A man holding up a painting of an owl in the Library at Knowsley Hall

History & Culture

The Derby Collection

For hundreds of years the Derby family have significantly contributed to world history. During your private stay you will have the opportunity to see the extraordinary watercolours of exotic birds and animals that Edward Lear, the famous poet painted in the gardens of the Knowsley Estate whilst he lived and worked on the Estate in the 1830’s. Whilst spending time with the Earls grand children Lear wrote the legendary nonsense poem ‘The Owl & The Pussy Cat’.

Discover the fascinating links between the Earls of Derby and Shakespeare as evidence suggests that Shakespeare visited Knowsley Hall during the 1600’s and performed ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ at the 6th Earls wedding in front of Queen Elizabeth I.

Knowsley’s historic connection to William Shakespeare, through the support he received from the Earls of Derby, sets the scene for the Shakespeare North Playhouse in nearby Prescot, which opened in Summer 2022. This brings with it the opportunity to combine your stay at Knowsley Hall with performances of Shakespeare’s most famous plays set in a 350 seat theatre modelled on the authentic cockpit-in-court design popular during the Elizabethan era.

This undeniably enchanting connection between the Earls of Derby and Shakespeare provide an appealing historical connection to what will be a truly modern cultural asset for the north of England.

You can read all about our illustrious history here.

English Heritage at its most magical. Sitting in the most gorgeous countryside with sweeping views, Knowsley is an all round luxury experience. From the fascinating Curator’s tour of Knowsley’s extraordinary art collection to the thrill of bicycling around the Safari Park, there is something for everyone. With charming and wonderfully experienced staff, Knowsley is the ultimate staycation destination.

Shakespeare North Playhouse

In July 2022, Shakespeare North Playhouse opened its doors in the heart of old market town of Prescot, reviving the original late Elizabethan and early Jacobean playhouse on the main street..  The new 470-seat playhouse is a striking modern structure designed by Nicholas Helm of Helm Architecture and incorporating an octagonal wooden theatre – designed and built by Peter McCurdy of the Globe and Sam Wanamaker theatres fame – which is a replica of the Cockpit-at-Court theatre once housed in the long-demolished Whitehall Palace in London. The development has been funded by Knowsley Council, Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, private supporters and the Treasury costing £38 million.  The project has been some 20 years in the making, with the Shakespeare North Trust, spearheaded by the Earl of Derby, counting Dame Judi Dench and Glenda Jackson as its Honorary Patrons.  The playhouse is hoping to attract 140,000 Shakespeare fanatics each year and has completed the “Shakespearean triangle” made up of London, Stratford-upon-Avon and Prescot.

Knowsley Hall