Hugh Harris: Sudley, a Liverpool Merchant’s House, NML

Quercus petraea (Tournasol7)


A family estate of 30 acres, 12 (ha) and suburban stately home built in 1821 and owned by Nicholas Robinson a Corn Merchant, one of the rising merchant classes of Liverpool in the late 18th century. Rich Liverpool merchants favoured two extremes of architecture; the flamboyant and the austere classical style. Sudley House is built in the latter style with window openings devoid of decoration, mere holes punched in the plain ashlar walling.

 In 1883, it was sold to the Victorian ship owner and merchant George Holt who founded the Lamport and Holt Shipping Line. The house was his residence until his death in 1896 during which time he formed a magnificent collection of contemporary art and sculpture. He decorated and furnished the ground floor rooms and hung his collection of paintings here. The Sudley House Art Gallery is now part of the National Museums of Liverpool with permanent displays in period rooms with many fine examples of 18th and 19th century Pre-Raphaelite paintings. Indeed, Sudley House now accommodates Britain’s only remaining complete art collection of a Victorian merchant and entrepreneur. The artists include John Everett Millais, Landseer, George Romney, Reynolds, Frith, William Holman-Hunt, Edward Burne-Jones, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and JMW Turner.

After George Holt died, his daughter Emma continued to live here. She never married and died in 1944. She bequeathed the house, the painting and the grounds to the people of Liverpool. It is now managed by National Museums Liverpool.

The Sudley Estate is largely cultivated amenity grassland and pasture fringed by lowland mixed woodland; broad-leaved, deciduous and young plantation. There is also dense or continuous scrub. In 2007 the Mossley Hill Residents Association donated eight oak trees to celebrate the 800th anniversary of King John granting a charter to the City of Liverpool. The oaks were planted in Sudley Park in support of and as part of, the work of Friends of Sudley Estate.

Table of comparison of Quercus robur and Q. petraea


Quercus robur

Quercus petraea


Pedunculate Oak

Sessile Oak


Spreading, esp. in open



Wide, leaves bunched

Domed, leaves evenly spread


Broken, sky shows through

More closed


Often burred

Long, straight; more likely to

 Persist high into crown


Few, large, twisted, low



Usu <20 scales, dark tips

Paraboloidal conical

Often 20< scales, light brown

Pointedly conical




3-5 (-6) pairs of lobes

Broadest in upper 2/3

Eaten, discoloured

Spangle-galled below

Glabrous or simple hairs below


Veins to lobes and sinuses

Cuneate (wedge-shaped)

Plane (very flat)

5-8 (-9) pairs of lobes

Largest lobes in centre


Not galled

Fine hairs below, esp. midrib, some


Veins to lobes only


0.3-0.7 (-1.0-2.0) cm

(1.0-) 1.5-2.0(-3.0) cm


(2-)4-8(-10-20) cm

0(-5-10) mm



Green stripes

Large, elongated, stouter 2/3

Then sharp taper

Knopper galls

Av 3.5gm



Shorter, more rounded, bluntly

Conical, taper steadily

No galls

Av 2.5gm

Autumn colour

Late, yellow to russets

Purple or russets


Working in partnership with The Friends of Sudley House Estate at Sudley House Museum Liverpool 410 trees supplied by Woodland Trust were planted in the grounds of Sudley House. The planting is part of a plan for a Woodland Walk to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of World War 1. The planting consists of Rowan Sorbus aucuparia, Birch Betula pendula, Wild cherry Prunus avium, Common oak Quercus robur, Field maple Acer campestre and Grey willow Salix caprea.

Acknowledgements:  National Museums Liverpool, Liverpool Heritage Bureau, Quentin Hughes, Maria Knowles.