Williamson’s Tunnels on…..

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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!

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Love of the Second Hand

Arabian Night

The book was beautifully bound, in impeccable condition and filled with the love of being read and enjoyed. Modern publishing of the classic ‘Arabian Nights’ I had the audio version, or what you used to call tapes when I had been a child. My brother and I had been passed them on from our cousin and we had played them repeatedly from our flat one speaker cassette player common of the period.

My favourite story had been ‘Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves’ because my name was Ali and I thought the story was fantastic. Now there are numerous companies who produce personalised storybook for children, but in the eighties, it was something special. Arabian Nights have been reproduced by many different publishers but this copy was really something special.

My fingertips run over the arches of the front cover I can hear the low volume singing of a tune I had never heard before. I was in one of the larger charity shops at the top of Liverpool famed Smithdown Road. All the books are displayed in the window and I can’t seem to walk on by and not have a look inside. I turn to see where the singing was coming from, before me I can see a man, the vision of cool but in personality much more than appearance. However, not bad looking in saying that, ginger hair and a very contemporary matching ‘Tash’. He was shorter than me but very broad in contrast.

As I had turned around he had stopped singing:

‘No don’t stop!’

I insist,

‘Sorry, I didn’t realise I was singing out loud, I was working through the lyrics for the band’s new track.’

‘So you sing in a band then?’

I try not to sound so very impressed.

‘Yes, lead vocals, among other things, engineering work and single parent of two teenagers.’

Pausing for a second, I look at the copy of Steven Gerrard’s biography in his hand:

‘Is that for you?’

‘No its for my son, I am picking up some books for them for now, then I will start getting in some real Christmas presents later in the week.’

He continues to explain that he is trying to encourage his son to read, but always ensures he gets his daughter a book as well as she actually reads more of his books than he does in addition to her own.

I look around to suggest something good for a teenage girl, I spot a hardback called ‘Feminist don’t wear pink’,

‘This is good for teenage girls, it’s actually new out and fresh in Waterstone at to moment, I am surprised it’s second hand already.’

He picks up the book with an accomplished look on his face. As he flicks through he stops and reads aloud;

‘The first time I looked at my Vulva in the mirror………………………………………..I am not sure I am ready for this as a parent yet.’

I take the book off him and take a look inside, after reading a few headings;

‘Yes, it’s a bit too much isn’t it, is this what teenage girls are reading now?’

‘I think I’ll go for this one.’

He answers in haste with a copy of ‘I am Malala’ in his hand.

‘Good, that’s a much better choice, I’ve read that myself and it’s really good, her life in Pakistan and the build-up to her getting shot by the Taliban.’

Again, he looks enthused and smiles back at me:

‘I might read it after her myself.’

I smile back wistfully.

‘I think I best get the pink feminist book and keep in touch with the younger generation are thinking. I might only read it in small section though.’

We pay separately but leave together, stopping by the exit we smile at each other, as he leaves he utters:

‘See you again some time.’

‘Yes..’

As I walk toward Allerton, passing the Sali Army playing Christmas carols, my smile brims ear to ear and I chuckly silently to myself.