Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Smithills Hall

Mark and I have visited Smithills Hall near Bolton. We took the tour and a guide told us all the history and legends. It's a fine old place that has been around since the early 14th century. Well some of it has. It started out much smaller and bits kept being added or converted over the centuries even to this day. More recently in the 20th century it was bought by Bolton Council who converted the upstairs into a nursing home for a time. All the downstairs rooms have wildly different design and architecture, which sort of gives the illusion of time travel as you move from room to room. My favourite rooms were the chapel and the great hall. There is a steep step leading into the great hall but there are some portable metal tracks that the guide drops down to get a wheelchair through. There is no disabled access to the upstairs but all the good stuff is downstairs anyhow. The chapel has some very beautiful Victorian & Tudor stained glass windows. The great hall is a mass of solidity - you can almost feel all the history living in the stone. The place has a multitude of ghost stories, though the guide mostly stuck to the history of the major families that have owned it and to the details of the architecture. My folklore antennae did perk up when she showed us George Marsh's footprint. It sort of looks like a footprint on one of the paving stones at the bottom of a staircase. The story goes that George was a local Protestant curate who was arrested for heresy under the reign of Queen Mary in 1554. He was questioned and held at Smithills and folklore tells that he stamped his foot so hard on the stone to declare his steadfast faith that it left an imprint before he was led away. He was burnt at the stake for heresy a year later. All sorts of colourful ghostly stories have sprung up around the footprint over the centuries. The hall was featured on Most Haunted a few years ago, though my guess is they did not get full access to the best parts of the hall as the show seemed to mainly feature Stuart pretending to be petrified in the empty stripped rooms upstairs. I believe the Hall now does Ghost Hunts of their own. I suppose it all helps with the upkeep of the building. The guide tossed in the usual speculation that the Bard might have visited here during his youth. It's possible but most halls in the North West claim something similar, even though hardly any of them have any physical proof. We skipped the gift shop and wandered off into the gardens to take some pictures.

1 comment:

  1. now that looks like a place I'll need to visit sometime when I'm near Bolton...