So completely has Liverpool ONE reshaped our city’s geography that it’s hard to believe Paradise Street doesn’t end at the Sony Centre. But, underneath the newly chiseled granite, the old city streets still stubbornly remain. And, such is our desire to reinvent ourselves every generation or so, precious little of our history ever rests in peace.

In fact, it’s not just the old streets you’re walking above. In one spot, you’re actually standing on the resting place of giants…

See, there is a slice of Paradise, on the other side of the John Lewis car park. And, on a sunny Summer’s afternoon, it’s potentially even closer to heaven than stroking a new iPad in the Apple store.

For here, at the busy interchange between Park Lane and Liver Street, is the triangular patch of land where Paradise Street begins.

It was here that one of the city’s greatest ever churches once stood.  And where one of the city’s most benevolent eccentrics has his final resting place.

St Thomas’ Church, consecrated in 1750, towered 258 feet above the world’s first wet dock, just over the road in Park Lane.

On the Ides of  March 1757, a violent gale knocked the top forty two feet off – and, in 1822 the spire was dismantled completely.  But the church (with a congregation of over 1,000) was still faithfully attended by its parishoners: including amongst them The King of Edge Hill, Joseph Williamson. And it was in St Thomas’ cramped city-centre graveyard, in 1840, that Williamson was laid to rest.

Tobacco magnate, philanthropist and incurable tunnel builder, Williamson was buried in the family vault belonging to the Tate family (another family whose name looms large over the city).

The man tunnelled up to his death, giving gainful employment to thousands left jobless after the Napoleonic Wars. His parish church, alas, didn’t last as long as his subterranean exploits – it was finally demolished in 1911.

Many of the graves were removed, but the Tate vault remained. And remains to this day.

During the Paradise Street development in 2005 the vault was discovered in an archaeological dig. This was the first genuine proof that the final resting place of one of our city’s most eccentric, and unorthodox businessmen remained: although quite why it was covered over with a car-park, in the 1920s, is hard to fathom.

“After decades of Chinese whispers and folklore regarding whether or not the King of Edge Hill was buried on the site of the old St. Thomas’s Church grave yard, his grave was indeed found intact,” says the Friends of Williamson Tunnels who, together with developers, Grosvenor, set to work to design an build a fitting memorial garden.

And it’s looking great.

“The garden will eventually boast a large information plaque which will mention Joseph Williamson and some of the others who will remain buried underneath the area. We’re supplying the wording for the plaque to the designers, and we’re looking forward to it becoming a peaceful haven just outside the busy centre of Liverpool,” says the Friends.

SevenStreets has heard a rumour that the original gates of the Sailor’s Home (the only remaining fragments from this fabled, long-lost Liverpool landmark) are to be returned to the city – from their current home in Smethwick, Birmingham. The gates feature the first ever cast Liver Birds.

So, tread carefully. For, just a couple of feet below this beautifully serene spot, with its driftwood, lavender and maritime plants, lies a man who’s been known to tunnel himself out of the trickiest of underground situations…

13 Responses to “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants”

  1. Now, the flowers may look great but as for the Gerry builder who built the wonky wall around it when he was drunk, I think should be buried there for being a disgrace to his proffession. There was a time in our city that we appreciated craftsmanship and those who commented on it could identify the difference between substance and spin. Just over the way the Old Sailors home was knocked down and still rankles with a lot of older people who recall it.
    As for Grosvenor-pool, well….They paved Paradise and put up a parking lot.

    They get given a third of the city centre and then they scrimp on a memorial.

  2. Surely not scrimping. It’s a pleasant corner. Pleasant enough to stop us in our tracks. Would have been nice if Paradise Street was named because of some heavenly former life – shame it was just the name of the road Thomas Steers grew up in, down in that London!

  3. Ian Richards

    Well written article and a great instiller of civic pride, though I do agree with Wayne, Grosvenor have an obligation to the city. The memories of great men such as our Joseph should be treasured, celebrated and protected, I’m unsure if it’s an entirely fitting tribute.

  4. All true – but let’s not forget, the great man lay beneath civic rubble for the best part of a century – it’s only since Grosvenor that any form of rectitude has happened. Let’s see how the site looks when the plaque is in situ. And those plants get to fill out a bit!

  5. If you look across the road Trevor Jones and Winsor developments knocked down Greenbergs, only 3 years ago. This is now a car park and a pile of rubble. You may be prepared to accept second rate shoddy rubbish as a tribune but I am not.

  6. You may think its clever to use your own non-sequitur to be humerous, to hide the fact that whosoever commissioned this piece of shoddy workmanship on a main artery into town cannot warrent the tacky workmanship as a tribute . The idea of a monument, and if I recall there was also a mass grave on the site for a direct hit blitz burial, deserves better. It makes no sense to argue with acedemics who accept second rate tacky workmanship, who may be part of the Grosvenor-pool viral marketing campaign. Stop it.

  7. Robin

    I’m not saying it to be humourous, I’m saying because you answered the question ‘is a garden better than a ton of rubble?’ with a meaningless reply about a demolished building.

    That’s a non-sequitur. Quite literally, it did not follow.

    Neither does your assumption that because someone suggests that a garden is ‘a better tribute’ than a pile of rubble they are naturally in the employ of Grosvenor.

    Is the garden a fitting tribute to Williamson? Probably not. Is it better than a boarded-up wasteland? Yes. What’s so hard to understand, or controversial, about that opinion?

    You’re right about one thing though – this argument makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

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