It was a fairly dull and miserable day so a visit to the park with my daughter was out of the question. She’d never been to Hall i’ th’ Wood so we decided to spend our Saturday afternoon there.
The wooden-framed house dates back to the first half of the sixteenth century and is one of the most important buildings in Bolton. It was originally the residence of a family of wealthy merchants, but is best known as the home of Samuel Crompton. It was in this building in 1779 that Crompton invented the Spinning Mule, an invention that had a profound impact on the fortunes of Bolton and North West England.
In the late 19th century the building fell into disrepair but was rescued from ruin by Lord Leverhulme, a local businessman and founder of what is now Unilever. In 1902, after carrying out renovations to the building, he presented Hall i’ th’ Wood to Bolton Council. It now functions as a museum that explores the life and works of Crompton.
The curators welcomed us with enthusiasm and gave my daughter a game to play. It was simple enough, just a sheet of paper with silhouettes of interesting objects around the house. Nevertheless she really enjoyed running up and down the rickety stairs, going from room to room, and trying to find them. When she couldn’t locate one, the curators obliging gave her clues.
There are about 10 rooms in total. Each is filled with displays of fine displays of 17th and 18th century furniture and objects of local importance.
The ground floor dairy is one of the most interesting rooms in the house. Butter and cheese were once made here and today it contains an impressive collection of tools and domestic equipment from the 18th and 19th centuries. Exhibits include a huge stone cheese press, a candle-making tool, and a rack for hanging meat.
Up on the first floor the Crompton Rooms illustrate the life of its most famous resident. There are portraits of Crompton and his family, a replica of the Spinning Mule, and personal items such as his violin.
The museum is well worth visiting even if most of the locals don’t seem to think so. We were there for over an hour on a Saturday afternoon and, aside from the curators, had the place to ourselves. Opening times have been reduced in recent years and are currently Tuesday 10 am to 3 pm, and Saturday noon to 4 pm.
Hall i’ th’ Wood is situated in the Tonge area of Bolton, just off Crompton Way. There’s a free car park just outside the main entrance. Hall i’ th’ Wood Train Station is approximately ½ mile from the hall.
While you’re in the area you could also visit Firwood Fold, a nearby hamlet and conservation area. Here you’ll find both the oldest inhabited building in Bolton and the cottage where Samuel Crompton was born.
At Bolton Museum in the town centre you can see the only known original Spinning Mule and other exhibits relating to Crompton. His body rests in the grounds of Bolton Parish Church and there’s a statue erected in his honour in Nelson Square.