The Williamson Tunnels are the maze-like remains of the work of Joseph Williamson under the streets of east central Liverpool (see map, left), constructed in the early part of the 19th Century. Williamson had bought land on Mason Street on which to build houses. In the years following his purchase, he employed a number of men to dig tunnels, build vaults and construct arches through the sandstone outcrop, until the area bounded by Mason Street, Grinfield Street, Smithdown Lane and Paddington was riddled with underground excavations.
There are a number of theories put forward as to why Williamson built these structures. The most popular explanation, and that put forward by Williamson himself, is that he wished to employ local the local poor, rather than give handouts with “the attendant curse of stifled self respect”.
The tunnels have never disappeared entirely from publc consciousness, but since the early 1990s interest in the remains has grown. The Williamson Tunnels Heritage Centre presents the site to the public, and the Friends of Williamson’s Tunnels carry out investigations (including excavation and survey) on the site and campaigns for its protection.