Speke Hall

Posted: July 31, 2013 in Historic Buildings


Speke Hall is a wood-framed wattle-and-daub Tudor manor house in Speke, Liverpool, England, being one of the finest surviving examples of its kind.
The present building was constructed by the devout Catholic Norris family, who had lived at Speke since 1300, in the original manor house above the Clough.
Part of the hall’s kitchen wing has indications of medieval building and it’s evident that a substantial hall and associated outbuildings were present during the medieval period from 1100.
The current building began its construction in 1530, on the site of the previous buildings which have been incorporated within the present hall. The first part of the house to be built was the Great Hall, followed by the Great Parlour a year later in 1531 with the North Bay also being added around the same time. These stages culminated in Edward Norris’s Demesne in 1568 and construction of the north range and chapel in 1598, extending the south range and including priest holes.
Since then there have only been minor changes to the Hall and gardens, with a porch added to the Great Parlour in 1612. A laundry and dairy were founded in 1860, with the laundry being altered in the 1950’s.
The oak frame, typical of the period, rests on a base of red sandstone surrounded by a now dry moat. The main beams of the house are stiffened with smaller timbers and filled with wattle and daub.
The house features a thunderbox toilet, a priest hole and a special observation hole built into a chimney in a bedroom to allow the occupant to see the approach to the house to warn the priest that people were coming. There is also an ‘eavesdrop’ (a small open hole under the eaves of the house) which allowed a servant to listen in on the conversations of people awaiting admission at the original front door.
After Edward’s death in 1606 the Norris family fortunes declined during King Williams’s succession and in 1650 the whole estate was sequestered by the commonwealth.
Thomas Norris regained the land and rights in 1660 and eventually the estate passed by marriage to the Beauclerk’s in 1731, who neglected the hall and estate until it was sold to Richard Watt in 1795.
Richard Watt was a merchant and slave trader who had made his fortune in Jamaica. The last surviving heir of the Watt family was Miss Adelaide Watt, who inherited the house and returned to it in 1878 at the age of 21 years. She died in 1921, leaving the house and estate in trust for 21 years, during which time it was looked after by the staff under the supervision of Thomas Whatmore, who had been butler to Miss Watt.
The Watt family restored and improved the hall and estate up to the death of Adelaide Watt in 1921, when the estate was left in the hands of trustees until 1942 when a clause in Adelaide’s will left it to the National Trust. The estate was administered by Liverpool County Museums until the National Trust assumed full direct management in 1986.
The gardens date from the 1850s. In the main building there are two Yew trees called Adam and Eve which are estimated to be between 500 and 1000 years old.
Today the house belongs to the National Trust and is open to the public. The Home Farm building has been renovated and now houses the shop, restaurant and reception. The laundry has been converted into the education room and the dairy now has new interpretation. Walks in the grounds give panoramic views over the Mersey Basin towards the Wirral Peninsula.


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