Look on our map of the Williamson’s Tunnels and you see that some tunnels are shown in orange. These Tunnels were surveyed by the Army in 1882 and 1907. So, we have always had a fair bit of confidence that these tunnels will be where the Army say they are.
Beneath the land where Merseyflex used to be, there are some of those tunnels mapped by the Army. Merseyflex has now relocated, and the building has been demolished, so we are grateful to Liverpool City Council for allowing us to have a dig in order to find the tunnels beneath the land.
We decided to rent a JCB and Driver for the week, so on Mon 16th Sept 2019 the JCB arrived on site.
We planned a similar dig on Merseyflex as we done on the Magnet’s Site a few years ago. Digging down to find clues and features from Williamson’s day. We immediately found the cellar that would have been beneath the original Williamson built house that once stood here. Revealing nice floor tiles, windows and doorways. We even unearthed the arch that headed out under Mason Street, towards the Williamson properties over the road. Sadly, this tunnel is just below the road surface and has been collapsed just a foot or so inside.
On day 2 of our dig, we turned the digging through 90° heading slightly towards Williamson’s House, at first, we didn’t find anything out of the ordinary, more openings, and even another arch passage. But then Robin, one of our volunteers noticed that a large floor slab was moving as the JCB bucket touched it. So, it was decided to lift that slab with the JCB to see if anything was being hidden. And what did we see…
There beneath the slab was a hole in the arch, just like we have found in Paddington and the Banqueting Hall. These holes were made in the arch to allow the chambers to be easily filled with the tons of rubble after Joseph Williamson’s death.
On finding this, we needed to make the site safe, before we could go down to take a look. Amazingly, what we found was an impressively large and complete Arched chamber.
I remember the feeling of excitement, being very much the same when we found Paddington. The thrill of being the first people to get into the tunnel in probably well over 100 years.
The tunnel has a lovely design as can be seen in the photographs with the Arch being formed of lines of alternate brick and sandstone. The Arch is approx. 4 meters down below ground level and is 13.3 meters long. Width is a little harder for us to measure, as you can see there is a lot of infill and the Springing of the Arch is not visible, meaning we are not seeing the full width of the Tunnel. But we feel that it will be at least 6 to 7 meters or even more wide. We do not know how deep this tunnel will be either, we suspect it could be a deep one…
This is a great find for the Friends, and helps to confirm the accuracy of our map of Tunnels. In the short term, we will need to reseal the tunnel but in the long term we will be seeking the permission to reopen this tunnel permanently and to maybe set about emptying it too.
What will we find next?
Updated (Sat 05/10/2019)
We were delighted that a few days later, the Liverpool Echo covered FoWT’s news of our big find on Page 3.
Liverpool Echo online: New images reveal cavernous new chamber discovered at Williamson’s Tunnels