Bolton Library and Museum Services

George Marsh's footprint of faith

On the floor at the entrance to the withdrawing room is a mark on the stone floor (now protected by a glass plate). Legend has it that this is the footprint of Bolton farmer George Marsh, a victim of the persecution of Protestants during the reign of Queen Mary.

In the spring of 1554, Lord Derby, the Lord Lieutenant of Lancashire, had ordered George Marsh to be apprehended on charges of heresy if he appeared in Bolton.

At Smithills Hall he presented himself before Robert Barton, the owner of the estate and local Justice of the Peace. He was held and questioned about his ‘heretical’ religious beliefs in the upper chamber (at the top of the modern spiral stairs).  The legend has it that as George Marsh was being led from the Hall he stamped his foot on the flagstone, leaving a mark that has remained there ever since as a declaration of his steadfast faith.

When it became clear that his religious beliefs could not be swayed, he was eventually passed to the Church Court in 1555, and burned at the stake on the 24th April.

The Green Room where Marsh was questioned is considered to be the most haunted room in Smithills and the footprint is alleged to run with blood on the anniversary of Marsh’s death.