Tension, Turmoil and Traitors: The Story of Tudor Speke

Priest hole ladder at Speke Hall

Our new indoor exhibition for 2019 brings to life the turmoil of Elizabethan England and the life or death secrets kept hidden inside the walls of Speke Hall. Come and discover the Norris family’s hidden secrets…

As Catholics, the Norris family who built and lived at Speke Hall lived a dangerous life under Elizabeth I’s Protestant rule, with the country around them divided by religion and power. Discover traces of this era all over Speke Hall, from the eavesdropper hidden high above in the courtyard to the priest hole upstairs where you can witness the frightening experience of what a priest hunt was really like.

To see the exhibition, enter the house between Wednesdays-Sundays from 12.30-4.30pm. During the summer holidays, the house is open seven days a week.

Find out what you can do and see as part of this new exhibition below, and don't forget to share your experience on social media with us @NTSpekeHall.

" Not every rebellion begins with a battle cry, a charge on an open field or an outspoken allegiance filled with noise and protest. Some rebellions happen within walls, silent hollows of homes and whispered ideals of powerful and unshakeable faith."
- Tension, Turmoil and Traitors: The Story of Tudor Speke
Four things you must see

1. Experience a priest hunt

Once concealed in the corner of the Green Bedroom, the priest hole contains a fascinating insight into the life of a Catholic priest in Tudor times. Be transported back in time by our 3D audio and video recreation of a priest hunt. Listen as soldiers enter Speke Hall and watch as the priest seeks refuge up the ladder and into safety... but for how long?

2. Look up and spot the eavesdropper

Ever wonder where the term 'eavesdropper' comes from? In the courtyard, look above and you will spot a hole under the eaves where servants could listen in on visitors conversations. In a time of religious persecution, this was a way for the Norrises to find out if someone was a friend or foe.

Look up and spot the eavesdropper
Visitors looking up at the eavesdropper in Speke Hall's courtyard
Look up and spot the eavesdropper

3. Listen out for whispers in the Great Hall

In the magnificent Great Hall, you will find the whispering gallery. This was where the servants could hide away and listen to guests' conversations to decide if their presence was a threat. Come face to face with life-size silhouettes representing key characters of Elizabethan Speke Hall and discover their fascinating stories.

4. Uncover Catholic life at Speke Hall

Explore other rooms in the house to discover more about the life of a Catholic family in Elizabethan times, from the Estate Office's religious history to the traces of the Norris family's daily life in the Oak Parlour.

Our room guides are always on hand to answer any questions you may have, and you may even spot a few Tudor ladies and gentlemen making their way through the house from time to time!

Don't miss

There are plenty of other ways to delve into the story of Speke Hall's Tudor past. Follow our fun family trail that will keep the kids entertained through every room of the house, join us for our series of fascinating talks in the Great Hall or head into the courtyard to listen to an immersive sound-based artwork bringing the eavesdropper to life.

Explore the secrets of Speke Hall

Trenchers, Testers and Teeth: Family Trail

Step back in time to the year 1598. Learn to live like one of the Norris family in order to survive in our fascinating trail for the whole family to enjoy. Don't forget to collect your sticker reward from the shop!

Tudor talks in the Great Hall

Introducing the Tudors: Talks in the Great Hall

Explore all elements of Tudor life, from eavesdropping holes to bum rolls, with this series of free talks to accompany our new exhibition for 2019, 'Tension, Turmoil and Traitors: The Story of Tudor Speke'.

A visitor experiences Under the Rose at Speke Hall, Liverpool

Under the Rose

Step into the courtyard at Speke Hall from 13 March to discover a sound piece that will bring to life the hidden rebellions contained within the very fabric of Speke Hall. Inspired by priest holes, spies and eavesdroppers, artist Serena Korda has created an installation which explores the secret spaces and histories of the hall.