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24 September 2014
BBC Liverpool - Local History

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Underground Liverpool

Excavation In Everton
Everton, October 1939

Audio Listen to Jim Moore's overview of underground Liverpool
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Obviously everyone knows about the Williamson Tunnels, very very dear to Liverpudlians’ hearts.. no body has Williamson, this is our unique element. Except to say, he wasn’t a Liverpudlian - he was a Warrington lad, came to Liverpool, fell in love, earned a fortune, what more could you want?

Audio Watch 'Close up North's' documentary on The Williamson Tunnels
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Traditionally, bridewells and police stations are linked by tunnels. The most spectacular of these are outside the Town Hall.

High Park Street Reservoir

What about the story of slaves being taken down to the docks through tunnels underground around the castle? Well, there is such a tunnel and it runs down the length of Water Street. And you can actually see little markers in the street. It was never meant to take slaves, though, it was probably some sort of open sewer.

Probably most of our existing tunnels centre on railways and that’s because Liverpool is a hilly place. The result was that when they took the railway through to Crown Street, they had to dig tunnels, and of course how many Liverpudlians have walked down Tunnel Road and not even thought about whether there were tunnels there? There are, whole myriads of them, and nothing to do with Williamson.

Queensway tunnel
The construction of the Queensway Tunnel, opened by His majesty, King George V, July 1934

Regarding the two Mersey Tunnels, the old one was largely hand dug. Underneath they were going to have another tunnel, they even had diagrams showing buses and trams and things going along, but it wasn’t a real prospect.

Well near the Royal Court Theatre
This well was discovered near the Royal Court theatre in 1965

There are all sorts of branch tunnels and in particular where the ventilation shafts are there is massive space and there’s one vehicle there. It looks like something out of Doctor Who, some sort of spider thing, which can actually run along rails to serve the utilities.

The early water companies had a stranglehold on trade, charged exorbitant rates but actually could not meet our needs, and so they dug some enormous wells that went down something like a thousand feet.

It is fresh water, as long as you don’t pump too much - if you do, the salt water will come in. The big wells still exist and alongside them are very large service reservoirs which store the water - by and large they are not used.



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