|Date||22 August 2012|
|Location||Edge Hill, Liverpool||SJ 36362 90130; 53.40412°N, 2.95867°W|
In 1805, wealthy tobacco merchant Joseph Williamson acquired a plot of land in Liverpool’s Edge Hill district, which at that time was a largely undeveloped outcrop of hard, red sandstone. Williamson built a number of houses with large gardens there, for which he reclaimed land by building brick vaults over former quarry workings. What started as a reclamation project was to end with his death in 1840 with a vast network of cut-and-cover tunnels and caverns.
Beyond the philanthropic ends — the enterprise kept hundreds of poor workers in gainful employment — the actual purpose of the resulting extensive underground system is something of a mystery. During his lifetime, Williamson was very secretive about the tunnels, and since his death there has been much debate over the matter.
The tunnels were later used for dumping rubbish and as cesspits. Some of the properties above had rubbish chutes in their basements emptying into the tunnels. Many are still blocked by rubble tipped into the tunnels as buildings were demolished over the years. However, in 2002, after a lot of excavation and renovation work, a small section of the network was opened up to the public as the Williamson Tunnels Heritage Centre, located in the former Lord Mayor’s Stable Yard. The Centre is run by the Joseph Williamson Society, which was founded in 1989.