Smithills Hall is a Grade I listed manor house and a scheduled monument in Smithills, Bolton, Greater Manchester, England. It stands on the slopes of the West Pennine Moors above Bolton at a height of 500 feet (152 m) above sea level, three miles (5 km) northwest of the town centre. It occupies a defensive site near the Astley and Raveden Brooks.
One of the oldest manor houses in the northwest of England, its oldest parts, including the Great Hall, date from the 15th century. It has been since been altered and extended particularly the west part. Parts of it were moated. The property is owned by Bolton Metropolitan Borough Council and open to the public.
The name Smithills derives from the Old English smeþe meaning smooth and hyll, a hill and was recorded as Smythell in 1322. The Knights Hospitaller owned the estate from the late-12th century or earlier. Until the Dissolution of the Monasteries the Hospitallers and their successors let out the estate to tenants, including the Radcliffe family who were resident from 1335 when William Radcliffe acquired the manor from the Hultons. On Radcliffe’s death in 1369 it passed to his son Sir Ralph Radcliffe, High Sheriff of Lancashire for 1384–1387 and twice MP for Lancashire. The Radciffes lived there until 1485, when the male line failed and Smithills Hall passed to the Bartons who lived there for nearly 200 years.
In 1554 George MarshGeorge Marsh, a Protestant priest who became a martyr, was born in the parish of Deane near Bolton in 1515. He died at Boughton, Chester, on 24 April 1555 as a result of the Marian Persecutions during the reign of Queen Mary I. a preacher from Deane near Bolton was questioned at Smithills Hall, before being sent to Chester to be tried for heresy. He was found guilty and executed at Boughton in Chester. A footprint in the stone floor, supposedly left by Marsh, is said to bleed every year on the anniversary of his death (24 April).
In 1659 the hall and estate passed by marriage to the Belasyse family. In 1722 the Byroms of Manchester bought the manor and kept it until 1801 when the hall and estate were acquired by the Ainsworths, who made their fortune as the owners of bleachworks at Barrow Bridge. Around 1875 Richard Henry Ainsworth employed architect George Devey to extend and modernise the hall. In 1938 the Ainsworths sold the hall to Bolton Corporation.
Smithills Hall, originally a hall house is built on a terrace, surrounded on all sides by parkland on the south side of a steep-sided valley formed a tributary of the Raveden Brook.
The hall has three ranges around an open court. The oldest part is the Great Hall in the north range which was probably built in the early-14th century and once was surrounded by a moat. It has been altered but retains its original plan and medieval features. The oldest parts were built with timber frames and the oldest stonework is roughly coursed rubblestone. The 19th-century west wing is built in coursed, squared stone and has decorative timber framing. All the roofs are covered in stone flags.
Park and gardens
The 120-acre gardens and pleasure grounds are on south facing sloping land on the edge of moorland with a steep wooded valley and lake to the north and formal gardens around the hall.