THIS year saw the highest turnout ever for a beloved annual garden party.

Smithills Hall was the place to be this weekend to soak up the summer sun while enjoying an afternoon of family fun.

A whole host of family friendly activities were on offer — everything from circus skills workshops, craft and food stalls, magic shows, live music, donkey rides, facepainting and story telling got a spot on the lawns.

The free event has seen thousands attend in previous years and 2019 was no exception.

Christine Collins, Smithills Historic Hall manager, said this year saw the biggest numbers yet come down to the hall and get involved in the festivities.

She said: “It’s fantastic, we had good weather and I think because it’s established and we work with local companies it’s been a success.”

The theme was space because that’s the Summer Reading Challenge.

Ms Collins is hoping that the next events coming up in the Smithills Hall calendar will get as big a turnout. She said: “I’m hoping that by us building and advertising these events we will get them filled.

“There were lots and lots of families who showed up, we had people visit who were married here and we have lots of regular visitors.”

Coming up soon at Smithills Hall are the Fantastic Fridays, where child friendly activities have been planned for the school holidays.

Dates include July 26 and August 2, 9, 16 and 23. The Fridays will be £2 per child and tickets can be booked on or by calling 01204332853. More details of activities will be provided in due course.

A heritage day is also booked in for September 22. From noon until 4pm, there will be guided tours from the Friends of Smithills Hall, who will take visitors around the historic building and up the spiral staircase to see the Green Room where protestant martyr George Marsh was interrogated. Vintage and artisan fairs are being held throughout September too.