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This was going to be a straightforward review but then a strange photo changed it all…

On Friday night I went along to Smithills Hall, for the last guided Ghost & History tour of the season. As usual there was a full house, as these are very popular events which are put on by the Friends of Smithills Hall, who look after the hall in conjunction with Bolton Council. We were split into three groups and the one I was in had the very knowledgeable Chairman, David Williams, to show us round. I am quite open-minded about the paranormal but was interested to hear what had been experienced by staff, volunteers and visitors.

I certainly wasn’t aware of anything unusual throughout the tour, in fact I felt quite comfortable in the hall, but I made a point of taking photos every time we entered and left a room. I shall come back to those photos in a moment…

Although I visited a lot when my children were young, it has been many years since I last went to Smithills, and I have resolved to go back (in daylight!) to fully appreciate it. It is a fascinating building, with a lot of medieval features still intact and these, together with the often creaky floors and dark panelling, served to create a very atmospheric experience. We visited each room in turn, being given the history and interesting anecdotes associated with them as we went and having plenty of time to ask questions and drink in the surroundings.

The Hall has such a long and rich history that many people return regularly for guided tours to learn more about its many incarnations, through brewhouse to residential home, and there is now a Timeline to help visitors put it into context. There are also some magnificently carved panelling and furniture to enjoy, including a wonderful display cabinet dating back to the time of Henry VIII.

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The tour lasted over two hours and there was a wealth of information to take in about the changes the hall has seen and the different people who have lived there. The last place we visited was the Chapel and, as before, I took photos of the various areas. The next morning, when I looked through them to choose some to illustrate this blog, I noticed something rather odd in the left-hand window of the chapel extension area. I have no explanation. I didn’t see anything at the time and, as you can see from the original picture, I was some distance away. It doesn’t look like a reflection to me and the more peculiar thing is that it appears to have solidity, as it is masking part of the stone window pane frame. I have also put another picture of the window from a different angle, which shows nothing in that area. A large version of the close up is at the end of this blog – please let us know what you think!

Although the winter ghost tours will not start again until October, the paranormal activity in the hall has been experienced in daylight hours as much as at night, so you can still go along and see if you experience anything out of the ordinary, learn more about Bolton’s history and enjoy a walk in the beautiful grounds. You will also find a nice range of competitively priced retro gifts and locally produced products on sale, if you are looking for something a bit different.

I can’t recommend the Friends of Smithills’ guides highly enough and below is a picture of David and Ann Marie in the wonderful library, which was panelled with dismantled carved wooden chests, by a stingy former owner!

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For more information about opening times and events, take a look at the Friends of Smithills Hall webpage.

Here’s the larger picture:

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