Speke Hall was a place of adventure and escape for kids from the Speke estate, encapsulating the split personality of Speke, on one side the factories, Fords, Standard Triumph, Evans Medical, Metal Box, and Dunlops. On the other side the river, farmers fields and the distinctly rural feel of Hale village, a weird combination that was always part of, but outside the city of Liverpool- Speke Hall was part of that- a Tudor mansion next to the biggest industrial estate in Europe.
While Speke Hall was a metaphorical escape for us as kids, the escape was real for fleeing Catholic priests in the Elizabethan era. The earliest parts of the house were built in 1530 by the catholic Norris family. Guides happily showed visiting schoolkids the priest hiding places while regaling us with details of the punishments meted out to captured priests. I did wonder if the descriptions were more graphic for kids from catholic schools.
Although raised a catholic I was always a little jealous that Protestants had Cromwell and the English revolutionists, and it was a lesson in the nature of the merchant/middle class/parliamentary revolution to understand how Cromwell could be on the progressive side of the struggle in England, while being such a bloodthirsty oppressor of the Irish. Democracy meant power for the rising class of ‘gentlemen’ of England. Not the peasants in England, Ireland, or in Jamaica for that matter, as later owners of Speke Hall from 1795 the Watt family made its money from slave operated sugar and rum plantations. Wherever we are in Liverpool, the age of Empire is never far away, the brutality of its existence was not only felt abroad but by those disempowered at home.
For many years it has felt like the airport has been swallowing Speke Hall now owned by the National Trust. Built on land from the Tudor estate it has grown over the years from a somewhat noisy neighbour into an overgrown child who has taken over the house. Maybe a child that has got too big for its boots?
Peel holdings the owners of JLA have expansion plans that threaten not just the environment of Speke hall but large parts of current greenbelt land around Oglet Shore. When we get over covid 19 the next challenge is the global climate crisis, society has shown it can make huge shifts in practise and habits when the will and the motivation are clear. Maybe this is the most optimistic sign that things won’t go back to the way they were, and Speke Hall can go back to quietly scaring schoolkids.
Sign The petition to Save Oglet Shore or circulate to friends and family here