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The city of Liverpool is famous for a lot of things, football, the River Mersey and of course, The Beatles.
Beyond all of this, there are a number of great things worth discovering in the city….if you’re willing to seek them out.
There’s much more to the city that lies on the Mersey than mop top pop stars, in fact some of the hidden attractions of Liverpool are about as far removed as you could get from lovable moppets. The time-travel adventure state-of-the-art projection and Elation Lighting technology with highly skilled entertainers to bring the performance to life.
If you’re an intrepid tourist and you don’t mind enclosed spaces, then you should seek out the Williamson Tunnels in the Edge Hill area of the city.
Joseph Williamson was a local merchant who made his large fortune from the prosperous trading and tobacco industries at the start of the 1800s. After his retirement he bought land, which was mostly undeveloped sandstone, in Edge Hill and began a vast project to build houses on the site. This project expanded into building a large network of tunnels into the sandstone.
The tunnels stretch over a vast area and are situated to the east of the Metropolitan Cathedral. The largest is thought to be the tunnel which has become known as the “banqueting hall” which measures 70 feet by 20 feet. The smallest of the tunnels only stretch to 4 feet by 6 feet…so if you’re a little bit claustrophobic you maybe should avoid this area!
Joseph Williamson sadly died in 1840 and the tunnel project fell into disarray. Due to the location of the tunnels, drains ran straight into them and so they flooded, this led to some areas of flooding becoming stagnant. They were also used for dumping rubbish – although this may actually have had a positive effect. It is believed that the amount of debris that had been thrown down the shoots actually helped to prevent the tunnels collapsing on themselves.
Williamson’s reasons for building the tunnels has never been fully discovered, this led to intense speculation that he was a member of a religious sect who feared the end of the world. This fear led to Williamson building the tunnels to shelter him and his friends from the approaching apocalypse.
This theory about Joseph Williamson has never been proven, and it seems that the real reason was more philanthropically motivated than a need to hide from the end of days. It seems Mr Williamson just wanted his workers to be paid a steady wage and not have to rely on charity from the state. So strong was Williamson’s desire to help his workers that he even got them to carry out otherwise pointless work, such as moving rubble from the construction of the tunnels from one location to another and then back, just to give them something to do.
Parts of the tunnels have been preserved as a heritage centre and provide a fascinating insight into Joseph Williamson and his intentions for the development of the tunnels. Today, they are overseen by the Joseph Williamson Society whose main aim is to raise awareness of the life of Williamson. The tunnels are open year round and you can check prices and opening times by visiting their website.
The tunnels are certainly off the beaten track and I only found out they existed by sheer chance, so I thought I would give them a go, as frankly there is only so much Beatles related tours and memorabilia you can take on one visit.
I’m glad I managed to get a chance to visit them though as I’m fascinated by all things Victorian and this is a curious remnant of the period when it was de rigueur for wealthy industrialists to build an elaborate folly. It would seem though that Mr Williamson had a little more of the human spirit about him.
After walking the tunnels, I had worked up quite an appetite and decided to leave the world of Victorian privations and head back to the modern world for dinner. I was more than pleased to discover that just a short walk away from the tunnels is one of my favourite places to eat, the Malmaison Brasserie.
The Brasserie is located within Malmaison Liverpool, definitely one of the nicest hotels in Liverpool and even if you aren’t treating yourself to an overnight stay (which I can definitely recommend too), you should definitely head down there for some restorative food, and maybe even sample something from the cocktail menu.
Malbar at Malmaison Liverpool
The tunnels may be seen by some as the vanity project of a rich old man, but they’re much more than that and really have to be seen to be believed. The UK has a rich heritage of architectural oddities like this that are often overlooked, but in a city that is recognised for its place in pop culture, this is a refreshing change well deserving of your time.