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A visit to Sudley House

29 April 2009 by Sam

exterior of a large house

Here’s another special report from art historian – and roving reporter – Eleanor Beyer. As you may remember from Eleanor’s last review, she works in the British Museum’s conservation and science department but has been working with Nicky Lewis in the paper conservation department up here in the National Conservation Centre. During her time at National Museums Liverpool she visited Sudley House. Here’s what she thought of it:


“Pitched with an expansive view across Liverpool from one side and all the way down to the docks on the other, Sudley sits in a great position. On approaching the house, I could imagine why this would be an ideal location for a rich shipping merchant. The house was purchased by George Holt, a partner in the shipping firm Lamport and Holt, in 1883 and as Assistant Visitor Services Manager Mark Harris pointed out, he would often have climbed the stairs to the rooftop turret to look out for his ships coming into the harbour.

Inside the ground floor is as close to how it would have been as possible – the painting collection covers the walls – except of course for the large TVs in each corner. But these TVs serve a valuable purpose: they show actors dressed up as Sudley’s former residents who talk about life there, bringing the house to life. For example, we hear the scandals and gossip from the owner’s servant. 

Upstairs is more entertaining for children and frequent visitors, with displays on childhood, including a dolls house children can play with, and at the time of my visit, a temporary exhibition of a glorious display of dresses in the Costume room. With the changing exhibitions, including A Sweet Life at the moment, children’s areas with interactive material and interactive interpretation downstairs this makes a great visit for a browse or a more studied investigation of the homes and art collected in the late nineteenth century.

I really enjoyed visiting the house, and hearing about it from Mark. It was good to learn  about how the house had been changed to make it more welcoming and to provide more information about its history. The location away from the cultural centre of Liverpool makes Sudley more of a local museum, though it still attracts plenty of other visitors and was well worth a visit. I am hoping more to bring the house to life will be able to be done.”

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