A History of the County of Lancaster: Volume 5. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1911.
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Halliwell is divided into two portions by a brook which runs east into the Tonge; the southern portion, Halliwell proper, adjoins Bolton, of which it is becoming a suburb; the north-western, Smithills, is still rural. The whole has an area of 2,479½ acres. (fn. 1) Halliwell proper has a breadth of about two miles; the surface rises a little from east to west. Smithills stretches about three miles in a north-westerly direction, rising steadily from under 500 ft. to over 1,475, on the border of Horwich. To the north of Deane Brook, almost to the limit of the township towards Bolton, the geological formation consists of the Millstone Grit. The town of Halliwell and Smithills Hall lie upon the Lower Coal Measures.
A local board was formed in 1863. (fn. 2) In 1877 part of the township was taken into the borough of Bolton. In 1894 a separate civil parish was formed for Smithills, but four years later this also was absorbed.
Tokens issued in 1652 and 1666 are extant. (fn. 3)
In the latter year seventy-five hearths were assessed to the tax; the manor-house at Smithills (Sir Rowland Bellasyse) had nineteen hearths, but no other dwelling had more than four. (fn. 4)
The manor of HALLIWELL was originally a member of the lordship of Barton, (fn. 5) and seems at first to have been part of the possessions of the Pendlebury family. (fn. 6) William son of Roger de Pendlebury in 1289 granted to Richard son and heir of David de Hulton the whole vill of Halliwell with its appurtenances, with the homages of Robert de Shoresworth and Hugh de Halliwell for the lands they held; an annual rent of a silver penny was payable. (fn. 7) In 1302 it was held by Richard de Hulton of the lord of Manchester by the tenth part of a knight's fee. (fn. 8) Three oxgangs of land here contributed to the sustenance of the foresters of Horwich. (fn. 9) In 1325–6 Richard de Hulton granted to his brother John land in Hulton and Westhoughton, (fn. 10) and this is supposed to be the John de Hulton of Halliwell, whose son and heir Richard was in 1351 contracted to marry Margery daughter of Adam the Ward of Sharples. (fn. 11) Nothing further is known of this branch of the Hulton family, but in 1473 Robert Hulton held the lordship of Halliwell by the ancient service. (fn. 12) Adhering to the Yorkist side his lands were confiscated in 1487 and conferred by Henry VII on the Earl of Derby. (fn. 13) The manor descended regularly for a century; in 1601 it was held by Edward Stanley. (fn. 14) About that time it seems to have been sold, part going to Robert Marsh of Halliwell, (fn. 15) whose son-in-law Samuel Shipton, clerk, was in possession in 1638; (fn. 16) afterwards it descended to Samuel Aspinall, (fn. 17) and then disappears from notice. (fn. 18)
SMITHILLS was held by the Hospitallers, and appears to have been held under them by the Hulton family, passing with the manor of Blackburn to the Raddiffes in 1335. (fn. 19) The Radcliffes of Smithills occur during the 15th century, having made the place their chief manor. (fn. 20) Sir Ralph Radcliffe, the third of the same name in succession, dying about 1460, (fn. 21) the estates went to the heir male, Ralph son of Sir Ralph's brother Edmund; and he leaving a daughter and heir Cecily, they passed to her husband John Barton of Holme, near Newark, (fn. 22) and they and their descendants retained possession until the 18th century.
John Barton, having made a settlement of his manors and lands in 1514, and seen his son Andrew married to Anne or Agnes daughter of Sir William Stanley of Hooton, renounced the world, and in July 1516 entered the monastery of the Observant Friars at Richmond in Surrey, and was there professed. (fn. 23) Andrew Barton added a moiety of the manor of Oswaldtwisle (fn. 24) to the family possessions, recorded a pedigree at the visitation of 1533, (fn. 25) and died in 1549, leaving a son and heir Robert, then twentyfour years of age. (fn. 26) Robert Barton, who succeeded, was the justice to whom George Marsh surrendered in 1554; the story went that Marsh, in his emphatic denial that his teaching was heretical, stamped so forcibly on the hall pavement at Smithills that the mark of his foot remained in the stone. (fn. 27) Robert Barton dying childless in 1580, (fn. 28) the manors went to his brother Ralph, reader in Gray's Inn. Ralph, who died in 1592, (fn. 29) was succeeded by his son Randle (fn. 30) and grandson Sir Thomas. (fn. 31)
Grace, the daughter and heir of Sir Thomas, married Henry Belasyse son of Thomas, first Viscount Fauconberg. (fn. 32) Henry died during his father's lifetime, leaving among others two sons, Thomas, second Viscount and first Earl Fauconberg, who died without issue in 1700; (fn. 33) and Sir Rowland Belasyse, who seems to have resided at Smithills, (fn. 34) and whose son Thomas in 1700 succeeded his uncle as third viscount. (fn. 35) Thomas, his son, the fourth viscount, sold Smithills in 1722 to the Byroms of Manchester. (fn. 36) About a hundred years later it was purchased by Richard Ainsworth, owner of extensive bleach works in the neighbourhood, (fn. 37) and has descended to his grandson, Colonel Richard Henry Ainsworth, the present owner.
Smithills Hall stands on high ground 2 miles north-west of Bolton, on the slopes of the moors from which the town takes its name which, less than 2 miles away, attain a height of over 1,200 ft. The hall itself is situated just above the 500 ft. contour line, well outside the town radius, protected by trees on the north and set in picturesque grounds, but with a view southwards from the house embracing the smoke and chimneys of Bolton. The site is a naturally defensive one, being close to the junction of two streams, one the Astley Brook, a quarter of a mile to the south, and the other the Raveden Brook, more immediately to the east. (fn. 38) The other sides were protected by a moat which existed at no very remote period, and the moors behind the house would form a natural protection in that direction.
There is a tradition of a house on the present site as far back as the year 680, and that date is rather humorously carved on a stone over the door to the great hall, (fn. 39) but the oldest part of the present building probably belongs to the early part of the 15th century, and may be even later. The rest of the house is of different dates continually altered and added to. The western part has been so much altered that it is difficult to reconstruct the original plan, but the north and east wings of the older part of the house yet constitute one of the most interesting examples of timber construction in Lancashire, though much changed in appearance by later additions in stone.
With its modern extensions at the west, the house, which is of two stories, has a long frontage facing south of over 270 ft., well broken up both as regards plan and skyline, and forming a composition of great picturesqueness. The walls are variously of stone and timber, these materials being used in the modern work, and all the roofs have stone slates. Almost the whole of the walling to the old part of the house, however, has been restored or otherwise renewed, whether in stone or timber and plaster, but portions of the ancient construction are preserved and show in several places. The greatest part of the ancient work, however, is best seen from the inside.
The oldest part of the house lies to the east and is built on three sides of a quadrangle about 60 ft. wide and 70 ft. from north to south, open on the south side. The great hall occupies the north wing, with the great chamber at its east end, and the kitchen and offices on the west. The east wing, containing the family apartments, terminates at the south with the domestic chapel, approached by a corridor next the courtyard. The staircase is in the north-east angle, forming an external bay with a gable facing west. Between the chapel and the great chamber is a large room, possibly a withdrawing - room, with a large bay window looking east. The north and east wings being no longer inhabited retain the original characteristics of the ancient plan, though much altered from time to time; but the old west wing has been so much modernized that the original arrangement of rooms has been to a great extent lost, though the kitchen and offices occupy pretty much their old position. The house seems to have been extended westward beyond this at different times, but chiefly probably about the year 1579, (fn. 40) by the addition of stone gabled wing facing south, which now forms the central portion of the main front. The whole of the building west of this again, with frontages both north and south, is modern work executed within the last twenty-five years, (fn. 41) but in harmony with the older parts.
The original house seems to have been confined to the three sides of the existing quadrangle, there being no indications of buildings having existed on the south side, except that a former gateway which stood at the south end of the west wing would seem to suggest that the courtyard might have been inclosed all round, or was intended to be so. It existed, however, in this position (where the south end of the modern drawing-room now is, immediately opposite the west door of the chapel) till a comparatively recent time, and is so shown in old illustrations of the house. (fn. 42)
Against this, however, must be quoted Nathaniel Hawthorne's description of the place in his notebooks, 25 Aug. 1855, in which he says: 'The house formerly stood around all four sides of a quadrangle, enclosing a court, and with an entrance through an enclosure. One side of this quadrangle was removed in the time of the present Mr. Ainsworth's father, and the front is now formed of the remaining three sides.'
Very little of the black and white work facing the quadrangle is original, and much of it—the quatrefoil panel to the great hall and the gable in the northeast corner facing south—is paint on plaster. On the west of the quadrangle it is all modern, and only that on the east wing between the chapel and the great hall has any semblance of old work. The walls on the north and east are of stone up to half their height, above which is a wide band of quatrefoils with a cove above under the eaves. The west wing was originally built without any corridor, but in the 17th century a passage was made on the first floor supported on an arcade of oak columns, forming a verandah to the lower rooms. This has been retained, and in a reconstructed form is one of the most picturesque features of the courtyard.
The great hall, which is 34 ft. 6 in. long (including the screens) by 25 ft. wide, has been a very fine apartment, but is now much mutilated, though fortunately the screen and original open-timber roof still remain, and the restoration of the room to its original appearance would not be difficult. Towards the end of the 18th century the hall was used as a brewhouse, and the outer walls are then supposed to have been raised and a new roof of flatter pitch was added above the old one, the original ridge-line being retained. (fn. 43) A floor was probably also inserted, but the hall is now open to the roof for a little more than half its length at the east end, the present floor being over the screens and the first bay beyond—a distance of about 16 ft. From the evidence of the timber framing of the roof and screens the hall would appear to have been erected during the first half of the 15th century, (fn. 44) and therefore before the Bartons came to Smithills, but the original timber-framed walls seem to have been rebuilt in stone about a century later. The walls have been again largely rebuilt in recent times and are about 3 ft. thick to their original height, above which they are set back on the inside. All the windows are modern, replacing older square-headed ones of plainer type. The screens are at the west end and the dais at the east, but a brick wall and the floor above at the west effectually hide from view the old arrangement at that end. The screen or 'speeres,' is however still in position, and the passage way remains intact with its original oak outer door, at each end and a stone porch on the north, and with the three usual openings (two of which are built up) opposite to the hall, leading to the kitchen passage, buttery, and pantry. The 'speeres' stand 4 ft. 6 in. from the walls, on a low stone base, with octagonal angle posts 12 in. in diameter having moulded caps, from which the curved braces forming the underside of the principal spring. The roof (which is about 27 ft. to the ridge) is divided into five bays of unequal size, the disposition of the principals giving a short bay at each end (6 ft. over screens and 4 ft. over dais), and in the centre, with larger bays of 8 ft. between. The two central coupled principals probably indicate the presence of a louvre, as there is no fireplace in the hall or sign of there having been one. The timbers of the roof are very massive and plain, the chief ornament consisting of shaped wind braces forming quatrefoil panelling along the whole length. At the east end of the room the original timber construction of the wall behind the dais remains, but the dais and canopy over have disappeared. The roof over the short eastern bay is modern. The whole of the wall west of the screens preserves its ancient timber construction and is enriched with curved braces to its full height, those in the upper part forming large quatrefoil panels. The roof of the hall is carried on stone corbels about 10 ft. from the floor, one of which is carved with an eight-leaved rose. One of the middle principals, however, is continued on the south side down to the floor, which was most likely the case with the others before the rebuilding of the walls in stone. The west end of the hall between the 'speeres' was probably occupied by a standing screen and without a minstrels' gallery, but there are traces of one having been inserted later, the floor of which would probably be about the height of the present modern floor over the screens. (fn. 45)
The great chamber at the east end of the hall is now cut up and hardly recognizable, but was formerly a room 33 ft. long by 14 ft. 6 in. wide with windows north and south and a large fireplace on the east side, all of which features still remain though difficult to distinguish. The ceiling is low and crossed by four moulded beams and a single one its full length forming ten square panels, and there is a room over. The window at the south end under the gable facing the quadrangle is an original square-headed one with moulded wood mullions and diamond quarries.
Beyond the great chamber a small lobby marks the junction of the north and east wings, with a door to a small open court on the north. From this court some external timber construction can be seen on the north and west sides, together with the massive stone chimney of the great chamber—one of the few parts of the building that have not been much restored. On the floor of the lobby itself is shown the footprint of George Marsh, the Protestant martyr, carefully preserved under a grating.
The large room at the north end of the east wing may have been used as a dining-room after the abandonment of the great hall, or possibly as a withdrawing-room. It is 33 ft. in length and 19 ft. wide, and at its south-east corner is a large bay window 11 ft. square separated from the room by an arched opening with carved spandrels. The great distance of the room from the kitchen is rather against its having been used as a banqueting hall, though there appears to have been a doorway to a cellar (at a lower level) at the north-east end. The ceiling is divided into four bays by three richly moulded oak beams with moulded brackets supported on wood corbels and longitudinally by three smaller beams, similarly moulded, making twelve squares, each square being enriched by moulded joists about a foot apart. The ceiling of the bay is boarded, with thin moulded ribs nailed on forming a star-shaped panelling. The bay itself preserves its old timber construction, and goes up two stories, finishing in a gable; but the windows are only old on the north and south sides, where the original diamond quarries and moulded mullions and transoms remain. (fn. 46) On the east the window frame is modern with square chamfered detail and large square quarries. The north and east walls of the room have been rebuilt in brick, but the west and south walls show the old timber and plaster construction, but are otherwise plain. The fireplace on the east side and the windows near it are modern. Originally the room was richly panelled in oak, (fn. 47) and must have presented a very handsome appearance, but a good deal of the oak panelling is now in the modern dining-room on the other side of the house. The room over was called the Green Chamber, and is that in which the examination of George Marsh is said to have been held.
The domestic chapel is 42 ft. long and 21 ft wide at the west end, tapering to 18 ft. at the east. In 1856 a fire did much damage, entirely destroying the roof and all the furniture, and the interior has therefore little archaeological interest, all the fittings being modern. The entrance from the house corridor is at the north-west corner, and there is a door at the west end opening to the garden. There is a large square-headed mullioned and transomed window at each end, three smaller windows of three and four lights in the south side, and one of four lights at the east end of the north side. The coloured glass is all new, except in the east window, where portions of the original heraldic glass are preserved, with the Stanley arms and badge conspicuous among them.
On the north side, separated from it by a wall, a room was formerly used as a vestry, (fn. 48) 18 ft. by 14 ft., above which, open to the chapel, was the family pew approached by a door from the corridor above. The vestry has now been thrown into the chapel as a kind of transept, and the pew turned into a gallery. The chapel is still used for public worship.
The rooms in the ancient west wing have been wholly modernized and have no particular interest. They consist of an ante-room and a modern drawingroom of irregular shape, with a narrow staircase on the west side adjoining the fireplace, which, carried up with an external timber gable next to the chimney, makes a rather happy feature in the garden front. In the ante-room is a good carved oak mantel with the date 1694 and the initials A.B. West of these the house is more or less modern, the 17th-century additions which immediately adjoin the old west wing having been a good deal reconstructed and restored. The dining-room and library, however, are interesting rooms on account of their oak wainscot, that of the dining-room being, as before stated, the original panelling from the later hall on the other side of the house. It consists chiefly of long linen pattern panels, with square panels below and an elaborate cornice above. On the west wall is a series of fourteen panels carved in the top part with heads within circles, and below with various designs, four having the Barton oak leaf and acorn, three the buck's head, two a molet, and the rest various patterns of interlaced work. A central additional panel has the sacred monogram " I.H.S." as an interlaced pattern under an ogee head. (fn. 49) The library adjoining (between the dining and drawing-rooms), is also elaborately fitted up with black oak but mostly of later date than that of the dining-room, the detail being of very pronounced renaissance type, and consisting of scriptural and other subjects with quaint inscriptions. The wall between the library and the ante-room contains an old fireplace now built up and completely hidden, and north of the library is a room lit from the ceiling, now called the dome-room, which is in the site of a former open area. It has a good carved oak 17th-century mantel and door, (fn. 50) and contains a sideboard dated 1642.
Externally the north front of the house is almost entirely modern, the only old portions being at the east end, where some of the old stone windows and a moulded string-course remain. The east elevation is the least altered, showing as it does the old timber and plaster bay and gable over in an almost unrestored condition.
The gardens lie on the south and east of the house, a terrace wall extending along the whole length of the south and east fronts, the coping of which is on a level with the grass of the lawn so as to keep the view over the park uninterrupted from the ground-floor windows. The terrace staircase enhances the general effect of the external elevation by increasing its height, and the long terrace walk, which is 15 ft. wide and extends the full length of the south front, is below the level of the lawn. At its west end is a raised mound approached by three flights of steps.
Egburden, later Egbert Dene, seems to have included the whole north-western part of Halliwell, known as Smithills Dene and Smithills Moor. (fn. 51) It was part of the lands of the barons of Manchester, (fn. 52) and was held of them by the Bartons of Smithills. (fn. 53)
In addition to the Hospitallers the Canons of Cockersand had land in alms in Halliwell. (fn. 54)
William Swinburne, a Halliwell recusant, in 1653 petitioned to be allowed to contract for his sequestered estate. (fn. 59)
The principal landowner in 1788 was Miss Byrom, others being Roger Dewhurst, — Aspinall, and Escrick. (fn. 60)
The most notable man springing from the township is the George Marsh, already mentioned, who was condemned and burnt to death at Chester on 24 April 1555 for teaching Protestant doctrines, and refusing to compromise. (fn. 61)
In recent times several places of worship have been erected in the township. For the Established Church St. Peter's was built in 1840, (fn. 62) followed by St. Paul's in 1848; (fn. 63) in 1874 and 1875 respectively St. Luke's (fn. 64) and St. Thomas's (fn. 65) were added. The patronage is in the hands of trustees, except in the case of St. Paul's, to which Colonel R. H. Ainsworth presents. There is a chapel at Smithills, (fn. 66) and a Wesleyan chapel at Delph Hill.
The Roman Catholic church of St. Joseph, which originated in 1881, was opened in 1900. (fn. 67)