the tests on samples consolidated from a slurry.


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