Tagged: Mersey Tunnel

Just a short post today to thank everyone for logging on to my blog in its first year. I have been amazed by your response and promise to keep you entertained with more unseen images from the archives next year.

Today’s photograph was taken in February 1951 from the Picton Library and is a moody shot of William Brown Street, the Old Haymarket and Tunnel entrance. Quite a bit has changed in the intervening 60 years – but most of the prominent buildings are still with us.

Have a great Christmas – and keep logging on for more great photos.

Peak evening traffic 1953

Tunnel entrance 1967

Following on from Friday’s post – two more images of the Birkenhead Tunnel. The first shows the chaos as workers head back home to the Wirral. There seems to be an absence of road markings – which must have made the journey somewhat hazardous. Those old cars must have broken down regularly – creating mayhem. Outside, the decorations for the Coronation are still very much in evidence – an easy way to date the photograph.
In the bottom photograph, the Beacon is nearing completion. The basalt lighting column (see May 4th post ) had already been taken away and the toll booths at the Liverpool side were soon to follow (date ?).

Queensway Tunnel, 30 July 1934.

Queensway Tunnel ‘Nerve Centre’ 26 May 1934

Walking up Manchester Street today, I was reminded about how much of Liverpool we take for granted. Liverpool is full of tourists – most here for the Mathew Street Festival but I wondered how many would stop to admire the Mersey Tunnel, once regarded as one of the great engineering feats. Today, it is its art deco detailing by Herbert Rowse, in my opinion Liverpool’s greatest architect, that catches the eye – but the engineering by Sir Basil Mott (in co-operation with John Brodie, Liverpool’s brilliant City Engineer) was what caught the headlines back in 1934. An amazing construction, the tunnel was started from both side and was only one inch out when they were finally connected.
The Tunnel opened on 18 July 1934 and the top photograph was taken 12 days later. The bottom photograph is of the Control Centre – which “controlled 140 telephones, fire stations every 50 yards and a variety of traffic signals including ingenious devices which will prevent oversize or overweight vehicles from entering the Tunnel. The installation supersedes anything of its kind in the world.”
I’d love to know how the ingenious device preventing oversize vehicles entering the Tunnel worked – in my cynical mind I imagine a policeman at each end eyeing up each lorry – or maybe that man with a bakelite telephone really did have a way of telling.

I have just returned from a few days break – so straight back into the 1960s. The photograph was taken before Byrom Street was widened- removing the buildings on the right. What catches the eye is the amazing art deco street light that was positioned in front of the Queensway Tunnel entrance. Herbert Rowse, the architect of India Buildings, Martins Bank and the Philharmonic Hall, was commissioned to put the style into Basil Mott’s great engineering achievement. He wasn’t too happy about it, complaining: ‘the engineer too often feels he can cover up his mistakes by calling in an architect to add pretty things to hide them.’
Whatever Mott’s mistakes were, Rowse, who was inventing a new decorative style for the modernist movement, did a brilliant job including designing the lining of the tunnel with a dado of black Vitrolite glass framed in stainless steel. (Les Cooper, ex-Stewart Bale and one of the partners of Elsam, Mann and Cooper photographers was very proud of his kitchen which he fitted out with left-over Vitrolite panels. I wasn’t quite so keen on it but it would have looked incredibly modern in the 1930s when he fitted it).
The lighting pylon was a particular feature which marked either end of the tunnel (the Birkenhead one survives). Another own goal for Liverpool when the one in Haymarket was unceremoniously pulled down sometime in the 1960s. Rowse, Liverpool’s finest architect of the twentieth century, deserved better.