Nice write up but with one glaring error. The Williamson Tunnels Heritage Centre was created by and is owned and operated by the Joseph Williamson Society. The FOWT is a completely separate organisation which has nothing to do with the Heritage Centre
39 Narromine Drive, Calcot, Reading, Berkshire RG31 7ZL
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8 reviews of Williamson's Tunnels Heritage Centre in English
I have been to visit the Williamson Tunnels twice over the last couple of years. Although when I first heard about them i thought why ? am i going.
The tunnels have been magnificently constructed and have been well looked after.The people who work there are all voulunteer
This tour is recommended to everyone as it is a great day out for all.
This is one of those places that shouldn’t really exist. Why on earth would anyone want to pay people to dig tunnels under a city like Liverpool? It all seems intriguingly surreal…
...and yet, surreally intriguing. Apparently they’ve only excavated about 10% of the tunnels the guy dug; and only about 10% of the tunnels they’ve excavated are open to the public. This means that the maze of tunnels under the city must be huge...
The tour I went on (admittedly 5 years ago now) was fascinating. They showed us some of the artefacts they’d dug up from their excavations, and these gave us a real insight into life in bygone times. The tour guide had a real passion for the place and his enthusiasm was infectious.
All in all, if you’re in Liverpool you really should visit the tunnels, if only so you can spend the rest of the day asking “Why?!”.
Who would have thought spending some time in bizarre tunnels under Liverpool would be so much fun?
There is a small area with some displays telling you about the history of the tunnels and a range of the items that have been found when emptying them out. You then get a very informative guided tour from one of the volunteers which is fasinating.
There are a few reasons put forward as to why the bloke made the tunnels, which just adds to the mystery and the interest!
I’ll be going back again in a few years time to see what extra the hard-workin volunteers have managed to unearth. It’s well worth a visit if you are in the area. My fridge is now the proud wearer of a Williamson Tunnels fridge magnet!
The background: during the early 1800s, philanthropist Joseph Williamson kept in employ the gangs of workmen he’d engaged to build terraces to the rear of Mason St, and set them to work digging out a series of tunnels, chambers and labyrinths spreading out under Liverpool. Although only the facade of his own home now remains at street level (Mason St) the FOWT have developed the tunnels themselves into a first-rate tourist attraction - entered by way of a newly-built visitor centre (the Old Stableyard; Smithdown Lane) as a base for conducting tours of the much-photographed 'double tunnel’ and south tunnel, as well as other accessible parts of the still mostly unexplored complex of excavations. There’s a gift shop, an interpretational display, and a cafe bar - perfect to muse on the strange motivations of the human psyche - located under one of Williamson’s original arches. Children are more than welcome - the entire site has been assessed for health and safety reasons, and meets every requirement. The last time I visited (Nov 2008) the entrance fee was £4 (concessions available), with general opening hours being 10-5pm (Mon-Sun). Full training is offered to anyone so entranced by their visit to the tunnels that they may want to work as a volunteer guide. This is a unique experience, and still largely unknown to most visitors to Liverpool. Amazing.
Comment 1 comment on this review
Historian, 7 August 2009:
A great place to visit if you are interested in what lies beneath the city. Situated near the University of Liverpool, the section of tunnels open to the public is fascinating, if a little short. However, great staff will help you to have an interesting visit with stories of the history and conservation of the tunnels.
During the 1800s, there were many people living in Liverpool who were very poor and had a low standard of living. Joseph Williamson wanted these people of Liverpool to have a better way of life and earn honest wages, however, he did not want to just give money to them.
When Joseph Williamson bought an area of land in Edge Hill, he employed the working class and war veterans from Liverpool to dig tunnels connected to each other underneath the city. From then on Williamson was known as 'The Mole of Edge Hill’. There was no real reason for these tunnels to be built; in fact today no one really knows why. One suggestion is that he was using the tunnels to enter some of the wealthy properties in Edge Hill where he was having affairs with the ladies of the house or the maids as his wife knew nothing of the tunnels until after his death!
Joseph Williamson himself was not always rich and had to work hard to earn his living. When he was young he moved to Liverpool seeking work and was employed by Richard Tate, a tobacco merchant, who died in 1787. After Tate’s death the business passed to his son Thomas. Joseph Williamson gradually worked his way up through the company and married Richard Tate’s daughter, Elizabeth. Joseph Williamson later went on to buy the expanding tobacco company from Thomas Tate and the business continued to do well and earning him his fortune.
An absolutely fascinating place to visit and y doing so any contribution that you make will help in the ongoing works that are much needed
knibbd, 21 September 2008:
The generally accepted view now is that he was purely a benefactor; There was no need for the tunnels, but he wouldn’t just give the poor and unemployed cash as it robs people of their dignity (so much for the current welfare state!). The men actually felt they were earning the money.
Templar, 21 September 2008:
Yes I agree like building Follies!
6Kraska6, 23 September 2008:
Kind of bizarre, this Mr. Williamson and his tunnels… Do you think the unemployed of our days would keep their dignity digging useless wholes in the ground? I’m not that sure…
excellent day for the whole family , you get to learn about the history of the tunnels in liverpool , freindly staff , cafe area and free parking . min fee to enter but extremely interesting
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