A magnificent stately home with trees lining the long driveway to the front of the historic house

Our Story

Welcome to Knowsley, home to my family and home to four contrasting yet thriving enterprises that comprise my family’s business.

Knowsley Safari and Knowsley Hall, two great Merseyside icons, continue to delight and entertain many hundreds of thousands of visitors each year. The Estate with its farmland, houses and Stanley Grange Business Village all provide a wider Knowsley community with livings, homes and environments.

And further afield but very much part of the family is the Stanley House Stud, home to my `Mare in a Million’ Ouija Board.

The Earl of Derby

Family photograph of Lord & Lady Derby with their 3 children dressed up in their finery at the races.
The Earl & Countess of Derby with their three children: Henrietta, Edward and Oliver Stanley

Our Story

Knowsley Hall has been in the ownership of the Stanley family since 1385, and from that time the history of the family has been closely intertwined with the history of the country as a whole. Discover here the fascinating history of the Earl’s of Derby.

Lord Thomas Stanley was created the 1st Earl of Derby (1435-1504) in 1485 after the Battle of Bosworth when Richard III lost the crown of England to Henry Tudor. The Earldom is a local title, coming from the Hundred of West Derby, an important administrative area until the 17th century which included Knowsley and the small port of Liverpool.

Since then the history of the Stanley family has been closely intertwined with the history of the country as a whole. It was Lord Stanley who recovered the crown of the slain Richard III and placed it on his stepson Henry Tudor’s head.

The 5th Earl (1559-94) was a poet and was patron of a company of actors that included William Shakespeare. He was Earl for less than a year before being murdered by arsenic poisoning at Knowsley Hall.

William, the 6th Earl (1561-1642), continued the family’s patronage of Shakespeare; indeed `A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ was first performed at his wedding to Elizabeth de Vere in front of Queen Elizabeth I. As the 6th Earl’s initials, ‘W.S.’ for William Stanley, are the same as those of Shakespeare, it has been suggested that some work now attributed to Shakespeare may have in fact been written by the 6th Earl.

James, the 7th Earl (1607-51), was beheaded at Bolton after the Battle of Worcester in 1651 for his loyalty to the Stuart monarchy. The stool he was beheaded is kept at Knowsley Hall.

The 12th Earl (1752-1834) gave his name to the famous ‘Derby’ and ‘Oaks’ horse races which he started in 1780. The State Dining Room at Knowsley Hall was built by him in 1820 for the visit of George IV.

Edward, the 13th Earl (1775 – 1851), was an eminent natural historian who maintained a menagerie and aviary on the Knowsley Estate containing 94 species of mammals comprising 345 individuals. He commissioned a number of animal artists, including Edward Lear from 1832-7, to produce watercolour paintings of the species he collected. These watercolours are a key part of the Derby Collection today.

Edward Geoffrey, the 14th Earl (1799-1869) served as Prime Minister three times during Queen Victoria’s reign in 1852, 1858-9 and 1866-8. He was responsible for the abolition of slavery in the British Empire. The handwritten travel diaries of the young earl were discovered in the Library at Knowsley Hall and have been published in a book “A Grand Tour Journal 1820-1822” and can be purchased here

Edward Henry, the 15th Earl (1826-93) like his father, had a long career in politics. He was Foreign Secretary in a Conservative Government and Secretary of State for the Colonies in the Liberal Government.

Frederick, the 16th Earl (1841-1908) was President of the Board of Trade and Governor General of Canada. He presented the Stanley Cup, which is still the premier trophy for Canada’s national sport of ice-hockey.

Edward George, the 17th Earl (1865-1948) was Secretary of State of War during the First World War and British Ambassador to France after the war. In both World wards, the 17th Earl saw the house given over to the service of the country.

Edwards John, the 18th Earl (1918-94) founded Knowsley Safari in 1971 bringing exotic animals to the park. The Safari is now Merseyside’s largest paying tourist attraction and has over 600,000 visitors every year. Edward was also in the Grenadier Guards in World War II.

Edward, the 19th and present Earl was born in 1962. Edward inherited the title and Estate in 1994 from his uncle and is married to The Honourable Caroline Emma Neville, daughter of Lord Braybrooke. Lord and Lady Derby commissioned the restoration of Knowsley Hall, which took six years and is still ongoing today, with Lady Derby drawing on her expertise gained from eight years’ work in the Royal Collection. They have a daughter, Henrietta, and two sons, Edward and Oliver.

You can purchase the Knowsley Hall hardback book on Art, Animals and Politics HERE

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