Smithills Hall

North Bolton, 3 miles (Smithills)

House of many ages with small but varied grounds


image of smithills-hall

Get there

Public transport: circular bus, frequent. Private transport: carpark near hamlet entrance—small, but probably enough. Opening times are for the Hall, the gardens are always open.


In tourism, the Smithills area is unusual—it doesn’t big up. Possibly because the area is split between sites and curators, or because people live there. For casual visitors the attraction is Smithills Hall. This house, rather than improved into a grand hall, was extended age by age until it resembles something drawn by a cartoonist. Because the house was only lightly rebuilt, you stand in one room which is a Medieval hall (with mod‐cons from the 1500’s), then the next wing is Tudor, then the next block Victorian… I liked the chapel, the sense that a village would congregate. Another feature of Smithills is that it is maintained by a friend’s society in partnership with the council. On the one hand, this means the house lacks fancy displays, and some of the rooms are inaccessible. But while I was there the friends pruned the garden. A generator whined driving the drinks horse‐box. From the local schools, you could hear children’s voices across the lawn. Visitors drank tea beside the knot garden. Smithills is not a collection of exhibits, but a house alive. And surrounded by a small garden of shrubs, rhododendrons, stone ramparts and lawns—which is worth the walk. If you don’t need prestige, one of the best house visits in Manchester.