The first historical references to Speke hall date the building to the 14th century, and as with many timber framed buildings it has continuously been added to and adapted during its history.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.

The Central heating system - has been installed in two phases, the first phase installed in 1895 used cast iron socket and spigot pipework serving various sizes of pipe coil type heaters located mainly in corridors and hallways etc. These pipe coil heaters are of a size and style not found in any other of The National Trust properties visited to date. Of particular interest was the large size pipe coil heater fitted in the Great Hall [4 rows each 10 pipes high].

A selection of the 4 different size pipe coil heaters

Four rows wide by
ten pipes high


One row wide by
nine pipes high

Three rows wide by
nine pipes high

The only pedestal enclosure for a pipe coil heater was sited in the entrance passage

There are only a few valves fitted in the heating pipework of the first phase which control the system, but one valve is of considerable interest. In the entrance passage of the building is an oblique pattern globe valve complete with side mounted indicator scale. This scale is used to assist in setting  the valve to regulate the flow of water. This type of valve being fitted to regulate an original  gravity circulation system is highly unusual and has never been noted in any other heating system of similar age.  The valve’s manufacturer could be indicated by the letters H&S  HX which are stamped on the body of the valves. The initials H&S must indicate that the manufacturer of the valves was the firm of Hartley & Sugden of Halifax. 

The second, later phase of the heating system was most likely installed in the 1910's, and serves the perimeter rooms of the building using steel pipe with wrought iron fittings, feeding the more conventional type cast iron sectional radiators.


This pattern of cast iron sectional radiator was made by the National Radiator Company  from their Ideal two column Plain range.


Both phases of the heating system appear to have been installed by C.Seward of Lancaster [and Preston], whose name is embossed on the end headers of most of the cast iron pipe coil heaters and also in the air vent plugs of the sectional radiators.

Some of the wrought iron fittings bear the inscription ‘L&L’.  This is presumably the maker’s trade mark. as seen in the 1894 trade advertisement of Lloyd & Lloyd shown below.


The Domestic Hot Water System is restricted to the ground floor Kitchen and Scullery area. An Ideal Domestic Boiler size 14D suitable for solid fuel made by the National Radiator Company is installed in the Kitchen.

An observation of the domestic distribution pipework found the tubing to be heavy gauge copper with screwed fittings. This is an unusual system of pipework for domestic hot water but could be explained by the fact that it pre-dated  the introduction of light gauge copper tubing with capillary or compression type fittings.

Ice storage box.   In the kitchen is a floor standing timber ice box, with opening top lid which revealed a galvanised lined cabinet with various sized galvanised storage trays. The nameplate  on the box was the Liverpool ice supplier. 

An interesting connection of the London Warming & Ventilating Co Ltd, the maker of the Kitchen range at Speke Hall shows it to be the same firm that made the Gurney warm air stoves used to heat Cathedrals and Abbeys.

Although the original 1930's electrical installation has long since been removed and upgraded, the original distribution board complete with its main isolators and switchgear has been preserved and remained untouched hidden away in a cupboard. The schematic diagram of the electrical system is also to be found in the cupboard.

The Oil Engine


A recently restored old Hornsby Oil Engine now in excellent working condition and fully operational, has been fitted in the restored Engine House. This engine driving through the original old line shafts and pulleys (with new belts) will now operate a pillar drill which will be used as a working exhibit in the adjacent Workshop. This exhibit will help to bring back life to the ‘Home Farm’and provide an example of Victorian working farm machinery .

The engine No. 48343 has a 9 inch diameter cylinder  and 18 inch stroke.
It operates at 200 rpm with a rating of 18 HP.

It is only through the dedication and personal time given by engineers Ron Whitfield, Eric Coates and the late Tom Ellis-Jones to this oil engine restoration project, that will enable people to again witness this wonderful example of Victorian craftmanship in action. 

MARCH  2004