The curious incident of the dog in the Billiard Room

skeleton of a dog with missing leg and head, laid out on table

If you live in Liverpool you will be familiar with the stunning Tudor mansion Speke Hall, south of the city next to Liverpool John Lennon Airport. The history of the families that lived there, from the Norrises who had it for nearly 400 years from the 1300s, to the Watts from 1795 to 1943, is well documented. However, very little is known about one member of the 1550s household – the pet dog.

In the late 1970s repair work was carried out in the Billiard Room of the Hall and the opportunity was taken to carry out an archaeological excavation under the floor. Amongst the archaeological finds there was the skeleton of a medieval dog, dating from around 1550. Sadly, the dog had no head and only three legs. The circumstances of the lost body parts are something of a mystery. We cannot tell whether these horrible injuries occurred before or after the dog died, and if after death, whether before or after burial. One theory is that they may have been lost during later alterations to the house.  

The remains of the skeleton are now on display in the History Detectives gallery at the Museum of Liverpool. You can also read about how the dog skeleton was conserved in National Museums Liverpool's organics conservation studio.