Heritage Category:
Park and Garden
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Bolton (Metropolitan Authority)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:
SD 70011 12030


Pleasure grounds of mid or late C19 date, and gardens of late C19 date possibly by George Devey, with associated C19 parkland. These form the setting for a medieval hall and illustrate the sympathetic integration of medieval buildings with a C19 landscape.


The estate was owned by the Hospitallers from the late C12 or before. From that time until the Dissolution the land was let by the Hospitallers or their successors to a number of families, including the Radcliffe family who were resident from 1335. The estate passed by marriage to the Barton family in the C15, and in 1620 William Senior prepared a map of the estate for Sir Thomas Barton. After several changes of ownership it was bought by the Byroms of Manchester in 1722. A map by Hugh Oldham, dated 1769, was drawn up for Edward Byrom. The Ainsworth family bought the estate in 1801 and it remained in their ownership until 1938 when it was sold to Bolton Corporation. The site is now (1999) a country park in the ownership of Bolton Metropolitan Borough Council.


LOCATION, AREA, BOUNDARIES, LANDFORM, SETTING Smithills Hall lies on the northern edge of Bolton, c 1.2km north of the town centre, in an area adjoining open agricultural land and moorland. The c 48ha site is on land which slopes down from the north. The boundaries are largely fenced and are formed by Smithills Dean Road on the west side, the line of an early C19 tram road to the north, the fenced edges of Raveden Clough to the north-east, and fences dividing the grounds from schools and playing fields to the south.

ENTRANCES AND APPROACHES The principal entrance is from Smithills Dean Road where there is a lodge on the east side of the road from which a drive, flanked by C19 gate piers, runs east to the Hall. A lodge is shown in this position in 1850 (OS), though its present appearance, with mock timber framing, probably originated in the early C20. The drive divides, with one branch running to a stable block on the north side of the Hall and the other to a set of later C19 stone gate piers and iron gates from which it continues as a lime avenue to a courtyard on the north side of the Hall. The 1850 OS map shows one section of the drive running along the south front of the Hall, with another branch running north of the Hall.

PRINCIPAL BUILDING Smithills Hall (listed grade I) stands on a platform on the south side of a steep valley formed by a tributary of the Raveden Brook. The earliest part of the building is a late C14 open hall. Two cross wings attached to the Hall formed three sides of a courtyard, but the south wing, shown on C18 and earlier maps, was demolished in the early C19. Extensions attached to the west, of C16 or later date, were modified in the C19, and attached to these there is an extension by George Devey (1820-86). Devey was engaged in making extensions and alterations to the building during 1874?8 and again in 1882-6. The successive additions to the Hall have created a long frontage with buildings of different heights in a mixture of stone and contrasting types of timber framing. Smithills Hall is one of the best-preserved and most important medieval buildings in the region. It is owned by Bolton Metropolitan Council, who acquired it with the estate in 1938, and is open to the public (1999).

A coach house and stables built on a courtyard plan (listed grade II) lies c 300m north of the Hall. The building is in a Tudor style, designed to match the Hall, and it is almost certainly the work of George Devey. It was probably erected during the early 1880s when he was asked to remove the existing stables. The building is in use as a restaurant (1999).

GARDENS AND PLEASURE GROUNDS The gardens fall into two distinct parts with a formal terraced area around the Hall and wooded pleasure grounds to the north and east.

An L-shaped grassed terrace runs around the south and east fronts of the Hall. It is connected to a lower walkway by sets of stone steps embellished with (restored) stone ball finials. Steps on the south side are aligned with an entrance to the garden front of Devey's extension. On the upper terrace, within the courtyard area on the south side of the Hall, there is a rectangular parterre with a late C20 planting of yew trees at each corner. It was laid out in 1998?9 on the pattern of a parterre shown in this position by C J Holme in 1911 which could be seen in the form of parch-marks in the grass.

A grassed mound lies c 200m south-west of the Hall. The lower walkway of the terrace is aligned with this mound and connected to it by sets of stone steps. A modified C19 sundial, formerly sited at the centre of the parterre, was placed on the mound in 1999. A stone ha-ha wall with a parapet runs from the stone gate piers at the entrance to the grounds and curves around the grassed mound before continuing along the edge of the lower walkway on the south side of the Hall. At the eastern end of this walk there is a set of iron gates in the ha-ha wall and steps down into the park. Views over parkland from the walkway alongside the ha-ha are obscured by mature trees and scrub.

On the east side of the Hall the north end of the upper terraced walk terminates with a bowed platform with a parapet giving views of a rustic bridge and cascade (see below) and the narrow wooded valley immediately north of the Hall. To the east of the terraces there is a lawn fringed with shrubs and planted with ornamental trees. A path leads around the lawn and there are views from it of the Hall framed by trees. The ha-ha, which continues around the lawn, has a stone parapet for part of its length; beyond this the wall continues westwards to the Hall along the edge of the wooded valley, but lacks a parapet so that the relationship between the lawns and the valley is softened.

The formal landscaping around the Hall helps to give coherence to the straggling, disparate nature of the buildings, and it is carefully related to the less formal pleasure grounds to the north. The garden, with its terraces, ha-ha, and lawn is largely as shown on the OS 1st edition map of 1893. An undated photograph taken before Devey's alterations were made shows that the present terrace replaced an earlier terrace with stone retaining walls. Lawns running up to the building are shown on an engraving of 1831, and a painting of the south front of c 1780 shows smooth lawns and a shrubbery, with mature trees on the north side of the Hall. Senior's 1620 map shows a series of rectangular gardens and orchards on the south and east sides of the Hall.

A path from the courtyard on the north side of the Hall leads northwards to a small lake with a rustic bridge and cascade on its east side. Large irregular rocks placed alongside the path are similar to those used for the cascade. The lake is shown on the 1850 OS map but not on the 1769 estate map. The route over the bridge leads to the stables. The bridge and cascade could be contemporary with the formal garden and stables, but it is possible that they were in existence before this date and incorporated into the later C19 works. Paths lead in an easterly direction alongside the watercourse, which runs eastwards to join the Raveden Brook c 200m east of the Hall. A C19 footbridge with a rustic arch which crosses the stream is the only intact survivor of a number of similar bridges, the footings for which can be seen along the route. These have largely been replaced by late C20 footbridges. The valley is planted with mature trees and there is an understorey of rhododendron. The Raveden Brook flows into the Dean Brook at the south-east corner of the site and paths continue westwards through woodland alongside Dean Brook to a point c 500m south-east of the Hall where there is a large pond, shown on the 1893 OS map. A smaller, elongated stretch of water shown to the east of this pond on the 1850 and 1893 OS maps has disappeared. The 1893 OS map shows paths continuing to Smithills Dean Road and across the park, but these have been disrupted by development within the parkland (see below).

PARK There is parkland on all sides of the Hall. To the north and west open land is sheltered by belts of trees along the western boundary with Smithills Dean Road, much as shown on the 1850 OS map. To the north-west there is a clump of trees called Dog Kennel Plantation, shown on the 1893 OS map. On the northern boundary there is an irregularly shaped patch of woodland, shown in 1850 (OS), and this, together with Dog Kennel Plantation, frames views of rising moorland beyond the registered area. The thickly wooded Raveden Clough forms a visual boundary on the eastern edge of the parkland. To the south of the Hall a band of trees and scrub lies immediately south of the gardens in an area which is shown as open parkland with scattered trees and clumps on the 1850 and later C19 OS maps. Immediately beyond this a c 4ha portion of former parkland is the site of schools with attached playing fields; these were erected in the 1960s and are outside the registered area.

KITCHEN GARDEN A stone-walled kitchen garden lies on sloping land c 300m north of the Hall; it is reached from a later C20 drive which branches from the entrance drive and runs north of the stable block before joining the line of a tram road which is shown on the 1850 OS map. This was built by the Ainsworths in the early C19, probably to transport coal mined on the estate. The garden lies between the Raveden Clough to the west and another, smaller clough to the east, both of which are wooded, with a preponderance of beech and an understorey of rhododendron. The tram road crosses Raveden Clough by means of a causeway which leads to the garden entrance, which was altered in the late C20. An archway aligned with the main entrance in the east wall of the garden leads to a continuation of the tram road which crosses the second clough by means of another substantial causeway before continuing to the east outside the registered area.

The wall on the south side of the garden was removed during the late C20. At the centre of the north end of the garden there is an opening in the wall and steps lead up to a mid to late C19 gardener's house, now (1999) in ruinous condition. The garden and house are not shown on the 1850 OS map but there are letters dating from 1853 which refer to the cultivation of pineapples in glasshouses on the site (Munro & Whitten 1997). The 1893 OS map shows ranges of glasshouses on the north side of the enclosure.


H Taylor, Old Halls in Lancashire and Cheshire (1884), pp 60-5 Country Life, 12 (8 November 1902), pp 592-9; 66 (12 October 1929), pp 488-96 Victoria History of the County of Lancashire V, (1911), pp 13-20 C J Holme, The Gardens of England in the Northern Counties (1911), pls 118-20 S Crickmar, Restoration of a Victorian Treescape, (student dissertation 1992) [copy on EH file] Smithills Hall, Bolton, an Archaeological Survey of the West Wing, (Greater Manchester Archaeological Unit 1994), pp 15-33 Smithills Hall Museum, guidebook, (Bolton Metropolitan Borough Council c 1995) The Smithills Estate, Bolton, an Archaeological Survey, (University of Manchester Archaeological Unit 1996), pp 6-17 Smithills Landscape Restoration and Management Plan, (Munro & Whitten 1997) A G Crosby, The Landscape History of Bolton, Report of Survey, (1998), pp 24-5 Smithills Hall, Bolton, Stage 2 Archaeological Evaluation, (University of Manchester Archaeological Unit 1998) Smithills Hall, guidebook, (Bolton Metropolitan Borough Council c 1999)

Maps William Senior, The platt of Smithilles, also of holdens, Rosco's, Richardsons; Harrisons, & walkers farmes belonging to the right Worshipfull Sr Thomas Barton Kght, 1620 (ZJA/1), (Bolton Archives) Hugh Oldham, A Plan of Smithells Demesne and other Lands contiguous to the property of Edward Byrone Esqr, 1769 (ZZ/55/36), (Bolton Archives)

OS 6" to 1 mile: 1st edition surveyed 1844?7, published 1849/50 OS 25" to 1 mile: 1st edition published 1893 2nd edition published 1907

Illustrations Smithills Hall from the south, painting, c 1780 (Bolton Museum and Art Gallery) Smithills Hall from the south, engraving, 1831 (reproduced in Munro & Whitten 1997) Smithills Hall from the south, photograph, pre 1875 (reproduced in Munro & Whitten 1997)

Description written: September 1999 Register Inspector: CEH; Edited: September 2002


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:
Parks and Gardens


This garden or other land is registered under the Historic Buildings and Ancient Monuments Act 1953 within the Register of Historic Parks and Gardens by Historic England for its special historic interest.

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