Speke has always been a large township on the banks of the Mersey. Speke village itself never grew in size like the inner suburbs of Everton and Toxteth, but the large expanses of flat land attracted industry in the 20th Century, and large housing estates and industrial complexes grew up here. However, problems associated with the rapid expansion led to trouble at the end of the century.
Name: Spec, Domesday; Spek, 1317; Speck(e), 1320; Speke common from 13th Century, with variants as Speek, 1332, Speyke, 1500; once ‘Espeke’ occurs. In the 16th Century frequently “The Speke” (VCH III)
In 1066 Speke formed part of one of Uctred’s manors, and when the Lancashire forest was formed, it became part of the forest fee.
Speke occupies an area in the far south of Liverpool. This is flat land with a long river frontage (and the widest point on the Mersey), and was known for years as some of the best wheat-growing land in the region. Unlike many parts of Liverpool, there have never been any brooks in the township.
At the turn of the century, Speke was a small village with a scatter of houses, about a mile from the nearest station.
Near to Speke is the hamlet of Oglet (Ogelot, Oggelot and Ogelote over the years, especially early on; Oglot and Ogloth also common; Okelot, 1321; Hogolete, 1384).
In the 20th Century Speke was one of several areas of outlying Liverpool which were the focus of post-war reconstruction and expansion (among the others were Knowlsey and Skelmersdale). Kirkby, Halewood and Speke were the three largest out-of-town council estates in the country. Unfortunately, there remained a gap between, one the one hand, the houses being built and the resdents moving in, and the other the amenities (shops and leisure) becoming established. This lack of planning led to great problems in the years to follow.
Industrial estates took great advantage of the flat land and growing residential areas in the 1950s and beyond. The policy for post-war industrial growth focussed on the outskirts of the city, rather than inner Liverpool which is more the focus at the start of the 21st Century. The industries comprised mostly of motor works (Ford’s famous plant), light engineering, food, chemicals and pharmaceuticals. However, most of the expansion was due to the movement of businesses from the inner city, rather than the creation of new, additional jobs in the suburbs. Unemployment therefore continued to rise, reaching about 50% in the 1970s.
The road from Garston to Hale crossed Speke in two branches, meeting at the village by the road coming south from Woolton.
The London and North West Railway Company’s line from Liverpool to Warrington passed through the North part of the parish, stopping at Speke station.
‘Hunt’s Cross’ was originally an actual sandstone monument, erected in 1895, but by 1901 was described in the Victoria County History as “a displaced massive square stone socket, lying in a barn, at the crossroads, near the station”.
At the boundary of Speke, Halewood and Hale is an area once known as Conleach. Here, formal challenges were fought between inhabitants of the nearby villages.