History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
HERITAGE HIGHLIGHTS: 1530 Great Hall
Speke Hall dates to 1530, though it is based around an earlier medieval house. It was built by the Norris family, who were keen to make a 'statement' of their wealth and importance. The main focus of the Norris's efforts to impress visitors was the Great Hall, a magnificent example of Tudor building.
The Norris's were devout Catholics, and their new house was furnished with a priest's hole so visiting clerics could hide from the authorities. A peephole was built into a bedroom chimney to allow a view over the approach to the house, so a watch could be kept for the authorities. Another 'security measure' was an eavesdrop; a hole under the eaves designed so that a servant could listen unobtrusively to people at the front door awaiting entrance.
Shortly after the Hall was built a parlour and north wing was added. A west wing was added in 1547, and the north range in 1597. What is remarkable is how little Speke Hall has changed since that last addition to the building.
The house passed by marriage to the Beauclerk family, who sold it to the Watt family in 1795. During the 19th century the building was neglected, and used for a time as a cow shed. The last Watt died in 1921, leaving the house to be looked after by her butler for the next 21 years. It was given to the National Trust in 1942.
Surrounding the house are gardens designed in the 1850s. The most interesting garden feature is a pair of yew trees, dubbed Adam and Eve. They are mentioned in documents of 1712, but are likely at least 500 years old.
Like any house with a long history, Speke Hall is said to be haunted. It has appeared on the TV series Most Haunted (2009). The resident ghost is said to be Mary Norris, who inherited Speke Hall in 1791. Mary Norris married Lord Sidney Beauclerk, who proceeded to gamble away the family fortune. When Beauclerk told his wife they were ruined, she threw their newborn son out the window of the Tapestry Room, into the moat outside. She then ran to the Great Hall where she took her own life. Her ghost is said to haunt the Tapestry Room.
Though the house itself is Tudor, the interiors have been decorated and redecorated through the years as fashions changed. Much of the decor is Arts and Crafts inspired, and some of the interior rooms are furnished with original William Morris wallpaper.
A short walk from the Hall is the Home Farm, a model Victorian farm. There are woodland trails, a hedge maze, and walks along The Bund, an earthwork designed to cut noise from nearby Liverpool John Lennon Airport.
Speke Hall is one of the most beautiful examples of a Tudor house in England, a wonderful timber-framed building with a fascinating history.
About Speke Hall
Address: The Walk, Speke, Liverpool, Merseyside, England, L24 1XD
Attraction Type: Historic House
Location: 1 mile off the A561, or Jct 12 off the M56. Follow signs for Liverpool Airport, then follow the brown tourist sign at the last roundabout before the airport.
Website: Speke Hall
Phone: 0151 427 7231
National Trust - see also: National Trust memberships (official website link)
OS: SJ419 825
Photo Credit: David Dixon, licensed for reuse under the Creative Commons Licence
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Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low-exceptional) on historic interest
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