Smithills Hall, Bolton
The hall – one of the oldest in Lancashire – has a footprint in its flagstones said to have been created when a protestant martyr was interrogated at the hall. The footprint is said to become bloody on the anniversary of his martyrdom.
George Marsh was a protestant martyr who was burned at the stake in 1555 during Bloody Mary’s reign. Captured during those predominantly Catholic times, he was brought to the hall by its owner, a magistrate called Mr Barton. During his interrogation it is reputed that he stamped his foot on the floor and prayed that a mark should be left there to show the injustice of his accusers. The depression in the flag miraculously appeared, and after his death his spectre was said to wander the hall. Another tradition suggests that some young men from the Barton family threw the flag with the footprint into the local stream. This act caused such disturbing poltergeist activity that it had to be replaced. A tradition that has echoes with that of the screaming skulls found in other parts of the country.
The footprint can still be seen today, and according to Nathaniel Hawthorn in his book Septimius 1872, the footprint becomes blood wet every year at the time of his interrogation.
There are many similar folktales throughout Britain concerned with bloody footprints, bloodstains and other features left when a religious activist were martyred for their religious (and political) views. These indelible marks originate form both the Catholics and Protestants, depending on the politics of the country at that time.