The Bolton Museum is split into 5 galleries (normally 7 but two, 'Wildlife on your Doorstep' and 'World Bays', ar currently being refurbished). The Archaeology Collection: Bolton’s archaeological collections number approximately 4,000 objects from Britain, Europe, and the Near East. The Near Eastern collection has been formed by astute subscription to excavations in Palestine, Israel, Jordan, Iraq and Iran from the 1930s onwards. Overall they provide an overview of almost four thousand years’ culture in this region, although in lesser detail than the Egyptian collection. Three ivory plaques from the palace of an Assyrian king at Nimrud in Iraq form the highlight of the collection, one few museums can match. The Palestinian objects, obtained from excavations of Sir Flinders Petrie, are a significant group and illustrate the influence of Egypt on its eastern neighbours throughout the Bronze Age. In the 1960s the museum acquired some “Luristan” bronze figures and ceramics from Iran. These were purchased on the antiquities market and are complemented by a rare group of pottery and decorated tiles excavated at the Iranian site of Baba Jan. European and British Archaeology has been at the heart of the museum since its foundation. The collection of Bolton solicitor Rooke Pennington, purchased in 1888, contained a large group of archaeological material. This includes Bronze Age tools and jewellery from lakeside villages in Switzerland; Neolithic and Bronze Age material from British barrows; and Palaeolithic objects from cave sites such as Creswell and Kent’s Cavern. The Chadwick Museum displayed “prehistoric” material together, including Ancient Egyptian and European material alongside modern Aboriginal Australian objects, and in the 1940s purchased two large collections of stone tools from sites around the world. Local material is a relatively small part of the collection, and comprises objects dating from the Palaeolithic period onwards mainly acquired up at random, and reflecting the lack of opportunities for fieldwork in built-up Bolton. Local Bronze Age finds include a Bronze Age spearhead found at Belmont reservoir, a burial urn and flints from a Bronze Age barrow at Noon Hill, a decorated “pygmy cup” from Breightmet, and a faience bead from Anglezarke. Later material includes a portion of a Roman hoard from Affetside, and a group of “Celtic” stone heads from Smithills. The museum also acts as a repository for material from excavations taking place within BMBC boundaries.
Bolton’s collection of ancient Egyptian material is arguably one of the most important in a British local authority museum and numbers around 12,000 objects from over 65 sites in Egypt. Unlike comparable collections in the UK, the majority of the objects are excavated and thus retain full provenance information. All phases of Egyptian material culture from the Neolithic Period (c. 5,000BC) to the Arab Period (7th Century AD onwards) are represented. The objects are typical of the material culture of Egypt during these periods with a specific strength in textiles. Object types include: textiles including clothing; basketry and boxes; statuary; funerary objects (shabti, model coffins, canopics, tomb models, funerary cones, soul houses, embalming materials, animal reliquaries); mummies (human and animal); coffins, coffin elements and cartonnage; architectural elements (wall reliefs, tomb reliefs including a false door, inscribed column fragments, beaded wall covering, painted plaster for walls and floor); stele; ceramic, stone, faience, wood, glass, and faience vessels; amulets and jewellery; cosmetic containers; toiletry items (combs, razors, mirrors, tweezers, palettes); tools and weapons; toys; ritual objects (large bronze incense stand, incense tongs, situla; clay hair balls); ostraca, papyri, scribal equipment. Among the core elements of the collection are ancient textiles. One reason for this focus in the collection is the history of the textile industry in Bolton. Famously Bolton is the place where the spinning mule was invented in the 1780s and within 100 years of this invention, Bolton became internationally known as a centre for spinning and weaving of fine quality cotton. The Bygones collection was begun with the aim of developing a collection that represented all aspects of local life in the 19th and 20th centuries. Collecting areas included: civic material, weights and measures, societies and clubs (religious and secular), insurance marks, militaria, kitchen ware, domestic technology, royal visits, sporting equipment and trophies, home entertainment, public entertainment, personal items (e.g. toiletries, hearing aids), cameras, photographs and albums, postcards, scrap books, drinking and theatres, fire and police services, local businesses, medical and pharmacy, advertising.
.A separate Textiles collection was simultaneously established for clothing, embroidery and wovens. The clothing collection is made up of around 1200 pieces and its main strength is mid 19 – mid 20th century women’s wear. A local collector, Miss B. L. Walker donated around 500 of the items in this collection. Bolton was a centre for weaving from at least the 1500s. From the 18-20th centuries it was known for its counterpanes. Some examples in the collection, known as Bolton Quilts, were hand woven in the 1790s. The counterpanes are an area prime for research. The star items are the only surviving mule to be made by its inventor, Samuel Crompton, and several machines from Sir Richard Arkwright’s Cromford mill. These are objects of national importance as they represent the leading edge of the Industrial Revolution. There are also extensive botany, geology art and zoology collections. The museum has two outlying locations, Smithills Hall and Hall i' th' Wood. Smithills Hall stands on the slopes of the moors above Bolton at a height of 500 feet, two miles north west of the town centre. It occupies a defensive site near the Astley and Raveden Brooks. One of the oldest manor houses in the north west of England, its oldest parts, including the great hall, date from the 15th century. In 1554 George Marsh a preacher from Deane near Bolton was 'examined' at Smithills Hall, before being sent to Chester to be tried for heresy. He was found guilty and executed at Boughton in Chester. A footprint, supposedly left by Marsh, is said to bleed every year on the anniversary of his death (24 April). Nathaniel Hawthorne visited and described the hall when he was United States consul in Liverpool in 1855.
Hall i' th' Wood was the manor house for the moiety of the Tonge with Haulgh township held by the Brownlows in the 16th century. The original building is timber framed and has a stone flagged roof; there were later additions to the house, built from stone, in 1591 and 1648. The house was the home of Samuel Crompton during the 18th century and was where he designed and built the first spinning mule. Hall i' th' Wood was bought by William Lever (later Lord Leverhulme) in 1899 and was restored by Jonathan Simpson and Edward Ould, it is totally furnished as Crompton would have. There is also an Aquarium. The museum is on two floors, the mezzanine level can be accessed by a lift at the end of the Bolton Lives gallery. To access the aquarium there is a lift to the basement and a permanent ramp down the corridor. All the galleries have interpretation boards with pictures and large text. Library and Museum assistants are on hand in the History centre to assist with using the computers and looking at books. There are interactive touch screens; that can be accessed from a sitting or a standing position. There are oral interpretation exhibits in the Bolton Lives gallery on automatic sensors. Smithills: Due to the age of the building there are uneven floors and steps and wheelchair access is to the ground floor only. Hall i' th' Wood: Due to the age of the building there are uneven floors and steps and wheelchair access is to the ground floor only. There are accessible toilets at all sites. Trained assistance dogs are welcome at all sites. A water bowl is available on request.
Location : Le Mans Crescent, Bolton BL1 1SE.
Smithills, Dean Road, Bolton BL1 7NP
Hall i' th' Wood, Green Way, off Crompton Way, Bolton BL1 8UA
Transport: Bolton (National Rail). Metroshuttle Bus 550 (free) stops outside.
Opening Times: Monday to Saturday 09:00 to 17:00; Sunday 10:00 to 16:00
Smithills: Wednesday to Friday 10:00 to 16:00; Sunday 12:00 to 16:00
Hall i' th' Wood: Tuesday 10:00 to 16:00; Sunday 12:00 to 16:00
Tel: 01204 332211 Smithills 01204 332853 Hall i' th' Wood 01204 332853