Our History is a Hit, with the History Guy…

Dan in Paddington

FoWT were delighted to welcome Dan Snow, Historian and Patron of the Friends of Williamson’s Tunnels on 1st Feb 2019. Dan came to catch up on our progress digging out the tunnels and to film in both the Paddington and Mason Street sites for Dan’s History Hit TV channel https://tv.historyhit.com/.

This was Dan’s second visit and we were thrilled that Dan found the time to come to see us whilst he was in Liverpool performing his Dan Snow on Live Tour 2019 show, “An Evening with Dan Snow”.

Dan and Gordon, our Chairman
Dan emerging from the new tunnel


Williamson’s Kitchen empty & New Chamber open for visitors…

We have been working hard over the last few months to empty the Basement area of Joseph Williamson’s house. Well the good news is that we have finally finished digging out this area. The kitchen is completely empty, clear of all rubble and is now looking great. You really can get the feeling of how big the house would have been in Joseph’s time. Whilst digging here, we dug out under the main stone staircase from the house, which revealed the former door way into another chamber that had been bricked up.

View looking down into Williamson’s Kitchen, with the house bay window on the left
Inside the Kitchen showing the large sink and fireplaces with their ranges
The Kitchen looking towards the rear of the house
Staircase down into the kitchen and Joseph’s subterranean world

This chamber had never been visited by anyone but ourselves due to its awkward access. Well, having discovered the original bricked up doorway into this chamber, known as the Boiler room, we have now opened up this doorway once again. The boiler room, so called because the boilers to heat the garage had been fitted within. They had been removed, so that the arch above could be repaired, giving the arch its strength back.

This will enable us to take our visitors safely into this newly opened chamber. You can see in the photographs that the doorway into the boiler room is under the main staircase down the main house into the kitchen and then on to Joseph’s subterranean world…

This, the newly opened up Boiler room, note the staircase above.
Tom and Rex, inside the old Boiler room

Joseph Williamson’s Kitchen continues to reveal its secrets…

View of the basement of Williamson’s house, showing the rear wall and bay window. Inside, you can see the newly discovered Fireplaces in the kitchen.

Part of the work that has been taking place on Mason Street since starting our dig on this site, has been above ground. This work has been gradually exposing the basement of Williamson’s House, which includes the back wall and Bay Window of his house. In the last few weeks, we also uncovered a large fireplace, then right next to that a second, then a third and finally a fourth fireplace came into view. Each of these fireplaces have a different type of cooking range within. So would this have been Joseph Williamson’s kitchen?

A Close-up of the fireplaces, showing the the ranges in each one
What we think will be looking from the back yard of Williamson’s house, in through his rear bay window into the kitchen

We have also found some very interesting finds, by one these fireplaces. We unearthed a set of wooden items. Firstly we thought they would have been Spurtles, or a wooden Porridge stirring implements. However, the York Archaeological Trust has been giving us advice told us that they would have been Nautical Belaying Pins. The York Archaeological Trust are now preserving these items for us.

These unusual items found in Williamson’s kitchem, first thought to be Spurtles, but now thought to be Belaying Pins.

It is nice that every now and then we find info or Historic Writings that match with where we are digging, well we think this is one of those occasions. Charles Hand was a historian in the early 1900’s who wrote about Joseph Williamson and his tunnels. Here you can see a snippet from the Transactions of Historical Society of Lancashire and Cheshire issue 79 – 1927. So we are confident that this kitchen area where Charles Hand wrote about here.

Extract from Transactions of the Historical Society of Lancashire and Cheshire

Will we find more Fireplaces? Maybe not, but time will tell. Once the ranges inside the fireplaces are cleaned up, this will be quite an impressive area.

Watch this space…

Williamson’s House Site Update

This graphic shows the difference in the Banqueting Hall before we started our dig and just before we have finish to empty the chamber.

Well there have been lots of surprises during our dig on the house site. After digging out the Wine Bins and the Basement area of Williamson’s House, then the Sandstone Arch, we moved on to dig out the top section of the Gash which leads us into the Banqueting Hall.

Looking into the Banqueting Hall from the Gash

We were then excited to start work in the Banqueting Hall. However, in order to dig out the Banqueting Hall, we needed a way to allow us to lift the buckets up to the surface with minimum effort and of course, more importantly, as safely as possible. We decided that we needed to construct a scaffolding tower at the base of the Gothic Arch, this would allow our buckets to be hauled up safely. Before we could do this, we needed to dig down to bed rock floor where the tower would sit, to provide stability.

The wooden slide, put in to safely lower bucket from the top of the slope to save carrying the buckets down the slope.

Once this was operational we started to remove that famous mound of infill that you will remember at the far end of the Banqueting Hall. This was very awkward digging indeed, as the filled buckets needed to then be carried down the steep slope. So volunteer John Morrison came up with a cunning plan – build a wooden slide down the slope, this enabled the filled buckets to be slid down safely.

Over the following weeks and months, we flattened and reduced the height of the mound, it was not long from starting to dig at the top of the mound before we could no longer touch the ceiling. This was amazing. As the mound got lower, we were constantly amazed how the look and feel of the Banqueting Hall changed.

We found quite a few interesting artefacts within the mound, ranging from army barbed wire coils to bottles, to clay pipes and even a Sunblest bread wrapper. One of the Clay pipes we found was the Brenan – Sligo pipe (which you can read about here). You can see some of these artefact here.

As we continued down we discovered a strange Teardrop shaped hole in the left hand wall of the bedrock. This hole was found to a good 6ft long when we probed its depth and penetrates the sandstone in a downward direction. What this is we still don’t know, but could it have been into another chamber on the other side of the bedrock wall? hmmm, Maybe. Time will tell…

Little Al, probing what looks to be a Man Made Teardrop Hole, found to be around 6ft deep…

As the mound got smaller and we got lower down, we unearthed further finds. We had to continually shorten the slide, with the atmosphere of the Banqueting Hall changing rapidly. From being able to touch the ceiling to now being several feet down in such a short time. We reached the bedrock floor at the end of the Banqueting Hall, which we found to be similar to Paddington’s Level 3 & 4 being rough and uneven bedrock, just like the base of a quarry.

Once the mound was completely removed, we started to dig back toward the Scaffolding Tower at the base of the Gothic Arch, this has uncovered a fairly deep 6ft channel that we did not know existed. This channel or passage seems to run directly across the Banqueting Hall floor and who knows, maybe out under and through the Banqueting Hall sandstone wall. Evidence shows that it once had a brick arch roof on it. So where does it go? Well again, time will tell, but there is a possibility that it will run out of the Banqueting Hall, in the direction of the former Magnet Site. So could this eventually run to the Great Tunnel? Fingers Crossed.

The trench is at least 6ft deep, it is yet to be fully exposed, but where will this take us?

At the time of writing we are getting more of the Banqueting Hall floor exposed, and estimate that we have maybe 4 skips or so before this chamber is completely empty. This is amazing…

With us now having stairs from ground level all the way down into the Banqueting Hall, this much improved access and soon to be empty Banqueting Hall, you will be amazed with the difference compared to previous visits.

The end of the Banqueting Hall where the mound once was. One of our new displays for artifacts found during the dig


How to Visit The Tunnels…

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Would you like to visit the non-public sections of the Williamson Tunnels?

You can arrange to visit these amazing, rarely seen sections of tunnels and chambers that the Friends of Williamson’s Tunnels have in their care…

Below are details of how and when you can arrange a visit. You can download our We Need You Leaflet here for further information too.

All our visits are free of charge, though we do ask for a donation to enable our team of dedicated volunteers to continue their hard and important work in finding and preserving this important piece of Liverpool’s history.

Not a member yet? You are very welcome to join us on the day of your visit to Paddington and book for a future Members tour. Alternatively if you would like to join now and take advantage of our full tour, you can – with card or PayPal on our Membership Page.

Head to the Visit the Tunnels Page for information on how to book either a Non-Members visit or a Full Members visit

We would be delighted if following your visit you would leave us a review of your visit on our Trip Advisor page: