Knowsley Hall

Knowsley Hall

Knowsley Hall - 1880

Knowsley Hall - 1880


Knowsley Hall is a stately home near Liverpool in the Metropolitan Borough of Knowsley, Merseyside, England. Since 1953 it has been designated a Grade II* listed building, and is the ancestral home of the Stanley family, the Earls of Derby. The hall is surrounded by 2,500 acres (10 km2) of parkland, which contains the Knowsley Safari Park. The hall is still owned by the Stanley family but is no longer a family home and instead used for functions such as corporate events, conferences and weddings.

Originally Knowsley was a medieval hunting lodge in the estate of Lathom House. It was inherited by the 10th Earl in 1702 who developed the lodge into a large house. A dairy (since demolished) was designed by Robert Adam, 1776-77. The house was given Gothic castellations and extended further about 1820 to designs by John Foster, William Burn (who provided a boathouse and bridges in the park) and other architects. In the early 20th century it was "tidied up" by W. H. Romaine-Walker for the 17th Earl. After the Second World War, the buildings were considerably reduced by Claud Phillimore, and ceased to be lived in by the family. A smaller - but still substantial - family residence was built in the park.

Thomas Stanley was rewarded with the title of Earl Derby in 1485 by Henry VII as a reward for his support at the Battle of Bosworth Field which led to Henry's gaining the crown. The title was taken from the area in South Lancashire called West Derby (and not from the city of Derby). In 1495 Thomas entertained Henry VII at Lathom House and at Knowsley, which was then still a hunting lodge. Thomas, the second Earl, fought with Henry VIII at the Battle of the Spurs in 1513.

Ferdinando, the fifth Earl, was a poet and a patron of writers, including William Shakespeare. He held the position of Earl for only one year before dying from arsenic poisoning. James, seventh Earl, was involved in the Civil War as a Royalist supporter of Charles I. Charlotte, his wife, withstood a siege at Lathom Hall for ten weeks in 1644. James fought with Charles I at the Battle of Worcester, was taken prisoner and beheaded at Bolton. He became known as the "Martyr Earl".

The massive rebuilding of Knowsley in the early 18th century was carried out by James, the tenth Earl who had become wealthy through his marriage. Edward, the twelfth Earl had a great interest in horseracing and founded the Derby and the Oaks horseraces. He created the State Dining Room for the visit of George IV in 1820–21. In the grounds of Knowsley he maintained a menagerie which contained 94 different species of mammals and 318 species of birds, many of which were rare and valuable. Edward, the 13th Earl created a large library of works relating to natural history and was a champion of Edward Lear, whom he commissioned to paint animals from the menagerie.

Edward, the 14th Earl was a politician who became Prime Minister three times. He was responsible for steering the Slavery Abolition Act through Parliament and in his third administration the Second Reform Bill was passed. The political tradition was maintained by Frederick, the 16th Earl who became President of the Board of Trade and later was appointed Governor General of Canada. While in Canada he presented the Stanley Cup, the country's premier trophy for ice hockey.

Also a politician, Edward George Villiers, the 17th Earl, was Secretary of State for War for two periods, first during the First World War and again from 1922 to 1924. Between these periods he was Ambassador to France. He was also interested in horseracing, winning the Derby three times and owning the successful stallion Hyperion. He was responsible for the major alterations to the house by Romaine-Walker.

Edward John, the 18th Earl was awarded the Military Cross in the Second World War, and after the war he reduced the hall to a more manageable size. He founded Knowsley Safari Park in 1971. Restoration of the hall has been continued by Edward Richard William, the 19th and current Earl and his wife, Caroline Emma Neville, daughter of Lord Braybrooke. The family do not live in the hall but in the New House in the grounds near the hall.

*  Architecture.  *

  • Exterior.
  • The house consists of a long wing running north-south dating originally from the 1720s to 1737 (the east wing) and at right angles to the west is the south wing, dating originally from around 1495. At the west end of this wing is a detached structure, the Dynamo Tower. The east wing is Georgian in style, built in red brick with stone dressings. The south wing and Dynamo Tower are built in ashlar red sandstone. The oldest part of the south wing is known as the Royal Lodging. On its north side, facing the courtyard, are two round turrets with conical roofs. This face has nine bays with tall sash windows which are divided into groups of three by the towers.

    The west side of the east wing, which faces the courtyard, has a total of 19 bays, with seven bays in a central section and six bays on each side. It consists of two storeys over a basement with an attic storey over the middle section. Above the central section is a pediment on the summit of which is sculpture of the eagle and child (the Stanley emblem).

    The east face of the east wing is particularly long. At the north end are four bays in two storeys; the centre is of nine bays in 2½ storeys; and at the south end are 16 bays, also in 2½ storeys but one storey lower because the land falls away to the south. At the south end of the east wing is a "handsome" two-storey, five-bay stone "portico or loggia" with paired Doric columns on the lower storey and paired fluted Ionic columns above. The east wing then jumps back with six bays facing west until it joins the south wing.

  • Interior.
  • This section describes mainly the rooms which are normally open to the public.
  • The Entrance Hall is panelled in carved oak and is hung with early 18th-century paintings of the house and the park.
  • The Grand Staircase has a collection of oil paintings on leather.
  • The morning room is a light family room overlooking the gardens and parkland.
  • The Breakfast Room has pale blue panels with paintings, one of which is a portrait of Charlotte, wife of the 7th Earl.
  • The Walnut Drawing-Room contains a number of portraits, including one of the second wife of the 12th Earl, the actress Elizabeth Farren.
  • The library contains a collection of books on natural history brought together by the 13th Earl.
  • The Stucco Room, decorated in Rococo style, was created in the 18th century to link the Royal Lodging with the rest of the house and is now a ballroom with a sprung floor.
  • The State Dining Room is hung with portraits of family members. The room was designed by Foster to look like a great hall with doors 30 feet (9 metres) high and contains two Gothic fireplaces and an ormolu chandelier. It was reworked in 1890, adding a bay window, a carved dado and a roof consisting of a large rectangular lantern supported on brackets which is glazed round its sides. The hall now measures 53 by 37 feet (16 by 11 metres) and is 50 feet (15 metres) high.
  • *  Parkland.  *

    This consists of an area of approximately 2,500 acres (10 km2) surrounded by a stone wall 9 1⁄2 miles (15 km) long. It has been registered by English Heritage at Grade II. The park was landscaped in the 1770s by "Capability" Brown, who flooded a 62 acres (25 ha) lake to feed the water-gardens around the hall. The southeast section of the park was made into a safari park in 1971. To the east and northeast of the hall is a chain of lakes, White Man's Dam, the Octagon Pond and the Home Pond. The Octagon was built as a summer house in 1755 and designed by Robert Adam.

    The park contains a number of buildings. These include the New House which was built for the 18th Earl and his family, by Phillimore in 1963 in Neo-Georgian style, the stables to the north of the hall which were designed by William Burn in the 1840s, the boathouse of 1837, also by William Burn, the Nest, Home Farm, and a number of lodges. The parkland also contains the highest point in Knowsley Unitary Authority, 100 metres above sea level.

    Apart from the Safari Park being a tourist attraction, the hall and its grounds are used for a number of purposes. The hall can be booked for conferences and corporate events, and for private events. It is licensed for weddings. Events are held in the grounds to raise money for local charities.

    **  Knowsley Safari Park.  **

    The park was opened in July 1971 by Edward Stanley, 18th Earl of Derby and Jimmy Chipperfield using the expertise of General Manager Laurence Tennant MBE, formerly the Chief Game Warden of Parks in Uganda and Botswana. Initially the road through the park was 3.5 miles (5.6 km), with visitors driving past lions, cheetahs, monkeys, giraffes, zebra, elephants and various antelope. Due to the popularity of this route, an additional 1.5 miles (2.4 km) of road was added in 1973, and camels, buffalo, white rhino, and tigers were added to the park. Over the years, a few modifications have been made. For instance, tigers are now displayed in enclosures within the reserve, and a bypass around the baboons was built for visitors who are worried about damage to their cars.

    he park was also home to a former RAF airfield which closed at the end of World War II. The RAF airbase situated at the safari park was also known as No 49 SLG or RAF Knowsley Park and was in use between 13 May 1942 – November 1944. The park has hosted several sporting events including the Olympic torch relay, watched by 6,000 children and families in June 2012. The park hosted the finish of Stage Two of the 2012 Tour of Britain cycling event and Stage Three of the 2013 Tour on Tuesday 17 September.

    Most recently it hosted the final leg of Big Learner Relay 2017 which has raised over £300,000 for the BBC Children In Need appeal since 2014. Louise Walsh the inspiration behind the BLR has been awarded the prime minister's Points of Light award which recognises outstanding individual volunteers.

    In 1995 Mr William Middleton, a warden at the park, was crushed and paralyzed due to a faulty elephant enclosure. Mr Middleton died 12 years later due to complications caused by his injuries.

    Situated around Knowsley Hall on the ancestral estate of the Earl of Derby, the reserve is home to many different animals including elephants, giraffes, lions, bongos, tigers and baboons. The Derby Estate have a tradition of keeping animals, ever since the famous artist and nonsense-poet Edward Lear was employed there in the 19th century to paint pictures of the Earl's collection.

  • Baboons.
  • The park is open to the public and customers drive around the park in their own vehicles. There is a bypass route past the baboons for those who wish to avoid the risk of the baboons damaging their cars. In 2009 the baboons made the news all over the world when a video was released showing how they were intelligent and curious enough to open car roofboxes.
  • The Equatorial Trail.
  • This exhibit focuses on animals who thrive in habitats around the Earth's Equator. The exhibit also houses the 'Equatorial Express', a small train which visitors can ride to gain a unique viewpoint of the animals. 4 completely different species of animals are housed in this exhibit, the South American tapir, Sitatunga, Rhea (bird) and the Capybara.
  • African Elephant.
  • The park houses a herd of 4 adult cows named Tana, Ashanti, Nala and Juba. They currently do not house a bull elephant; however, they have the facilities such as a separated bull pen for musth periods and a separated outdoor paddock with an electrical fence running down the middle. Knowsley previously housed a bull named Nissim, who collapsed in June 2014. Knowsley also recently lost their cow named Shaba due to a long battle with elephant arthritis.
  • Southern White Rhinoceros.
  • Knowsley's crash of 11 adult rhinos is one of the most successful and genetically diverse breeding groups in Europe. The latest calf (as at 4 June 2016), Nomvula (Mother of Rain - a reference to the recent wet weather), born to mum Meru and is the 19th to be born at the facility in the last 40 years. Nomvula is Meru's 6th calf and was born on 2 January 2016.

    Safari Drive

    The Safari Drive is the park's main attraction and contains over 29 species of animals in 7 zones.

  • Zone 1
  • This zone contains: Père David's deer, Fallow deer, Kiang and Bactrian camel.
  • Zone 2
  • Otherwise known as the 'Carnivore loop' This zone contains: Siberian tiger, Lion, Iberian wolf and the Somali wild ass. Previously housed African wild dog.
  • Zone 3
  • This zone contains: Chital, Bongo (antelope), Blackbuck, Nilgai, Eld's deer, Emu and Barasingha.
  • Zone 4+8
  • This zone contains: Roan antelope, Scimitar oryx, Ankole-Watusi, Lechwe and Blesbok.
  • Zone 5
  • This zone contains exclusively the Olive baboon, which are famous for removing windscreen wipers and other appendages off vehicles. There is a car-friendly route which totally removes this zone however is still visible from outside the perimeter. This leads directly to zone 6.
  • Zone 6
  • Zone 6 is over 100 acres and contains over a mile of road. It is one of Knowsley's two white rhino paddocks and is one of the largest in the UK. This zone contains: Southern white rhinoceros, Common eland, Ostrich, Blue wildebeest and the Plains zebra.
  • Zone 7
  • This zone contains: Southern white rhinoceros, Waterbuck, Common eland and African forest buffalo. All information correct and sourced from the Knowsley Safari Guide Book 2015.

    Railway and other attractions.

    The park features a 15 in (381 mm) gauge railway, 'The Lakeside Railway', on which visitors may tour parts of the site. There is also a collection of amusements and fairground rides on site plus paintballing, off-road driving challenges, and aerial extreme ropewalks.

    A baboon house was added in 2006, along with African wild dogs that same year, a lion and tiger house in 2007. Red river hogs and marmosets were also added to the walkaround section, as well as an outdoor pool.

    ** Visiting **

    Home to the 19th Earl and Countess of Derby, Knowsley Hall has been in the ownership of the Stanley family since 1385. It is believed that a building of sorts has been on the current Hall’s site since the 12th century. However, today’s building dates, in part, from about 1495 with a later Georgian wing and some extremely fine Victorian and Edwardian interiors.

    The tour of Knowsley Hall lasts approximately 1 and ½ hours and incorporates the 600-year-long history of the Stanley family and the Earls of Derby as well as the history of the Hall, Park and Estate. Guests will be guided through all the State Rooms, including the Entrance Hall, Grand Staircase, Library, Walnut Drawing Room, Stucco Room and State Dining Room, amongst others. The rooms are furnished and decorated with items from the Derby Collection, highlights of which will be revealed along the way. From the rooms on the east side of the house, magnificent views of the surrounding gardens can be seen.

    For a guided tour of the Hall numbers must be for a minimum of 20 and they can accommodate up to a maximum of 30 with prices at £15 per person.

  • If you wish to add refreshments to your tour we offer the following options:
  • Group Tour with Tea & Biscuits £17.75 per person
  • Group Tour and Afternoon Tea £40 per person
  • Group Tour with Executive Chef’s hot and cold buffet lunch £60 per person
  • Group Tour with gala lunch (menu price upon application depending on your choice of food)
  • Call their team on 0151 489 4827 to check availability for your group tour.

    From time to time The Sisters are requested to allow various groups of disabled people and their carers to share Ince Blundell Hall and surroundings for the day. These activities are allowed with the permission of the residents who often find the event adds interest to their day.

    Safari Park

    Parking for people with disabilities. There are five dedicated parking places for those with disabilities adjacent to the entrance by the coach park. There is no kerb between the parking area and the walk around area entrance.

    Wheelchair / pushchair friendly entrance. The walk around area is on one level with ramped access at all kerbs. A wheelchair is also available for loan from the restaurant.

    Accessible toilet and baby changing facilities. There are two unisex accessible toilets in the courtyard beside the shop and restaurant, a separate baby changing room, and a further two disabled toilets beside the car park towards the entrance of the safari drive. All WC’s also contains baby changing facilities.

    Assistance dogs. Guide and hearing dogs are welcome to accompany their owners around the park. A water bowl can be provided. Assistance dogs are allowed access to pedestrian areas but not the animal areas. They are not allowed in the safari drive for safety reasons.

    Family friendly. They provide baby changing facilities and they are happy to warm bottles or baby food for visitors using the cafe. The cafe aims to offer a range of child-friendly healthy snacks.

    Viewing areas. All viewing areas are accessible by wheelchairs and pushchairs, with the exception of the giraffe platform. Access to the equatorial viewing and elephant viewing platforms is via the giraffe house. Wheelchair spaces are available in the sea lion display – regrettably pushchairs and prams are not permitted in the sea lion auditorium.

    Equatorial Express and Baboon Bus. They provide a separate carriage for wheelchair users on the Equatorial Express railway and our Baboon Bus can be converted to allow one wheelchair (please provide 48 hours’ notice to allow conversion).

    Pets. They no longer allow dogs in any area of the safari park, for the safety of all animals. There is on-site accommodation for pets away from the main animal enclosures. Assistance dogs are allowed access to pedestrian areas but not the animal areas. They are not allowed in the safari drive for safety reasons.


    Location : Knowsley Hall, Prescot, Merseyside L34 4AJ

    Transport: Prescot (National Rail) then bus or taxi. Bus routes 10, 289, 297 and 780 OR 530 Safari Xpress leaves from Liverpool City Centre at 10:00.

    Opening Times: Safari Park, Daily 10:00 to 17:00

    Tickets : Knowsley Hall see above.

    Tickets : Safari Park - Adults £14.00;   Children (3-15) + OAPs £10.80.

    Tel: 0151 489 4827