Growing up at Speke Hall
By Paul Coslett
As previously unseen areas of Speke Hall prepare to open to the public one of the houses last residents recalls life growing up in the house.
Areas of Speke Hall which have been closed to the public for over 400 years are to be opened up as the National Trust looks to develop displays in the houseís East Wing.
Speke Hallís East Wing housed male and female servants bedrooms, the Butlerís pantry and the housekeeping room.
From the 1920ís to 1940ís it was also home to Tom Whatmore whose father was butler to Speke Hallís last owner.
Much of Tomís childhood was spent living in the East Wing of the hall, "The family moved in to here in 1926 and I lived here for the next 20 years.
"I was four years old when I came here so it was just like home, I never knew really anything else but this place.
"This was our home and the East Wing was our living accommodation."
Tom Whatmore at his old bedroom door
Tomís father Thomas Whatmore moved to the hall in 1920 as butler to Adelaide Watt who lived at Speke Hall from 1878, "In 1921 Adelaide Watt died and left Speke Hall in trust for 21 years and by 1926 the house had been emptied of staff.
ďThe trustees asked my father if heíd stay on as custodian of Speke Hall for the rest of the trust period which would have gone on to 1942, but because of the war went on longer.
"Nothing was blocked off, it was sort of cocooned, pretty well as it is today and the house was open to us, and we just used it as a house."
The area around Speke Hall in the 1920ís was very different to how it is now, "It was absolutely countryside,Ē says Tom who shared his childhood there with his brother.
ďThe old airport wasnít here, that didnít open until 1932.
"I could ride my bike anywhere for miles around here, even at all times of night."
Tom Whatmore recalls childhood at Speke HallďSo it was all countryside, I could ride my bike anywhere for miles around here, even at all times of night.Ē
"We had the run of the house and I suppose we did things that we shouldnít have done.
"In actual fact we used to roller skate round the bottom corridors.
"We rode our bikes in the moat up and down the banks.
"There was nobody here to stop us."
More recently the East Wing has been used as accommodation for National Trust staff; Tomís old bedroom is currently a kitchen.
Servant bells in the East Wing
Jessica Monaghan is Speke Hallís Community and Learning Officer; she says the National Trust is asking visitors how they would like to see the East Wing used in future, "We're on the verge of a very exciting project.
"We would like visitors this season to tell us how the rooms in the the East Wing might be interpreted - for example - recreated as the original servants' quarters; or perhaps containing reproduction items which tell the history of the rooms and which can be picked up and handled.
"Or,we might consider using the rooms as interactive learning spaces and a gallery for exhibitions."
Tom Whatmore thinks that opening up the last hidden area of Speke Hall is a great idea and would like to see the area returned to its original state, "The National Trust is making a tremendous job of it and when they open this East Wing I think it will be marvellous.
"Especially if they open it as servantís quarters. Iíd like it to be re-equipped as servantís quarters with the beds and all that sort of thing."
Speke Hall opens to the public again on 16 March, 2008. The house is open Sundays to Wednesdays until the autumn.
last updated: 11/03/2008 at 17:25