Our history

Our history at A.S.James is a long and interesting story.

Historic A.S.James Image | A.S.James Driller installing rock anchors using an airtrack rig, powered by our very own ‘Ingersoll-Rand’ compressor.

Our history includes this historic A.S. James image - a driller installing rock anchors using an airtrack rig, powered by our very own 'Ingersoll-Rand' compressor.
Early black and white portrait  image of founder Alexander Souter James (Sandy) who established A.S.James back in 1963.
Alexander Souter James (Sandy)

Established over 60 years ago in 1963 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. Our history is rich with pioneering achievements in geotechnical engineering and consulting services, evolving from humble beginnings to becoming a trusted leader in the industry.

Sandy quickly developed a strong following of notable consultants such as John Connell, Irwin Johnson and Beca. He blended extensive geotechnical knowledge with practical applications, defining geotechnical engineering as more of an art than a science during his time.

During the early days, contract drilling held irresistible appeal, particularly with mining prospects in Tasmania and exploration opportunities in Indonesia and Fiji. An experienced and relatively large drilling crew was formed, utilising versatile Gemco 210 drilling machines capable of SPT testing and diamond core drilling to significant depths, even on barges.

After about 25 years, a downturn in contract drilling prompted Sandy to focus on cultivating relationships with consulting engineers and providing foundational recommendations for substantial building structures. His early projects included landmarks such as the Southern Expressway (Monash Freeway), 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 these successes, significant growth became challenging due to increasing competition. By 1978, the South Melbourne practice (which included Sandy, two drillers, one laboratory manager, operations and admin staff) operated out of a modest strata-titled unit with a NATA registered laboratory in the kitchen area. In the same year, Sandy hired several younger engineers with good theoretical knowledge to compliment his practical experience, including Tim Holt.

Sandy and Tim, 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. 

Black and white image of early geotechnical engineering days as engineers use machinery to bore down into the banks of a river to obtain core soil samples.
Early boring machine

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. Tim eventually assumed full ownership by 1993.

In 2019, Daniel Gunn and Graeme Luther became Associate Directors and in 2020 they became joint Directors alongside Tim, marking a new phase of leadership.

Company achievements and recent investigations 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. The company represents one of the largest privately and individually owned companies in Victoria and has over 50 staff members.

Capable of carrying out all types of Geotechnical and Environmental Investigations.