Bolton Library and Museum Services

Ghostly Encounters at Smithills Hall

Smithills is not just famous for its grandeur and beauty. The atmosphere in the building and its long history seems to inspire many ghost stories many of which are gathered on this page.

  • In the great hall, a reputed psychic once reported seeing a strange looking man and a woman, both of whom appeared to be in 15th century dress. The man was seen as strong whilst the woman seemed to be distressed. Smithills was passed on to the Barton family in 1485, and was home to them for almost 200 years. During the War of the Roses, John Barton had fought and died at the Battle of St Albans.
  • In the 1550s, Bolton farmer George Marsh had been bought to the Green Room of the hall before Robert Barton (the owner of the estate) after he was tried as a Protestant during the reign of the devoted Catholic Queen, Mary Tudor. He was later burned at the stake on 24th April of 1555.
  • One visitor recently noted that on a visit to Smithills as a child, he noticed a man at the top of the stairs to the Green Room. The museum attendant told them he was locking up and it was time to leave. The boy said they should wait for the man upstairs, but to his amazement the attendant told him he and his parents were the only visitors left in the hall. To this day the man is convinced he saw George Marsh. The Green Room where George Marsh was questioned is considered to be the most haunted room at Smithills.
  • There have also been some unexplained encounters in the chapel. One day one of the Friends of Smithills Hall went into the chapel before the hall opened to visitors. He saw that there was someone kneeling in prayer. On meeting a colleague in the corridor he mentioned that there was someone in the chapel. The colleague went to have a look and returned to say there was no one there. Only recently when a member of staff was taking some dead flowers out of the chapel; something pushed her from behind with such force that she fell onto the wall, and still has the grazes to prove it!
  • In the shop used to hang a Pugin mirror. One day the shop manager looked in the mirror and noticed that there was a man with white bushy hair dressed in black watching her from the doorway. She turned around and he wasn’t there. Two weeks later the same thing happened again. The third time she saw the man he was on the stairs. Could this have been one of the Ainsworth’s, who inherited the house in 1870?
  • In Colonel Ainsworth’s room, when museum staff open the hall in the mornings, they have to set the glasses on the table back in their right place as during the night they have been moved or turned upside down. There are many other everyday happenings that staff, volunteers and visitors experience - the barrier ropes in the museum quite often swing of their own accord as if someone has just brushed passed them. Staff members have also heard cats meowing, and children giggling when there have been no children around.
  • People have also had strange encounters outside the hall. During the last week of May in 1644, Prince Rupert’s troops, having relieved the siege of Lathom House, stormed Bolton town and put half the population to the sword. Some managed to flee on foot or horseback to areas of safety. When the hall was a residential home between the 1930s and the 1990s, a member of staff on duty regularly heard the sound of horses passing the house late into the night. But when she opened the door there was no evidence of any horse or rider. One summer a local theatre company performed at the hall. One night the director arrived early, and was enjoying the evening sunshine when he heard footsteps coming across the gravel towards him. As he turned he saw that there was no-one there.


Keep your eyes and ears open next time you visit, and why not book you and your family and friends on a Ghost Tour, led by the Friends of Smithills Hall?

See for yourself where some of the strange sightings have taken place. If you’re even more daring, come along to one of our Ghost Investigations, and take part in supernatural experiments throughout the night.

Click here for information on forthcoming events.

If you are a paranormal investigation company and you would like to hire the venue for an evening; please let us know and we’ll do our very best to accommodate you.

Charges are currently £600 for a 6 hour slot. Contact Smithills Hall on 01204 332377 or email historichalls@bolton.gov.uk