The district of Smithills is in what was the ancient township of Halliwell. It prominence grew from its hall, Smithills Hall, and the part that played in the life and development of the district.
The Hall at Smithills dates back over 800 years. Originally in the hands of the Hulton family, it passed in 1335 to William Radcliffe and was occupied by the Radcliffe family until 1498.
In 1498, tenure of the Manor passed to the Barton Family. It was under Sir Roger Barton in 1554 that George Marsh was taken to Smithills for interogation and where his supposed footprint can still be seen today.
The Hall was inherited by the Belasyse family in the 1660s.
It was then purchased in 1723 by the Byrom family.
The Hall was then purchased by the Ainsworth family, who had amassed their wealth in the bleaching industry. They were owners of the nearby bleach works, of which only Barrow Bridge chimney remains as a memorial to the past prosperity of the district.
The Ainsworth family were responsible for much of the surrounding development and were involved in the funding of the two local churches of St Peter's, Halliwell, and St Paul's Halliwell.
In 1938, the Hall was sold to Bolton Corporation and has since then been used by them for a variety of purposes, including parts being open to the public as a museum. The chapel at the Hall has also been open since 1956 as part of the parish of St Peter's Halliwell.