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Williamson Tunnels: Liverpool’s Secret Underground World

by Helen
Inside Williamson Tunnels, Liverpool


Liverpool. What you see is what you get, right?

Think again.

What if I told you Liverpool had its very own secret underground network of tunnels? No one really knows why they’re there or what they were used for.

Despite much speculation, the Williamson Tunnels pose a mystery no one has ever truly been able to solve.

Intrigued? Of course you are!

Read on – I’ll reveal all I know about the hidden labyrinth beneath Liverpool City Centre.


Who Built The Williamson Tunnels?

The story begins with the late Joseph Williamson.

According to Liverpool legend (and backed up by the history books!), Joseph Williamson was a Liverpool philanthropist in the early 19th Century. A caring soul, he wanted to do his part to help those in the city who found themselves without jobs and falling into poverty.

Rather than hand out charity (which, it’s believed, many of the Liverpool people would have been too proud to accept), he decided to create jobs for the poorest people within the city.

The extensive labyrinth of tunnels which run underneath the city are the result of Williamson’s project.

The extent of the tunnels is not known and it is difficult to even predict. Over time, some of the tunnels have collapsed, filling them with rubble, and making them inaccessible.


Inside Williamson Tunnels

A peek inside Williamson Tunnels


Why Were The Williamson Tunnels Built?

If the purpose of the tunnels was simply just to create jobs for the poor, were there not easier, and slightly less strange, ways of doing it?

There are many speculations about why Williamson decided to commission a complex maze of tunnels underneath parts of Liverpool.

Some accounts state that Williamson, despite being a known churchgoer, was actually part of a religious sect that believed the world was about to end. It’s thought the tunnels were created as a hideaway for his family and friends when the time came.

Early accounts do state that Williamson was a little sketchy about his motives, so perhaps we’ll never know the real reason. For me, this makes these tunnels, forever shrouded in mystery, all the more intriguing!


Going Underground: Exploring The Williamson Tunnels

I’d wanted to visit the Williamson tunnels for such a long time. I mean, how can you not be fascinated by the idea of a hidden underground world?

So, with my imagination working overtime, I quickly fastened on my hard hat. It was time to go explore!

Helmets on ready to explore Williamson Tunnels

Helmets on!


The Joseph Williamson Society

The Joseph Williamson Society, who own and operate tours through the tunnels, is a registered charity that receives no public funding.

Sadly, this lack of funding is immediately obvious as the reception, shop and café all look a little dated and in need of some serious TLC.

Our guide, a volunteer himself, did his best to tell us some interesting facts about the eccentric character that was Joseph Williamson. I’ve got to admit though, I’m pleased that I didn’t have to rely solely on the tour for my information, and that I already knew some background history about the tunnels before I went.


Artifacts found inside Williamson Tunnels

Artefacts found inside Williamson Tunnels


The Tour of Williamson Tunnels

The section of tunnel explored on the tour is small, but I suppose it’s enough to get a general idea of the way they were constructed.

To be honest, I did feel a little disappointed. I’d had visions of walking for some distance through dimly lit, eerie tunnels whilst the city of Liverpool carried on its daily business, completely unaware, above my head. Instead, we were a relatively large group trying hard to crowd into small sections of the tunnel so that we all had a chance of seeing what the guide was pointing out to us with his torch.

Not quite the adventure I’d been hoping for.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly not implying that the Williamson Tunnels are not worthy of a visit.

We can only hope that the more people that do visit, the more money the charity has behind it to improve their tour and facilities, and excavate larger areas of the tunnels so that we can explore further into them in the future.

And despite everything, nothing changes the fact that the history of the tunnels remains mind-bogglingly fascinating. They certainly deserve to be seen (if only a small section of them!) to gain some insight into Liverpool’s mysterious underground world.


Plan Your Trip to The Williamson Tunnels

Tickets for tours are available to buy on the day and cost £4.50 for an adult, £3 for a child and £4 for concessions.


In the summer (1stApril – 30thSeptember), the tunnels are open Tuesday – Sunday.

Tours run 10:00-17:00 (last admission at 16:00).


In the winter (1stOctober – 31stMarch) the tunnels are open Thursday – Sunday.

Tours run from 10:00 – 17:00 (last admission 16:00).


The Williamson Tunnels are also open on Bank Holiday Mondays.


You can find out more information about this tour, and how to make a donation to the Heritage Centre, by visiting their website: http://www.williamsontunnels.co.uk/view.php?page=about

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Why do YOU think The Williamson Tunnels were built?

Let me know in the comments!

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