Newest Review: ... park is free (the car park is a fair distance from the house though) and by themselves the gardens make a really nice day out - plenty o... more
Speke Hall Garden & Estate (Liverpool)
Member Name: SugarSpun
Speke Hall Garden & Estate (Liverpool)
Advantages: A fantastic, educational day out for all the family
Disadvantages: Can be a bit expensive
Speke Hall has an unusual setting: hidden away in a suburb of Liverpool and surprisingly peaceful considering it's right next door to Liverpool Airport. Just don't look up and you'll never notice the planes. It's surrounded by huge old trees and beautiful gardens, which helps a lot in terms of dulling the noise or at least distracting attention.
The Hall was built by the Norris family between 1490 to 1612, and what's interesting is that it replaced an even earlier building - possibly the one on this site that was mentioned in the Domesday Book. It is a stunning example of an original Tudor wattle and daub timber-framed black-and-white building. The history of the Norris family (Norris Green, a suburb of Liverpool, shares the family name) is interesting in itself: they were Roman Catholics and on the wrong side of the authorities during the Tudor period after the Reformation, when Henry VIII took it upon himself to create a new church and his son and daughter took it upon themselves to burn dissenters at the stake. After the death of the last Norris heir in the early 18th century the house and estate passed through various hands until acquired by the National Trust in 1943.
I've just said it's National Trust owned, so it isn't cheap to go in. The car park is free (the car park is a fair distance from the house though) and by themselves the gardens make a really nice day out - plenty of space for kids to run around and a play area as well, and you can bring a picnic and admire the beautiful scenery.
If you're making the effort though, the house itself is definitely worth a visit. Most of the interior is open to the public with a guided and costumed tour available for an extra pound (otherwise you get a podcast, which is just not atmospheric enough), and includes a Great Hall, Great Parlour, dining rooms, a library, gun room, billiard room, servants' quarters, kitchen and numerous bedrooms. All are set around a cobbled internal courtyard containing two of the biggest trees I've ever seen, named Adam and Eve and so dense that even in winter the rain doesn't hit any people who happen to be sheltering underneath them. You can
The decoration and furnishings reflect various periods from its building to the Victorian era. There is a Priest's Hole to hide Catholic priests from the authorities, fine Jacobean furniture and ceilings, William Morris wallpaper and a superb Victorian kitchen. There's also a toilet called a thunderbox toilet, although I'm too ladylike to tell you why. There's even an alleged ghost, who comes and rocks the cradle in the nursery. The tour's given by friendly and knowledgeable volunteer staff who can answer most of the questions you throw at them and, if they can't, can give you information as to where you'll find your answers.
There are some restrictions - it's narrow and the upstairs isn't wheelchair friendly, although they do have a couple of wheelchairs available in case someone needs one. You can't bring prams or baby backpacks in, although you can borrow baby slings or carriers if you need one. Also, if you're wearing heels that are smaller than about the size of a postage stamp you're given heel covers so your shoes don't damage the original carpets. There's no photography inside, either, as far as I can remember.
The nearby Home Farm buildings have been turned into a shop, restaurant and education centre. I've no idea what the education centre is like because it's for schoolkids and I'm not one, but the restaurant serves local food and it's yummy. The Hall also has a marriage licence: we got married here earlier this year and it was incredible. The ceremony takes place in the Great Hall, and then we walked outside for champagne on the lawn. Their bad-weather plan involves Adam and Eve and the courtyard, but fortunately it wasn't needed. In any case, it was a wonderful day and the Hall and the staff were all gloriously good to us. Even the planes cooperated.
The Hall closes from mid-December to the start of March every year for cleaning and any repairs that might need doing, so check with them before turning up.
Useful information from their website, http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-vh/w-visits /w-findaplace/w-spekehall.htm:
0844 800 4799 (Infoline)
0151 427 7231
Fax: 0151 427 9860
Gift Aid Admission (Standard Admission prices in brackets):
Adult £8 (£7.27)
Child £4 (£3.63)
Family £20.50 (£18.63)
Adult £4.75 (£4.31)
Child £2.45 (£2.22)
Family £12 (£10.78)
Reduced rates when arriving by cycle, on foot or public transport
Arriva 80A, Liverpool Great Charlotte Street-Liverpool Airport (passing Liverpool South Parkway) and close Liverpool Lime Street); 500 Liverpool Lime Street-Liverpool Airport; Supertravel 886 Liverpool South Parkway-Liverpool Airport. All to within ½ mile
On north bank of Mersey, 1 mile off A561 on west Liverpool Airport. Follow airport signs from M62 exit 6, A5300; M56 exit 12
Liverpool South Parkway 2 miles; Hunt's Cross 2 miles
Summary: Historical marvel right at the airport
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