Speke Hall is one of the finest examples of black and white timberwork in England.
Sir William Norreys built a hall here soon after 1490 and the house grew over the years as additions were made to suit the needs of succeeding generations of the famiily.
In around 1520 Sir William's grandson added the screens to make the building more comfortable and as his family grew he constructed the Great Parlour in the west block. He also built the East block for his domestic staff. His son and grandson made further additions to Speke but after 1626 there were no more extensions.
The family built conservatively, each addition blending perfectly with what had gone before. The resulting building has four long, low ranges enclosing a cobbled courtyard. Jettied gables project rather haphazardly from the facades. The rough sandstone slabs covering the roof add to the crooked appearence.
The now grassy moat is crossed by an Elizabethan stone bridge and here studded wooden doors lead to the interior. In the courtyard the branches of two yew trees known as Adam and Eve rise above the house.
The 17th and 18th centuries passed Speke Hall by and the house today looks very much as it did in Elizabethan times. Inside the house the surviving Tudor interiors live up to the promise of the exterior.
The hall has a large Elizabethan fireplace with a massive carved oak mantel-beam and the walls are panelled with carved reliefs. The Great Parlour is finished with oak throughout and has a splendid early Jacobean plaster ceiling decorated with a design of fruit and flowers.
Hiding places throughout the house and a spy-hole in one of the bedrooms are a reflection of the Norris family's ardent Catholicism.
In the 17th century their sympathies led the family to ruin, resulting in the loss of their estates after the Civil War. Following the death of the last of the Norris family in 1766 Speke Hall fell into neglect.
However, in 1797 it was rescued by Richard Watt, a Liverpool man who had made a fortune in Jamaica. He bought the house and restored it with great care and discrimination. His descendants introduced the heavy oak furniture in period style which add to Speke's unique atmosphere.
The panelled Victorian rooms in the north and west wings were designed for F.R. Leyland, a shipping magnate, who leased the house after Watt's early death and continued its restoration.
Leyland was a noted patron of the arts and it was he who was responsible for the early William Morris wallpapers that are a feature of Speke Hall. Leyland also entertained the artist James McNeil Whistler at the house.
In 1944 Richard Watt's desendant, Miss Adelaide Watt, left the property to the National Trust.
Speke Hall lies hidden in wooded estate only a short distance from Liverpool airport.
There are Rose and Stream gardens and woodland walks. The great embankment that shields the property to the south has spectacular views over the Mersey estuary.