Last month a part of Heritage Week, Friends of Williamson Tunnels took us deep down into the hollows of Edge Hill to view the latest of their excavation work and forever new findings.
The Williamson’s Tunnels were created over four decades starting from the early 1800s. Joseph Williamson, the man behind the labyrinth of passageways was believed to have started life in nearby Warrington, probably around 1769. Presumably, being of little means, he was sent to Liverpool to find work at the grand age of eleven. He gained employment with the wealthy tobacco merchant Richard Tate. Over time he rose through the ranks and eventually married the merchant’s daughter, Elizabeth. Eventually, he acquired the company from Richard Tate Junior after the death of his Father. In the early 1800s, Joseph and Elizabeth move the then suburbs of Manson Street and the tunnelling began. There are numerous theories behind the purpose of these tunnels, the most likely being for the excavation of sandstone which is used extensively in building constructed of the period.
On this fine Heritage week exploration, we were taken down into the latest of the excavations on Paddington. The once site of former Paddington Gardens tenements was demolished to make way for student Halls not long after the turn of the Millennium. The tunnels look to have been under a commercial building, the entrance possible a though way from a bakery.
…. a philanthropist by default…
Williamson was a philanthropist by default, through the construction work he provided much-needed jobs for local people and ensured they became highly skilled. It is thought that many of those who burrowed the network went onto work for the railways, the first line being laid between Edge Lane and Manchester in 1829.
The tour started at the Friends of Williamson’s Tunnels main HQ in Mason Street. We took a quick look at the remains of the Manor house where the Williamson’ resided before heading down the road to Paddington. After carefully making our way down the damp gangway we embraced the stalactites ever so familiar with tunnel structures. Harsh lights illuminated former access passages as we headed to the main chambers.
..a delightful collection of pots to p*ss in…
Used as a Victorian dumping ground for many years the chambers host an array of artefacts from bygone era’s. Bottomless glass drinking vessels, bodiless dolls heads, various tea taking vessels and a delightful collection of pots to p*ss in.
As we head down and deeper into Edge Hill the magnitude of the tunnel network was hard not to be overwhelmed by in its full glory. Ever-present drippings of water, which are drained daily, join us as we look around in awe.
A magnificent tour and a big shout out to the Friends of Williams Tunnels!