Highlights of the house

The Library at Speke Hall with William Morris wallpaper

Over the past five centuries, Speke Hall has become home to fascinating architectural features and a range of collection objects, from Richard Watt’s collection of over 200 pieces of ‘ancient’ carved oak furniture to early examples of original William Morris wallpapers.

Follow us on social media @NTSpekeHall to find out more about the fascinating collections and stories we care for. What are your favourite features or objects at Speke Hall?

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

1. Eavesdropper

Look up in the courtyard and you will spot a small hole below the eaves. In Tudor times, this was used by the Norris family and their servants to listen in on visitors’ conversations as they waited to enter. Were they a friend or a foe? As a Catholic family living under Elizabethan rule, this was one way for the Norris’s to find out.

William Morris wallpaper in the Library at Speke Hall

2. William Morris wallpaper

Feast your eyes on original William Morris wallpaper. One of Morris’s earliest designs, ‘Trellis’, is displayed throughout the downstairs corridor. In the Library, ‘Pomegranate’, adorns the walls while ‘Daisy’ can be seen peeking out from behind the books. It’s a must-see for any fans of the Arts & Crafts period.

The ladder leading to the priest hole at Speke Hall

3. Priest hole

Head upstairs to the Green Bedroom to catch a glimpse of a ladder leading up to Speke Hall's priest hole. Used by Catholic priests to escape from soldiers, this hidden roof space was built into the plans for the hall by the Catholic Norris family to provide a safe haven for local priests to evade persecution. You can even experience an audio-visual recreation of a priest hunt as part of our current exhibition.

Adam and Eve in the courtyard at Speke Hall

4. Adam and Eve

Standing tall in the courtyard, these two iconic yew trees are estimated to be around 500 years old. They are nicknamed as ‘Adam’ and ‘Eve’, as one is female and one is male, and were first recorded in 1712. The trees are evergreen so are a delight to stand beneath at any time of the year and provide a dramatic contrast to the Tudor wattle and daub walls surrounding them.

Painting of John Middleton in the Great Hall

5. Painting of the Childe of Hale

John Middleton, born in the nearby village of Hale in 1578, was said to have been over nine feet tall (though later research suggests his height was actually seven feet, six inches). An official portrait of Middleton hangs in the corner of the Great Hall and depicts the local legend - nicknamed the 'Childe of Hale' - as he supposedly looked. Don't miss the chance to explore our fun Childe of Hale play trail in the woods once you've finished touring the house.

Fossil in the Great Hall floor

6. Fossils in the Great Hall floor

Can you spot the oldest thing in the house? Encrusted in the stone flagged floor of the Great Hall are several fossils, including a Belemnite fossil from around 350 to 365 million years ago. See if you can find it as you walk around, though be careful not to be bump into anyone!

Billiard table at Speke Hall

7. Billiard table

Fancy a game of billiards? Have a go on the old billiards table and experience the life of the Leylands, Speke Hall’s owners between 1867-77. The room was a source of entertainment for the family, who brought some very high-profile guests to the hall including artists James Whistler and Dante Gabriel Rossetti.

Chaise longue, prior to restoration

8. Chaise Longue

Restored in 2018, the beautiful chaise longue can be found upstairs alongside a fascinating video documenting its restoration. It was part of an opulent set of bedroom furniture owned by Adelaide Watt during her time living at Speke. It was brought back to life thanks to the generous support of our visitors.

The Overmantel in the Oak Parlour

9. Overmantel

Carved in around 1567, the overmantel in the Oak Parlour depicts three generations of the Norris family. It also serves as the only known portrait of Sir William Norris II, who established the family at Speke and began the long tradition of representing Liverpool in Parliament in 1544. Regardless of the history, it’s an incredible piece of craftsmanship.

Oak Parlour ceiling at Speke Hall

10. Jacobean ceiling

This magnificent plaster ceiling also in the Oak Parlour dates from around 1612 and is made of fifteen panels that are each quite different, depicting roses, irises, pomegranates, hazelnuts or grapes, while the beams are covered with hops and honeysuckle. Look carefully and see if you can find the hidden bird and snake…