ARCHAEOLOGISTS yesterday uncovered the lost grave of philanthropist Joseph Williamson for just a few hours, before burying the tomb once more.
Local historians from the Friends of the Williamson Tunnels have been searching for the exact location of the grave for the past 10 years and said the find came at the 11th hour.
It was the third time archaeologists had searched for the grave of the "Mole of Edge Hill" who created a labyrinth of tunnels under Liverpool in the 1800s.
And it was the final attempt to excavate the site, in a car park opposite police headquarters at Canning Place, which is part of the new Paradise Street development.
Members of the Friends of Williamson Tunnels said they were losing hope that the grave would be found on time.
Trustee Bill Douglas said: "The dig was due to finish at 5pm so this was the last chance to find it.
"We broke through just after midday. When the archaeologist saw the name, we all cheered."
Although the group knew Williamson was buried in the former churchyard of St Thomas's church - which was demolished and turned into a car park - the precise location was unclear.
Williamson campaigner Gabriel Muies said the area will be turned into a garden with a commemorative plaque thanks to Paradise Street developer Grosvenor.
He added: "I am absolutely over the moon. Williamson was a great benefactor for the unemployed in Liverpool.
"Grosvenor have agreed, at great expense, to turn it into a garden and have saved it."
The grave itself was due to be reburied by 5pm yesterday, according to archaeologist Jamie Quartermaine, from Oxford Archaeology North. He said finding the grave was an important link in the city's history.
"From a social history point of view, Williamson is of incredible importance and to find his grave is something most Liverpudlians can identify with.
"He's one of the city's eccentric personalities and we have been working on trying to find the grave for a number of weekends.
"We were struggling to find it so today has been very satisfying.
"The slab will not be visible after today - we are not grave robbers and we are not going to move it. It's an archeological recording."
Another trustee of the Friends of the Williamson Tunnels, Steve Moran, said he would like the grave to be visible to the public, but said he was just pleased it had been found.
He said: "Everyone's elated. We have been looking for this for 10 years and it's a proud moment."
The grave, which houses every member of the Tate family which Joseph Williamson married into, is surprisingly modest.
There is no religious inscription on the 7ft by 3ft gravestone, amended when Williamson was buried in 1840 to simply read: "Also the Remains of Joseph Williamson of Edge Hill Who died the 1st May 1840 Aged 71 Years."