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Thread: Joseph Williamson

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    Senior Member Howie's Avatar
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    Default Joseph Williamson

    The Mole of Edge Hill

    Beneath the streets of Edge Hill in Liverpool exist an extensive network of tunnels. This labyrinth was constructed by one Joseph Williamson who has come to be known as ‘The Mole of Edge Hill’.

    Little is known of Williamson’s early life. He is thought to have been born in Warrington in 1769 and moved to Liverpool at about 11 years of age to seek his fortune. He found work with the tobacco firm of Richard Tate and having risen through the ranks, and become a successful businessman in his own right, married the boss’s daughter, Elizabeth, in 1802.

    Around 1805 he built a number of properties in Mason Street, the gardens and orchards behind them supported by brick arches on the sandstone outcrop above Smithdown Lane.

    He then turned his attention to extending these arches underground – an endeavour which continued until his death in 1840. Quite why he did this is unclear.

    The favoured explanation is that it was a philanthropic act. Struck by the unemployment and poverty of those living in the area, in particular that experienced by the returning soldiers from the Napoleonic Wars, he sought to improve their plight by providing them with paid employment rather than charity.

    A competing explanation is that Williamson, a deeply religious man, became involved with one of the extremist religious sects, common in Liverpool at the time, and constructed the labyrinth as a place in which he and his fellow believers could escape Armageddon.

    Or, it may be quite simply that following the death of his wife, Elizabeth, he became obsessed with the tunnelling as it provided him with some kind of solace.

    Williamson’s true motives for constructing the underground folly are presently unclear but the historical research and restoration of the tunnels being conducted by the ‘Joseph Williamson Society’ and ‘Friends of Williamson’s Tunnels’ may shed more light upon the mystery surrounding the man and his dark subterranean kingdom.

    References


    ADVERTISING




    BBC News (2002), The enigma of Liverpool’s labyrinth
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/2342183.stm

    Friends of Williamson’s Tunnels (2002), The Story
    http://www.williamsontunnels.com/story/storyr1.htm


    Howie

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    Senior Member fortinian's Avatar
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    Good post but there are a few points i'd like to clear up.

    * He may not have been born in Warrington, if you look at http://www.williamsontunnels.co.uk/view.php?page=news there appears to be a distinct possibility emerging that Joseph Williamson was born in Yorkshire somewhere, although I can't see any specific details but i'm sure they will be released (maybe Cadfael can help?)

    * I can't find any actual support for the idea that he built them as a hiding place from Armageddon. In fact it seems that Williamson was a pretty straight down-the-line Christian, reguarly attending a CofE church and even builidng one himself (St Judes, see: http://www.williamsontunnels.com/art...tsandstone.htm). I think this Armageddon idea is probably a fairly recent idea as non of the main Liverpool sources mention it (Stonehouse and Hand I think) and it only seems to crop up in press-releases (maybe to capitalise on the Da Vinci Code mythology thing?).

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    Local Historian Cadfael's Avatar
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    The council lost the plot over these tunnels years ago. They have always been known about yet nothing has ever been done in reality.

    Had they been cleared out years ago, they would be an amazing and historic tourist attraction.


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    They are a tourist attraction aren't they?

    They have the heritage centre open:

    http://www.williamsontunnels.co.uk - where you can get a guided tour of the tunnels.

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    Local Historian Cadfael's Avatar
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    I've been there and it's a two min walk around two large tunnels - you don't actually go 'underground' as you are on the level with Smithdown Lane.

    From the website, it would appear that the whole of Edge Hill is littered with em, not just the two that are open to the public at the moment.

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    I beg to differ, I too have been there and I was given a 40 minute guided tour, although there are a only a few tunnels open I saw that there were clearly efforts going on to clear more out, I saw the guys down there digging hard to open up more tunnels. To say that it isn't much is clearly doing all the diggers and volunteers a great disservice. I know there are a number of people on here who are deeply involved in Williamsons Tunnels and your rubbishing their hard work might not be taken well.

    As for the underground bit... you were actually underground as Edge-Hill (as the name suggests) is a hill. If you walk into the side of a hill you are effectively underground.

    Also as it is a tourist attraction it has to be relatively accessable to many people, I can't see families with old and young people really wanting to climb down ladders and things.

    I've been a member of the Friends of Williamson Tunnels and i've been on their members visits, whilst they were really interesting they did involve climbing down steep ladders and over bits of broken pottery, glass, builidng rubble and generally all the junk that has filled these tunnels up over the years. I doubt health and safety would allow people to go down there as a general tourist attraction - thats why they have the 'special' members visits with all the first aiders and guides there.

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