Is Smithills Coaching House being saved... or ruined?

The Bolton News: Is Smithills Coaching House being saved... or ruined? Is Smithills Coaching House being saved... or ruined?

FEW planning applications caused as much controversy in recent years as Smithills Coaching House.

A popular restaurant for more than four decades until its closure last August, the grade II listed building started life as the stables of the historic grade I listed Smithills Hall — one of the jewels in Bolton’s heritage crown.

The estate itself is also a registered park and garden and contains ancient woodland.

But residents and heritage groups were furious last summer when plans were unveiled by developer Jones Homes to convert the Coaching House into eight properties and build 21 homes on surrounding green belt land.

The firm claimed it was the only way to stop the Victorian building — which had fallen victim to metal thieves and vandals since its closure — from falling into ruin, and said the surrounding housing development was the only way of making its investment in the Coaching House itself financially viable.

But opponents claimed there were alternative options and that other interested parties would have stepped in to preserve the building for leisure use rather than housing.

The Smithills estate has a long history.

The first written records relating to the hall itself began when William Radcliffe obtained the manor from the Hulton family in 1335.

In 1485, when the last Radcliffe to own the estate died without a male heir, the hall was passed to the Bartons, a wealthy family of sheep owners.

Smithills was home to the Bartons for almost 200 years until, in 1659, the hall and estate was passed by marriage to the Belasyse family, who owned many other properties around England, and Smithills entered a period of neglect.

In 1801, the hall and estate were sold to the Ainsworth family, who were successful Bolton bleachers, and, under three generations of Ainsworths, Smithills was extensively rebuilt and modernised.

In 1870, Richard Henry Ainsworth, the nephew of Peter Ainsworth, inherited the house, and five years later he hired prominent Victorian architect George Devey to design the most significant improvements to Smithills Hall.

But changes in the British economy after the First World War had increased costs and reduced the amount of income the family could raise from the estate, and the financial burden of maintaining a large house eventually became too great.

In 1938, Smithills was sold to Bolton Council for £70,600 and the Victorian parts of the hall became a council residential home and later a day centre until the late 1990s.

Conservation work on the older sections allowed part of it to be opened as a museum in 1963, and in the 1990s the museum was extended into some of the Victorian parts of the house.

The Coaching House itself had been built in the 17th century as the stable block of the hall, and was converted into a restaurant in 1966 by brothers Alan and Donald Clarke.

Current Bolton Council leader Cllr Cliff Morris — a former chef — was previously the managing director of the Smithills Coaching House restaurant, which operated for 46 years until its closure last August with the loss of 30 jobs.

The plans which followed resulted in a flurry of objections, including one from English Heritage — the organisation set up to protect the country’s historic buildings — which claimed the development would affect the view from Smithills Hall.

Jones Homes then altered the plans, but English Heritage did not withdraw its objection.

Ian Greenhalgh, aged 66, was chairman of Smithills Hall from 2006 to 2008 and had been a member of the Labour Party since he was 15 before resigning following last December’s planning decision.

He said: “Smithills Hall was once named as the 49th most important building in the country because it had three distinctive styles of architecture — mediaeval, Victorian and Elizabethan.

“There’s a stained glass window of Henry the VIII’s coat of arms which has been there 600 years.

“I think the development will change the whole feel of the area.

“It’s precious and I love it there — I used to play there as a kid.

“I walk around the area. A lot of people do, and it’s just so important to people.

“But we don’t seem to be proud of our history in Bolton.”

Margaret Collier, a member of Bolton and District Civic Trust’s executive committee, questioned whether all the possible options had been considered.

She said: “To me, Smithills Hall is a rare example of a mediaeval manor house that can be appreciated in its original rural, green belt environment.

“That is disturbed only by the Coaching House, itself a listed building, giving witness to Bolton’s heyday of Victorian affluence.

“The magical setting, next to ancient woodland, has survived unchanged for 600 years.”

Nearby resident Peter Tate, of Abercorn Road, works as an engineer for Bury Council.

He had his wedding reception at Smithills and said he has known it all his life.

“It’s part of the heritage of Bolton — it’s been around for hundreds of years,” he said.

“The concern is that they’re closing the building to the public.

“Once it’s just private residents in there, they’ll lock the doors and that’s it.

“The Coaching House is part of Smithills — if you mention Smithills to people they say: ‘Oh, the Coaching House’.

“The application is basically about splitting the Smithills Estate in two and it’s part of our heritage.”

Pat Allen, aged 68, worked as a waitress and supervisor at the Coaching House restaurant between 1978 and 1988 and has opposed the plans.

She said: “I worked there for 10 years in its heyday when things were going great.

“It’s a beautiful building, and it’s perfect as a restaurant.

“It was really busy and we did everything from funerals to racecourse meetings and weddings.

“My daughter was the first to get married in Smithills Hall and we just walked over to the Coaching House and had a wonderful time.

“Our green spaces are the only thing we’ve got in Bolton.”

With the plans passed by the council’s planning committee, councillors agreed the scheme was needed to prevent the Coaching House deteriorating further.

But because the estate is on green belt land and a heritage site, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles had the power to stop the plans going through.

But despite asking for more time to decide, he later chose not to intervene and the project will now go ahead.

Smithills councillor Roger Hayes, who had campaigned against the plans, said: “The Smithills Estate is important as a whole — the grade I listed hall, grade II listed Coaching House and the park and gardens.

“They are much more significant as a whole than as the individual parts.

“Anything which reduces the setting of one does so for the whole estate.

“That is one reason that the development of the Coaching House is important.

“Also, the area is in green belt and any development there sets dangerous precedents for other nearby parts of the green belt.”

Jones Homes could not be reached for comment, but in a previous statement its spokesman said its proposals would restore aspects of the building that had been damaged by “unsympathetic extensions and additions” that had been made over the years, adding that the plans were “sympathetic to the listed building and its surroundings” and provided “the most viable alternative to securing the long-term future of the Coaching House”.

add from jones homes???

Comments (11)

Please log in to enable comment sorting

11:33am Fri 25 Jan 13

malcolm- t says...

Henry VIII was born in 1491 so if the stained glass window has been there 600 it is well worth preserving as a miracle. Just typical of Bolton council though - refuse planning permission for double glazing in listed properties but allow others in Bolton to be demolished. It's a pity Cllr Morris does not have the same moral compass as his colleague.
Henry VIII was born in 1491 so if the stained glass window has been there 600 it is well worth preserving as a miracle. Just typical of Bolton council though - refuse planning permission for double glazing in listed properties but allow others in Bolton to be demolished. It's a pity Cllr Morris does not have the same moral compass as his colleague. malcolm- t

2:21pm Fri 25 Jan 13

xxenigmaxx says...

Its would be ruined and unforgivable to allow a housing development to take over this beautiful building which is part of our history. I thought Bolton Council acted for the people not against. Our Heritage should be preserved, to much of Bolton as all ready been demolished and turned into a wasteland, we are losing so much of what made our little town Great and what made so many of us proud to be able to say that we came from here.
Its would be ruined and unforgivable to allow a housing development to take over this beautiful building which is part of our history. I thought Bolton Council acted for the people not against. Our Heritage should be preserved, to much of Bolton as all ready been demolished and turned into a wasteland, we are losing so much of what made our little town Great and what made so many of us proud to be able to say that we came from here. xxenigmaxx

3:53pm Fri 25 Jan 13

Brumas says...

g
g Brumas

4:37pm Fri 25 Jan 13

Brumas says...

The problems with trying to save the Smithills Coaching House are the same as the problems that met the group of people that tried to save the Greenwood Hotel in Horwich. Firstly, a private planning company is asked for advice, the advice given most likely follows the following scenario. If you sell the property has a going concern, you will get X amount, but if you sell it with planning permission you will get 3 x X amount. So who is going to sell for X amount, when 3 x X is attainable? Then planning officers get involved, making what should be a Black and White part of planning legislation, into a vague Grey area. (No development on Green Belt) Then thing get heated and despite quite reasonable offers being made to purchase has a going concern the sellers have their sites on 3 x X. So an impasse occurs with the sellers having £££££££ signs before their eyes. Thus making it impossible for the sellers to back track. Hence we end up with the situation we now have.
The problems with trying to save the Smithills Coaching House are the same as the problems that met the group of people that tried to save the Greenwood Hotel in Horwich. Firstly, a private planning company is asked for advice, the advice given most likely follows the following scenario. If you sell the property has a going concern, you will get X amount, but if you sell it with planning permission you will get 3 x X amount. So who is going to sell for X amount, when 3 x X is attainable? Then planning officers get involved, making what should be a Black and White part of planning legislation, into a vague Grey area. (No development on Green Belt) Then thing get heated and despite quite reasonable offers being made to purchase has a going concern the sellers have their sites on 3 x X. So an impasse occurs with the sellers having £££££££ signs before their eyes. Thus making it impossible for the sellers to back track. Hence we end up with the situation we now have. Brumas

7:18pm Fri 25 Jan 13

Andy Higham says...

Have you noticed, whenever a developer wants to develop a historic building, there is suddenly an outbreak of vandalism or a fire?
I wonder how much the metal theives made over and above what they got for the metal
Have you noticed, whenever a developer wants to develop a historic building, there is suddenly an outbreak of vandalism or a fire? I wonder how much the metal theives made over and above what they got for the metal Andy Higham

11:39pm Fri 25 Jan 13

gladrill says...

Well it certainly will not be improved. Builders do not give a fig whether it is an historic site or note all they see is the ££££££££££ .
Well it certainly will not be improved. Builders do not give a fig whether it is an historic site or note all they see is the ££££££££££ . gladrill

10:38am Sat 26 Jan 13

Puffin-Billy says...

Andy Higham wrote:
Have you noticed, whenever a developer wants to develop a historic building, there is suddenly an outbreak of vandalism or a fire?
I wonder how much the metal theives made over and above what they got for the metal
Wheels within wheels !

Anybody remember Margaret Thatcher purchasing a house on one of Barratt's most up market estates, in Dulwich, South London?

Nothing to do with the Birtenshaw Bolton decision of course!

Not that there's any such jiggery pokery going on with Smithills !
[quote][p][bold]Andy Higham[/bold] wrote: Have you noticed, whenever a developer wants to develop a historic building, there is suddenly an outbreak of vandalism or a fire? I wonder how much the metal theives made over and above what they got for the metal[/p][/quote]Wheels within wheels ! Anybody remember Margaret Thatcher purchasing a house on one of Barratt's most up market estates, in Dulwich, South London? Nothing to do with the Birtenshaw Bolton decision of course! Not that there's any such jiggery pokery going on with Smithills ! Puffin-Billy

10:59am Sat 26 Jan 13

Anne W. says...

Smithils Hall and coaching house are our ,and more importantly ,future generation heritage.

Rivington Barns have been preserved, are busy bustling places,loved by Bolton people.
Were business people given the opportunity to explore the coaching house possiblities.
Creating a "Rivington" at Smithills
Smithils Hall and coaching house are our ,and more importantly ,future generation heritage. Rivington Barns have been preserved, are busy bustling places,loved by Bolton people. Were business people given the opportunity to explore the coaching house possiblities. Creating a "Rivington" at Smithills Anne W.

12:24pm Sat 26 Jan 13

Brumas says...

Its like I said in the earlier post, owners not willing to to sell it at the going price. Whetherspoons wanted to buy the Greenwood in Horwich, but not given the chance, in Walkden they bought a pub and spent a million doing it up. Now thriving.
Its like I said in the earlier post, owners not willing to to sell it at the going price. Whetherspoons wanted to buy the Greenwood in Horwich, but not given the chance, in Walkden they bought a pub and spent a million doing it up. Now thriving. Brumas

3:13pm Sat 26 Jan 13

Andy Higham says...

A much more suitable use would be as a Hotel
How long before the people that buy the houses would start complaining about the open farm being so close?
A much more suitable use would be as a Hotel How long before the people that buy the houses would start complaining about the open farm being so close? Andy Higham

3:37pm Sat 26 Jan 13

BWFC71 says...

Or the number of people who walk infront of Smithills as part of the country walk - or even when Thornleigh or Smithills children are doping theri cross-country runs!!!!

They will probably be the NIMBY's that will end it all and create less attraction for the populous!
Or the number of people who walk infront of Smithills as part of the country walk - or even when Thornleigh or Smithills children are doping theri cross-country runs!!!! They will probably be the NIMBY's that will end it all and create less attraction for the populous! BWFC71

Comments are closed on this article.

click2find

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree