Bidston Hall is largely associated at the main residence of William Stanley, 6th Earl of Derby, and is set
to date back to around 1533. William also lived for a period of time at Leasowe Castle which was built
by his older brother Ferdinando. Ferdinando and William were both sons of Henry the 4th Earl of Derby.
The layout of Bidston hall with terrace, forecourt and gateway, and central hall is typical Jacobean. We
know that there was a “Goodly house” at Bidston in 1616 and that the Earl “Enlargeth the convenience
therein for his pleasure and abode many ways”. This suggests rebuilding and must be seen in the
context of a general trend during the period.
There is some evidence that Henry 4th Earl of Derby, and his wife Lady Margaret Clifford may have used
a house at Bidston after there marriage in 1555. The evidence of masons marks on the external stone
work suggests an earlier building. The same mark also appears on the Elizabethan part of Stonehurst
in Lancashire built in 1588 – 1596. The masons marks are in almost exactly the same position on both
of the buildings. Henry was very friendly with Sir Richard Sherborne, the builder of Stonyhurst. It may
be that during alterations to Bidston Hall in the 1620’s older masonry from an earlier construction was
The house is built from yellow sandstone; the front approach is through a square court, with a
handsome gateway having a singular arch highly ornamented with the cognizance’s of the Derby family
which have been described as wine flagons or inverted glasses. There is a legend that the hall
changes hands, in the 17th century, over a game of cards, as if to confirm this, an old summer house
which stood to the North East was built in the shape of an ace of clubs.
Bidston Hall eventually possessed four parallel gabled roofs, containing attic rooms in the 17th century.
These were removed in the 19th century and at the same time the chimneys were lowered. The porch
shows renaissance influences in its design and opens directly into the central hall. The central hall has
a beautiful period flagged floor, however a modern fireplace has been fitted which brings down the
ambiance of this room. The two front rooms and the North and South end of the building (formerly the
kitchen and parlour) have been completely modernised. The present kitchen occupies the whole of the
South end of the building. A stone stair way leads to the upper floor, where there are eight rooms, the
largest of which is over the hall. Originally there was only one large room over the hall. The two rooms
at the North end of the building preserve the original arrangement of the ground floor that is with a
passage in between. At one time the Eastern face of the Hall, the loggia or recessed walk, was blocked
up. It has now been restored, and it has been suggested that this may have once formed an open
piazza for the performance of plays. The cellar has been called “An underground dungeon” and was
probably entered by ladder.
The present form of the house is largely due to the efforts of the late Harold Max Faulkner, in the late
sixties. The restoration of Bidston hall, by this time rotten and neglected, was Faulkners labour of love.
Although primarily interested in old buildings, Faulkner campaigned for the preservation of our heritage,
a one day vital link with our English character and way of life, and wished to preserve Bidstons charm
Faulkners ideas were summarised in his self financed dossier “Appeal for Survival”, published in June
1971. This is a fascinating manual of initiative and enterprise, and should be read by anyone interested
not only in Bidston, but in the preservation of our heritage generally. Bidston Hall was more recently
occupied by Sir Robert Vyner who also gave the land on Bidston Hill for the observatory to be built.
The information above has been quoted directly from "The Search for Old Wirral" by David Randall.
I would recommend this book for anyone interested in local history.
The 1595 Bill of Complaint
Further information available on the hall shows a formal complaint and court case between a
gamekeeper and a gang of poachers. The Poacher was called Nicholas Miller, henchman to Edward
Ravenscroft who came from Prenton. The game keeper William Fells was employed by Lady Margaret,
Countess of Derby, to look after her Bidston Estates. Edward Trewman was called upon to assist in the
apprehension of the Poacher, by the Game Keeper. Thomas Newton and the local constable Richard
Taylor also assisted in the incident. The offence took place in August 1595. Fisticuffs and weapons were
used culminating in the arrest of the Poacher. Presumably the taking of deer was the root cause of all
this. There is still a written complaint to the court by the Poacher through Edward Ravenscroft, and the
defendants reply to this is said to be in “flowery language of the time”.
Click the images below to enlarge: