Amazing New view in Paddington

The old staircase, Going Going Gone…

Many of you will have seen the view down into the deepest section of Level 4 from the viewing points of Level 3, whilst some of you may have been lucky enough to go down into Level 4 in the early days.

Well Paddington has just seen the biggest update since we finished our excavation 2 years ago. As we dug down deeper into Level 4 we had to install a temporary wooden staircase as the chamber deepened.

The staircase has over time became unsafe so couldn’t be used, therefore it has been our wish to install a more permanent metal staircase. We explored the possibility of having a galvanised staircase made, but due to the complexity and size of the staircase needed we would be looking at a great deal of money.

We then explored further options, which would be just as effective, but at a more reasonable cost. Our good friends at Cheshire stepped in and said they’d help us with the supply and fitting of the staircase. We have now ordered it from Cheshire Scaffolds, who very kindly are supplying it at Cost Price and unbelievably they have agreed to fit the staircase free of charge too.

Our close colleagues at Subterranea who follow our progress, said that they may be able to help us in the form a grant. We have now applied to SubBrit for the grant which will be put towards the purchase of our new staircase.

Before we can fit a new staircase, the old wooden one had to be removed. This took a lot of planning, to come up with a method where the structure could be removed safely. Then over an incredibly short three days, a small team of volunteers set about removing the old stairs. This went very well, and the old structure was soon gone, revealing the most amazing view within,

A view that no one would have seen of this chamber being completely empty. Probably the last people to see this unobstructed view would have been the quarry men themselves followed by the people that would have filled the chamber with the many tons of infill that we would later remove 150 or so years later.

This magnificent view will not be permanent, as soon the new metal staircase will be installed. Once this staircase is in place, we will once again be able to take visitors down into this amazing cathedral like chamber. So, if you have never been into Level 4 and looked up at the arch roof 12 metres above you, watch this space, you soon will be able to.

The staircase has been ordered and our grant application has been submitted, So stay tuned to Twitter, Facebook and of course right here for updates.

We are very grateful to both Subterranea Britannica and Cheshire Scaffolds for their continued help and support.


Cheshire Scafolds

The new unobstructed view in this staggering Chamber
The new unobstructed view in this staggering Chamber
The new unobstructed view in this staggering Chamber
The Liverpool Echo’ feature FoWT with this great news story…

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

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


The Long Lost Great Tunnel, Discovered…

Anyone who has been on our tours of the “non-public tunnels”, or those of you who have read further into our web site, will know of the Great Tunnel. The tunnel, under the now-demolished Magnet’s warehouse is located next door to Williamson’s House. It was photographed in the 1880’s by a Mr Mudd. He was a well-known railway photographer and was in the area photographing the Lime St to Edge Hill Railway Cutting. The Great Tunnel had been surveyed by military personnel in 1882 and in 1907. A number of artillery and volunteer regiments occupied a barracks on the site, and the tunnel was used for Army manoeuvres for many years. A Little more info on the Great Tunnel can be found Here.

The Great Tunnel
The Great Tunnel (Courtesy National Railway Museum)

We have tried to gain access into the Great Tunnel before, though previous attempts have been unsuccessful. We tried to break through the curtain wall that had been built in front of the Tunnel mouth to the west. It turns out that this wall was extremely thick – more than 6ft thick. Although we managed to get through the wall, we were faced with a further 6 ft. or more of infill.

We have now received permission from Liverpool City Council to explore and locate the tunnels on Magnet’s site at Mason Street. We decided that the best way forward was to get a JCB on site and dig down from the surface to locate the arch from above. This is similar to how we found Paddington, digging down until we found the arched roof through which we gained access to locate the way in from below.

The JCB digging down to locate the Great Tunnel, with Williamson’s House Site on the left.

On the first day with the JCB, we had only been digging down for a little while when we found the top of a brick arch. At this point we were getting near the maximum depth that the JCB could reach. Excitement followed as we broke through the arch, revealing a small brick arched chamber. This was not the Great Tunnel but we were still delighted at the find. We continued to dig further along in the direction to where we believed the Great Tunnel would be, and came across what looked like a brick arched junction, dead in line with the Sandstone Arch. This we are sure would have been the route from the Sandstone Arch through to the Great Tunnel, maybe leading in other directions too. We hope that this route could one day be re-connected through to the Great Tunnel.

The first find of the day, this Brick Arch. You can just see inside this chamber wich turned out to be quite small.
This Brickwork, we think would have formed part of the connection from the “Sandstone Arch” and the “Great Tunnel”.

On the second day of the JCB dig came the big find. In the morning, we didn’t seem to be having much luck in finding clues as to the whereabouts of the Great Tunnel. We were scraping along some bedrock, around 17ft down when the bedrock suddenly dropped at 90°, could this be the end wall of the Tunnel?

The Sandstone in the middle of this photo is bedrock, with a 90° lip at it’s edge. Could this be the the outer Bedrock wall of the Great Tunnel?

Then soon after, as the JCB bucket was scraping out, someone shouted “Bricks!” At first, we were not sure if these were loose or complete bricks forming a greater structure. So we persisted, slowly inching along, until we realised that the brick structure we were looking at resembled an in-situ arch. Was this the long lost arch of the Great Tunnel?

The Brick Arch, still in situ, 17ft down below floor level.

Once we had stabilised a route down to the brickwork, we went down and cleared it a little by hand and looked inside. There we revealed a large arch with lots of stalactites; beneath it this part of the tunnel is pretty full of infill, and we haven’t yet seen the whole width of it. We were delighted and fairly sure that we had in fact found the long hidden Great Tunnel.

Today’s view into the Great Tunnel, looking through the small arch in the photo above

Of course we were very pleased to once more to be featured by the Liverpool Echo and other National Press too:

Liverpool Echo:


Daily Mail:

FoWT featured in Liverpool Echo once again.

We were once again delighted to be featured in the Liverpool Echo (30th Dec 2016), even more so, to see it in such a prominent position – the whole of page 3. The story, covers our new Big Dig 2 on Mason Street which started a few weeks ago following successfully completion of our Big Dig 1 at Paddington.

Watch this space for more news on our progress over the coming weeks.

The article is also available online here.


FoWT featured in Liverpool Echo, Celebrating the end of our Big-Dig…

We are delighted that once again, we are featured in the Liverpool Echo to celebrate the end of our Big Dig at Paddington.

Four years ago on the 18th November 2012, we started digging out Paddington, which was considered quite an intimate space. With passages that had to be explored on your hands and knees, crawling and squeezing between the brick arch roof and the infill at its lower levels. Forward 4 years, that once intimate space has changed beyond recognition.

We have finally finished excavating the 1500 tons of mixed infill from the depths, reaching the sandstone floor that is now almost 18m or 60ft down from the surface level. The Ash Chamber, is almost cathedral like in its dimensions, being almost 12m or 39ft from floor to arch roof. If you have been following our progress, you will know that this 1500 tons has been removed completely by hand using shovels & buckets by our team of volunteers.

We will be having a special celebration and ceremonial finishing of our Big Dig at Paddington on Sunday 20th November when the very last bucket of infill will be removed from Paddington. This last bucket will be removed by family members of Steve Moran and Frank Hodges in their memory. Both Steve and Frank were founder members and trustees of FoWT who sadly passed away just before we finished our mammoth task.

Look out for further updates on our Facebook page and here soon.

Be sure to get your Liverpool Echo on Sunday 20th Nov…

Online Article featuring FoWT celebrating the end of our Big Dig…

FoWT featured on page 3 of the Liverpool Echo (Sunday 20th Nov 2016)