Mystery at Speke Hall: How former pupils at Liverpool school returned 50 years later to solve puzzle

It was just a few weeks ago that Granada Reports was invited to film behind-the-scenes at the Tudor mansion Speke Hall, where renovation work was being undertaken.

But while we were there, one of the fascinating stories that was thrown up, was the discovery of three wooden carved heads.

One of three carved wooden heads recovered from the gables of Speke Hall Credit: ITV

They'd been recovered from the gables at the north range of the building, in desperate need of repair.

But experts at the National Trust had no idea whether they were original Tudor artefacts or perhaps as new as 1969.

You see, what they already knew, was that back in the 1960s, school children from a local school had been drafted in to re-carve one of the original bargeboards on the same front elevation.

The question was - had they carved the wooden heads as well?

Video report by Correspondent Mel Barham:

Well, following the report being aired on Granada Reports a few weeks ago, one of those former pupils got in touch, and we brought them back to see their handiwork 50 years on, and see if they could shed any light on the mysterious wooden heads.

Original newspaper cutting from 1969 when pupils at Gateacre comprehensive re-carved bargeboard

Pupils at Gateacre comprehensive had been drafted in to help re-carve the original bargeboard thanks to their metalwork teacher Mr Stephens.

More than 50 years on, three of those pupils, Owen Evans, Derek Watling and Dave Butler were invited up the scaffolding at Speke Hall to see their handiwork up close.

Three former pupils return to Speke Hall to see the bargeboard they carved back in 1969 Credit: ITV Granada

"To see it today, in such good condition, is absolutely superb, it's brilliant" said Dave Butler.

The pupils were just 15 and 16-years-old when they carved the new bargeboard.

Pupils at Gateacre comprehensive spent several weeks carving the new bargeboard back in 1969

"I visited Speke Hall a few times and always looked up at the house and wondered which is the bargeboard I worked on, but to see it close up today after all those years, it's wonderful" said Owen Evans.

(From left to right) Owen Evans, Dave Butler and Derek Watling. The three former pupils were among a number who re-carved the bargeboard

"It's the first time we've seen it, and this close. (Back then) we were paranoid of doing any damage and going too far but a couple of weeks into it we were quite proficient, there was an element of yeah we can do this", commented Derek Watling.

Owen Evans (left) carving part of the bargeboard back in 1969

But the big question is, could these three former pupils solve the mystery once and for all as to the origin of the three wooden heads?

As senior building surveyor at the National Trust, Tim Marshall, carefully revealed the wooden heads to our three former pupils outside the hall, that question was answered:

The National Trust are now confident the heads weren't carved by pupils at Gateacre Comprehensive.

But the mystery still isn't solved.

Tim Marshall continued, "Our team will be doing further research to see what can be found out about them. We can have the timber tested to see if we can date it and also look at the style of carvings on the heads, that can help tell what era the heads are from. So there's quite a bit of work to do and research to do but hopefully we will solve the mystery in the end."

  • WATCH the original report:

Mystery surrounding wooden carved heads at Speke Hall and how a Liverpool school could hold the key