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Mersey Tunnels Ventilation Shaft Mann Island

Georges Dock Ventilation tower

Designer: Herbert J Rowse

Built: 1951 - 1952

On the corner of the Strand and Mann Island stands the great, white Art Deco slab of a building that is the George’s Dock Ventilation and Control Station. It is a ventilation shaft for the first Mersey tunnel, as well as offices, it contains huge fans that extract foul air and force clean air in. Just a wander around the exterior of this Art Deco building reveals what a wonderful piece of architecture it is. 

Ventilation Tower Mann Island

A majestic and stately tower which hides one of the two main ventilation shafts for the Mersey Tunnels, the tower was badly damaged in the war and was largely rebuilt by Rowse in 1951-2.

The first tunnel under the River Mersey was for the Mersey Railway in 1886. The first tunnel crossing was proposed in 1825 and, again in 1827. A report in 1830 rejected the road tunnel due to concerns about building damage. During the 1920s there were concerns about the long queues of cars and lorries at the Mersey Ferry terminal so once Royal Assent to a Parliamentary Bill was received construction of the first Mersey Road Tunnel started in 1925, to a design by consulting engineer Sir Basil Mott. Mott supervised the construction in association with John Brodie, who, as City Engineer of Liverpool, had co-ordinated the feasibility studies made by consultant Engineers Mott, Hay and Anderson. The main contractor was Edmund Nuttall. In 1928 the two pilot tunnels met to within less than 25 millimetres (1.0 in).

The tunnel entrances, toll booths and ventilation building exteriors were designed by architect Herbert James Rowse, who is frequently but incorrectly credited with the whole civil engineering project. Their decoration is by Edmund Thompson. These are Grade II listed buildings. More than 1.2 million tons of rock, gravel, and clay were excavated; some of it used to build Otterspool Promenade. Of the 1,700 men who worked on the tunnel during the nine years of its construction, 17 were killed. At the time of its construction it was the longest underwater tunnel in the world, a title it held for 24 years. The tunnel, which cost a total of £8 million, was opened on 18 July 1934 by King George V; the opening ceremony was watched by 200,000 people.

The ventilation shafts provide air recycling for the Queensway Tunnel and what follows are photographs of the Mersey Tunnel tour.

 Entrance to Tunnel
Tunnel Shaft

 Control Rooms

Access Tunnels

Central Access Tunnel

Emergency Escape Tunnel

Foundations Below Ventilation Tower

Ventilation Fan

Ventilation Fan Motor


Liverpool Records Office
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By Robert F Edwards

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