Ever driven through the Mersey Tunnel? If you have the chances are you’ve never consider paying for a tour of the famous under-river carriageway. Yet you should – the Mersey Tunnel Tours are one of Liverpool’s most unusual and overlooked attractions – from the moment you enter.
One of a curious cluster of soaring, windowless towers puncturing the skyline on either side of the Mersey, St George’s Dock Ventilation Shaft is a utilitarian building far lovelier than it needs to be.
In essence it’s a giant chimney stack, purifying and filtering the air pumped into the Mersey Tunnel. So powerful are its fans and filters that, it’s said, the air in the tunnel is a whole lot cleaner than the air the rest of us breathe on the city’s sidewalks. If that’s the case, it might have something to do with the three metre wide blades of the steampunk-esque fans, whirring away since 1930.
The Art Deco building was designed by Sir Basil Mott and J. A. Brodie with Herbert J. Rowse as architect. Egyptian motifs reflect the Tutankhamun craze that was sweeping the world in the 1920s – look out for the two black basalt statues set in recesses, reflecting night and day (reflecting that the tunnel never closes), and the west faÁade’s seven foot high relief in Portland stone – Speed – the Modern Mercury, and, on the east faÁade, the black marble memorial to the workers who died in construction of the tunnel.
The base of the building houses the offices of the Mersey Tunnel’s control station – and is the embarkation point for a fascinating tour of the inner workings of the Queensway Tunnel. You’ll also encounter Liverpool’s biggest fans – and they’re not Red or Bluenoses. A subterranean adventure that’s utterly fascinating, taking you beneath the tunnel’s roadway to ‘Central Avenue’ an abandoned project to allow trams to shuttle beneath the Mersey.
• Tours cost £6 per person and are available to people aged 10 and above. Tours take place on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday (5pm) and Saturday (10am) all year round. See website for more details.
Mersey Tunnel ToursMersey Tunnels Tours, £5
George's Dock Building,
Tel: 0151 330 4504