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williamson tunnels liverpool

a mysterious tunnel network hidden below the streets of liverpool

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Williamson Tunnels

What Are The Williamson Tunnels in Liverpool?

Underneath the roads of Liverpool lie an incredible and secretive arrangement of passages and excavations.

Many people have heard the stories and asked the questions – “is there a hidden tunnel in Liverpool?” and “what were the hidden tunnels in Liverpool used for?”

Joseph Williamson’s Tunnels are the labyrinth like remains from unearthing under Edge Hill. They are crafted by Joseph Williamson under the roads of east  Liverpool, built in the early part of the nineteenth Century.

Williamson had purchased land on Mason Street on which to build houses. He utilized various men to dig tunnels, assemble vaults and build curves through the sandstone outcrop. In the end the region limited by Mason Street, Grinfield Street, Smithdown Lane and Paddington was loaded with underground tunnels.

Various speculations exist regarding why Williamson constructed these structures. The most well known idea is that he wished to utilize the nearby poor, as opposed to giving them freebees. 

The passages have never vanished completely from public awareness, however since the mid 1990s enthusiasm for the remaining parts has developed. The Williamson Tunnels Heritage Center presents the site to people in general. The Friends of Williamson’s Tunnels complete examinations (counting unearthing and overview) on the site and lobbies for its assurance.

New excavations are continually revealing new passages, which is the awesome thing about this site. As of late the Friends of Williamson’s Tunnels have done a lot of work at Williamson’s home on Mason Street.

The house itself is no more than a shell. For a long time it was the site of a car repair garage, and incidentally this has helped safeguarding. The garage proprietors manufactured a solid rooftop over certain rooms (the parts presently called the Wine Cellars). This has kept them unblemished, and as the Friends continue digging, they uncover more immaculate brickwork. The site at Paddington, practically around the bend from Mason’s House, is additionally uncovering astonishing finds.

These images were taken as part of a project covering both sites, in collaboration with Hugh Baird University Centre and Port Academy Liverpool for a project entitled “Maritime Merseyside” 


Born 1769 near Barnsley, at an early age he moved to Liverpool to work for a friend of his fathers – Richard Tate – importer of tobacco and snuff.


In later years, he married the bosses daughter and set up his own merchant business, and after Richard Tate died, he bought the controlling share from Tates son.


He was a very wealthy man and bought an area of land in Edge Hill and built his home, in addition to several others. The houses backed onto a quarry, with a 20ft drop so he had to construct brick arches over them so he could build gardens.


The building didn’t stop there


He then carried on building, digging further underground creating tunnels, cellars and store rooms beneath edge hill.

The two sites are managed by different Volunteer groups – The heritage centre and the friends of Williamson tunnels

With very little history ever being recorded concerning the tunnels, and Williamson not passing this on – there are degrees of difference in why people believe he built them.


The more general consensus is that took unskilled labourers returning from the Napoleonic war and began to offer them a days work for a days pay – by way of giving help to those without work, and to put money back into the local economy

Tunnels were build within tunnels. Cellars, caverns and open halls – all created with specific purpose. 

Some say he was excavating the sandstone in exchange for the bricks to build his houses, some say he was hiding his profits and some say he was mad.


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