Speke, John Hanning, 1827-64, English explorer in Africa. He joined Sir Richard Burton in his expeditions to Somaliland (1854) and to E central Africa (1857-59). Together they discovered (1858) Lake Tanganyika; then Speke continued alone and discovered Lake Victoria, which he believed to be a source of the Nile. In 1862 he returned to the lake and proved that the Victoria Nile issues from the north end over Ripon Falls. He wrote Journal of the Discovery of the Source of the Nile (1863).

See biography by A. Maitland (1971).

Speke (pronounced Speak) is an area of the City of Liverpool, in Merseyside, England, close to the boundaries of the Metropolitan Borough of Knowsley. It is south east of the city centre and to the west of the town of Widnes.


The name derives from the Old English Spec, meaning 'brushwood'. It was known as Spec in the Domesday Book, which gave Speke Hall as one of the properties held by Uctred. (Speke Hall is a Tudor wood framed house that is now open to the public.)

Until the 1930s, Speke was a small village with a population of 400; by the end of the 1950s more than 25,000 people were living in the area. Photographs of the village changing into the estate can be seen on the website of All Saints Church, Speke which was built by the last resident owner of Speke Hall, Miss Adelaide Watt.

From 1795 until 1921, the Speke estate had belonged to the Watt family; when the family died out, the estate was placed in trust. It was bought by the Liverpool Corporation in 1928 for £200,000; the Corporation's intention was to build a complete self-contained satellite town (this was at a time when the garden city movement was underway). The parish of Speke became part of the county borough of Liverpool in 1932, having previously been part of the Whiston Rural District.

Constructed between 1930 and 1933, by the start of World War II, Speke Airport was the second busiest in the UK. Retention of control by the Ministry of Civil Aviation in London postwar meant that it had lost its leading position in the UK during the 1950s.

The industrial rise of Speke continued until the mid-1970s, when an equally rapid decline ensued. The closure of the Bryant and May match factory was a noted example of these problems, as was the closure of the Triumph car plant. It has retained a large pharmaceutical plant however, which is currently owned by Novartis.

When the 2000 Index of Multiple Deprivation was published, Speke was revealed to be the second most deprived ward in England and Wales (out of 8414). Only Benchill in Manchester had a higher level of deprivation.


Speke is known for Speke Hall, a Tudor wood framed house now owned by the National Trust and open to the public. It is also notable as the location of Liverpool John Lennon Airport, known until 2001 as Liverpool Speke Airport. From the mid-1990s, the re-development of the original airport site, enabled by the construction of the new airport complex and runway, had left land available for the construction of a business park. The completion of the A5001 road consolidated the rise of the airport and improved communications in the area.

The New Mersey Retail Park was re-developed in 1999 from an older retail site. It houses many large retail and textile outlets as well as mainstream restaurants. The New Mersey Retail Estate is situated between Speke and Garston, directly opposite to the Old Liverpool Airport main terminal building, which is now a hotel complex.

The Ford car plant at Halewood transferred to Jaguar & Land Rover production in 2002.

Officially switched on on 15 December 2003, the Mersey Wave is 200ft long and 100ft high, equivalent to seven double-decker buses in length and 30ft taller than the Angel of the North at Gateshead. Designed by Peter Fink, the landmark is an illuminated sculpture comprising of two sets of six aluminium fins. Within weeks of installation it was removed due to its metal fins moving incorrectly in strong winds. The Mersey Wave was rebuilt in June 2005 and is visible from as far as Winter Hill, Horwich, Greater Manchester.

Recent developments in Speke have seen a multi-million pound Morrisons superstore, situated directly next to the A561 Speke Boulevard (locally known as 'The Ford Road'), which is located only metres away from the Mersey Wave.

Football Club:Speke South Liverpool, a local amateur football side, was originally founded at the Austin Rawlinson Sports Centre, Speke. However, late 2005 saw the club relocate a short distance away to Mossley Hill.


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