The first historical references to Speke hall dated the building to the 14th century, and as with many timber framed buildings it has continuously been added to and adapted during its history. The house owners have for most of its history been the Norris family, passing then in the 18th century to the Watt family until finally in 1944 it passed to The National Trust.
NORRIS, Thomas (1653-1700), of Speke Hall, Lancs
The Norris’s settled at Speke, seven miles from Liverpool, in the 13th century and first sat in Parliament in 1324. They were recusants during the 16th and early 17th centuries.
A Tudor mansion house with Victorian interiors, on the banks of the River Mersey.
Speke Hall was originally built in 1530 by the Norris family. The house stayed in the family until the 18th century when it was passed by marriage to the Beauclerk family who neglected it and gradually it became derelict. It was eventually sold, for the only time in its history, to a wealthy local merchant, Richard Watt.
The final owner of the house was Adelaide Watt, daughter of Richard Watt V who restored the house fully in the mid 19th century. Adelaide never married, choosing to devote her life to Speke Hall and its estate. When she died in 1921, she left it to the trustees of the original Norris family who had built the original house. She also included a second clause, bequeathing Speke to the National Trust, who took over direct management in 1986. They have been restoring the hall and work is continuing, especially on the contents and in the grounds.
Outside the house are some picturesque gardens, peaceful woodland walks and splendid views.
John Middleton was born in Hale in 1578, a normal and healthy baby of humble peasant stock. Middleton grew to a height of nine feet and three inches (2.8m), so tall, it is said, that he had to sleep with his feet sticking out of the window of his tiny cottage. Because of his ‘formidable appearance’ Middleton was employed as a bodyguard by a local landlord called Gilbert Ireland.
In 1617 1, on his way back from Scotland, King James I (James VI of Scotland) stopped to knight Ireland, and in doing so heard of his gigantic protector. Both master and servant were invited to visit the king’s court, and a fine outfit of purple, red and gold was specially made for Middleton. In London, John beat the king’s champion wrestler, and in doing so broke the man’s thumb. Embarrassed by the defeat and displeased with the amount of money many of his subjects had lost in betting on the match, James sent the Childe home with the substantial amount of £20 for his troubles. Unfortunately, jealous of his wealth, and taking advantage of his apparently slow wits, Middleton’s companions mugged him on the journey back to Hale. John Middleton returned to the village penniless and remained there until he died in 1623.
John Middletons Grave
The Cottage John Middleton lived in
Speke Hall Ghost
The ghost here is thought to be that of Mary Norris a descendant of Sir William Norreys the first owner of Speke Hall. In 1791 Mary inherited Speke Hall from her uncle, Richard Norris. Five years later Mary married Lord Sidney Beauclerk, a hopeless gambler. Lord Beauclerk enjoyed high living and indulged himself much in the London society of the day.
Mary soon fell pregnant and produced a son for Lord Beauclerk she hoped he would stop his gambling. Unfortunately this was not the case shortly after their son's birth he returned from London to announce that his recklessness had resulted in financial ruin and that they faced poverty and disgrace. In a fit of rage Mary picked up her son and threw him from the Tapestry room window to his death in the moat below. Mary then made her way to the great hall and took her own life.
It is believed to be Mary's ghost that haunts the Tapestry Room; there are references to the haunted chamber and a ghostly lady in white going back over a century. Members of staff and visitors have remarked at having seen or sensed a presence in the Tapestry room. Miss Adelaide MacGregor was one visitor who witnessed the ghost, she described seeing a translucent figure walk across the room and vanished into the wall close to a window. Later investigation of the area revealed a secret passage that led through an outer wall into the grounds.
Photograph of the Great Hall, Speke Hall, showing a ghostly figure by the doorway.
The Servants Hall
The Haunted Tapestry Room
Read more about the The-Childe-of-Hale here..