A.S.James has a long and interesting history in the Melbourne environment. Established in 1963, now over 60 years ago by Alexander Souter James (Sandy) who immigrated to Australia with the promise of work by Costain, a British Geotechnical Consultancy, but quickly decided to have a go in consulting and contract drilling himself.

Sandy quickly developed a strong following of notable consultants, including John Connell, Irwin Johnson, Beca to name a few.

Sandy combined a thorough geotechnical knowledge with practical outcomes in the application of his art as it was at that time, and some may argue geotechnical engineering is still more an art than a science.

For a relatively long period in the early days, the attraction of contract drilling seemed irresistible, particularly with mining opportunities in Tasmania, investigation opportunities in Indonesia and Fiji with a few of the following photographs indicating early boring machines.

An experienced and relatively large, by standards then, drilling crew was established using predominantly Gemco 210 drilling machines.  These machines were versatile, could be placed on barges and were able to carry out SPT testing easily and diamond core drilling to significant depths.

After about 25 years came a downturn in contract drilling, and Sandy concentrated on developing relations with consulting engineers and providing basic recommendations for substantial building structures.  Some early projects of Sandy’s were the Southern Expressway (Monash), Webb Dock, Savage Mines, the original International Harvester site in Dandenong, the original Volkswagen factory in Clayton, the original Ford factory in Campbellfield, the original Toyota factory in Altona, numerous multi-level developments on St Kilda Road and in Melbourne CBD.

A.S.James Embark on Future Growth

Despite all these successes, the emergence of opposition companies made significant growth difficult.  In 1978, the South Melbourne practice included Sandy, two drillers, operations and admin staff, one laboratory manager and a NATA registered laboratory occupying the kitchen area of a small strata titled unit.  In the same year, Sandy hired several younger engineers with good theoretical knowledge to compliment his practical experience, including Tim Holt (a current A.S.James Director).

Tim and Sandy, and other engineers and staff members, worked together in the period 1978 to approximately 1990 on many large and significant developments, including the South Geelong industrial estate, Geelong foreshore, many notable early developments in the Geelong area, including Market Square, many infrastructure projects, telecommunications installations and of course industrial and commercial developments. 

In this period a relatively large number of domestic investigations were carried out, known as site classification testing, although this trend did not continue past approximately the year 2000.  Since the period when Sandy and Tim became co-directors of A.S.James, initially Tim taking 10% ownership, the company had grown and invested heavily in capital involved in the drilling and laboratory testing of soils, along with establishing an experienced staff base.  By 1993, Tim owned the company outright.

In 2019, Daniel Gunn and Graeme Luther became associate directors and in 2020 they became joint directors alongside Timothy Holt.  The company represents one of the largest privately and individually owned companies in Victoria and has over 50 staff members.

Company achievements and recent projects that are listed within our website are wide and varied.  Many of our established contacts in the 1960’s and 1970’s are still relying on A.S.James to provide sound practical advice based on well-established theoretical principals.

A.S.James is set to embark on future growth over the coming years with an emerging energetic and enthusiastic group of engineers, technicians and staff members.