Bolton may not be the first place you’d expect to find one of the North West’s oldest manor houses, but Smithills Hall is full of surprises.
Located on the outskirts of the town (about a 10/15 minute drive outside of the town centre), Smithills Hall is a grade I-listed building with a history dating back more than 100 years.
The first surprise is the size; it’s much bigger than you may expect. The outside is partially thick stone and the rest has that typical black and white Tudor look. On entering, you find a tea room followed by a fairly interesting exhibition – but these are nowhere near the house’s most remarkable features.
Stepping through the exhibition, you find yourself in some of the most stunning parts of the building.
The beamed Great Hall is enchanting and leads through to some of the property’s inner rooms including a bedroom and then the wooden panelled withdrawing rooms.
Just before you leave the family rooms and enter the chapel, there’s a unique feature on the floor. A footprint is set in the stone flooring (protected by a plastic covering) and this is said to have been left by George Marsh, a preacher who was questioned in the building and later burned at the stake in the 16th century. There’s also a legend that says it bleeds every year on the anniversary of his death (the building has also been featured on Most Haunted, if you like spooky tales).
Next up is the chapel. Although part of it was destroyed by fire and subsequently rebuilt in the Victorian era, it still has a very ancient almost ethereal atmosphere to it – particularly if you find yourself alone in it.
But it’s not all of the Medieval period as one wing has been restored to how it would’ve looked in the days of the Victorians. This is the final aspect of Smithills Hall to explore before finding yourself back at the entrance.
Heading outside, the grounds are also very beautiful and picturesque – particularly on an autumnal day.
Overall, Smithills Hall provides a great opportunity to step back in time and explore a variety of eras – from the Medieval great hall and chapel to the restored Victorian rooms on the other wing.
It’s worth making the trip out to and as an added bonus entry (and parking) is all free.
Smithills Hall, Smithills Dean Road, Bolton, BL1 7NP – friendsofsmithillshall.co.uk