A look inside the hidden underground network of tunnels that run underneath Liverpool
and live on Freeview channel 276
This job often throws up unexpected adventures and chance meetings and it's fair to say I get around all parts of the city. However, on this occasion, I went somewhere I've never been before - the Williamson Tunnels.
With a hard hat and high-vis on, I was ready to enter the labyrinth of passages and underground caverns underneath Edge Hill. With Tom Stapleton, from Friends of Williamson’s Tunnels, as our tour guide, he gave us a bit of history about the man behind their construction.
They were built in the first few decades of the 1800s under the control of a retired tobacco merchant called Joseph Williamson. The purpose of the tunnel’s construction is not known with any certainty. Theories range from pure philanthropy, offering work to the unemployed of the district, to religious extremism with the tunnels being an underground haven from a predicted Armageddon.
I wasn’t sure quite what to expect, but the vast passages were fairly well-lit and stable underfoot. We stopped at regular periods, where Tom gave us more information regarding the history. There are also thousands of found objects, hundreds of which are on display. Not necessarily from when the tunnels were constructed, but they provide a snapshot of life over the years in Liverpool.
The city was suffering from a recession at the time the tunnels were built. With work hard to come by, many found employment with the man who locals were now referring to as ‘The King of Edge Hill’.
The tunnels provide a welcome cool relief on a hot summer day. In fact I didn’t realise how much cooler it was down there until we came back up, and the warm air felt like I was stepping off a plane somewhere more tropical than Edge Hill. It might be a good idea to wrap up warm when you’re visiting in the cooler months.
Friends of Williamson’s Tunnels is a voluntary organisation trying to find all the tunnels and excavate inaccessible ones. Different sections of the tunnels have been cleared and opened to the public. The remaining parts of the labyrinth are closed, with many suspected tunnels yet to be rediscovered.
I can finally say I’ve been to Williamson’s Tunnels. Although they’re shrouded with so much mystery, I might have come away with more questions than answers.
- Watch the video above for the full feature and a tour of Liverpool's underground network of tunnels.