Michael used to volunteer regularly at The Williamson Tunnels but hadn't been for a while so we decided to go along and see what was occurring. We were met by one of the site managers Lynne. She knew Michael from a long time back and was pleased to see him. Lynne took us on a tour of the site. The remains of Williamsons old house were unimpressive. Just a wall propped up by some girders. Below ground however, it was a different story. Williamson had acquired a sandstone quarry on Edge Lane and built his house on top of it. He employed out of work people in Liverpool to make chambers in the sandstone under his house. This was so that they could learn skills and be given a sense of purpose. These tunnels and chambers are vast. They go hundreds of metres down and spread out all over the area.

Lynne gave us a tour of the floors below his house. There was a pantry which had been used in film sets, a kitchen area, army toilets (their barracks were based on the ruins for a number of years) and a staircase made of steel which went down into the dark………

The room the stairs led to had an impressive archway and there was a narrow gap in the wall which descended and slowly expanded into an impressive hall. This place was known as the banquet hall and legend has it, Williamson invited a load of his rich friends to his house for a feast of rice and beans. Some of his friends took offence at the unappetising vittles’ and left. Williamson led the remaining guests down into this large chamber where a table laden with the finest fancies of the age awaited them. None of these chambers are open to the public yet and it was quite a privilege to be in this space. A real piece of Liverpool history!

Lynne pointed to a small gap in the corner of the hall. This is where we are currently excavating. “We’ve found another tunnel but you can’t go down there today. If you come back on Sunday, then you guys can help out”. We were both curious to see what lay behind the small opening so myself and Michael arranged to come back on the weekend.

On Sunday, Mike put on his work clothes, his hard hat and packed his sandwiches to get ready for a day of archaeology. We arrived at the site and ventured into the depths. We were supported by some of the trustees Tom, Mike and Ryan. We went down the stairs, through the crack, into the banquet hall and deeper still into the excavation site. “watch your head, it’s a bit tight down here” said Tom. We squeezed through to yet another chamber. A massive steel pile had been driven through the structure from when a factory was built on the site. The people laying those foundations had no idea what lay beneath. Around the steel pile were two buttresses and an archway built by the army. Me and Michael spent the afternoon digging down towards the bedrock. We found oyster shells from Williamson’s workforces lunch and cleared way debris.

During lunch break, we talked with the other volunteers and made friends. Michael went home exhausted and happy. This was one of the most rewarding shifts I have taken part in. I went home that day feeling as though I was part of the city. I had helped a fellow to have a great day out but also, I had taken part in uncovering Liverpool’s rich heritage.