It has been a fraught few days here at Cornflower HQ. A blocked drain sounds like a minor inconvenience - a sink temporarily out of action, say - but when it is the main drain into which everything, that is every basin, appliance, bath/shower, toilet, and rainwater downpipe drains, then the problem is more major.
That is what has been happening here since Thursday when a puddle appeared outside the back door and that puddle grew to become a black, stinking, sludgy swamp as no waste water of any kind could get away to the sewer and was backing up through a rainwater 'soakaway'.
To cut a very long story short, a pump was supplied to clear the back area by pumping the water into the garden; when it broke down, bailing with buckets was the only course of action (Mr. C. was even doing this in the middle of the night as the water rose higher and threatened the house). Meanwhile we managed to get hold of the 1888 plan above (drawn 60-odd years after the house was built) and our drainage man said he thought the next step would be to try to find the 'trap' marked 'C' on the bottom of the plan and jet the drain from there.
We spent much of yesterday digging in the front garden (luckily the plan is roughly to scale so we had a fair idea where to start) and we found this:
Beneath that slab is a brick pit around 12' deep. The drainage men came this morning, broke off the metal cover, put a ladder down into the pit, uncovered the trap and jetted the drain. All is now well.
Two things for Edinburgh readers to note: the council has a drains database which contains old records such as ours. I could get only part way into the site when I tried on Saturday, but it's worth knowing that it's there, and as long as it's not the weekend you could call or email for help if you can't access it yourself. Secondly, if you ever need a contractor for this type of thing, I'd recommend Peter McLeod of Drainage Solutions. He solved a big problem for us once before and he's come up trumps again this time, so many thanks to him, and to the unknown Victorian gentleman whose carefully drawn and extensively annotated plan helped us get to the bottom of things.