On Monday 8th June 2015 we had a talk and slide presentation by Barbara Price on the Philanthropist, Joseph Williamson. She has been involved with Williamson Tunnels for over 13years. She had been a member of Garston Historical Society and was unhappy with her present job. She saw an advertisement in the Liverpool Echo and decided to apply and was successfully in obtaining the post of Finance Officer.
Joseph Williamson was a severe man but with a twinkle in his eye! He was originally from Wakefield, Yorkshire and we saw his Baptism certificate of 1769. His father worked and owned the Glassworks in Gorbore Hall. The family moved from Yorkshire and lived in Warrington. Joseph worked for Richard Tate in Liverpool and married the boss’s daughter in 1802. They lived in leased land at Edge Hill near a disused quarry and he built a house in Mason Street. Joseph Williamson wanted to give men jobs so he employed them to build houses on the higher ground of the quarry and in the lower level he said that people could help themselves to the many stones. He put his men to work by cutting out tunnels so that the land could be built up to the higher level where the houses were built. If there was no work he would get the men to move stones from place to place. He paid them according to the size of their family. Some of the houses he built had no windows and some had many windows. The houses do not exist today.
In 1840 Williamson died. The tunnels soon filled up with rubbish and in 1850’s they were purchased by the Liverpool City Council to make into stable yards. The rubbish was put there by horse drawn carts. The Lord Mayors carriage was kept in one of the tunnels until the 1980’s when it was then taken to Croxteth Hall when the Lord Mayor was abolished. A chimney was built when the railways came and this took the steam away between Edge Hill and Lime Street. In the 1990’s four teachers from the Institute School heard about Joseph Williamson and formed the Joseph Williamson Society. They wanted these tunnels opened to the public. The tunnels were in a very derelict state but money was obtained from European funding to renovate them. The stables became office and storage space and the tunnels were opened to the public on 2 October 2002 by the Duke of Gloucester. As well as the tunnels there is also student accommodation, Events space and the double tunnel, corner tunnel and back tunnel.
When the tunnels were being renovated various treasures and artefacts were found and these are now on display for the public to see. Some of the tunnels are still concreted up but there is a loyal band of volunteers who each Saturday dig out the rubble and at the moment they are working on a Triple deck tunnel. One day this tunnel will be seen by the public once all health and safety issued have been cleared.
The tunnels can be used for all sorts of Events. They have had a Table Sale, Musical evenings with the Harmony Barber Shop singers and Nick Harper. A play was performed in the tunnels in March called The Mole of Edge Hill telling the Joseph Williamson story. At Christmas the tunnels are decorated and it is a magical place for children to visit