Abney is a secluded cluster of cottages nestling in a hollow, sheltered and protected from the surrounding high moors by an arboreal shield of trees. Located high above the Hope Valley, Abney is not far from the Great Hucklow Gliding Club on Camphill, and is close to Offerton Moor which is a beautiful heather-clad expanse containing rare and beautiful forms of wildlife. Abney Clough on the other hand is a secret wooded valley where paths and tracks wind down to cross over peat rich streams. Abney (Habenai in the Domesday Book) belonged to William Peverill also known as the ‘Peveril of the Peak. The settlement probably derives its name from Abba’s ey which means island, and it certainly appears as an oasis in the vast expanse of moorland which surrounds it.
A censure in 1821 stated that the hamlet of Abney contained 23 houses, as many families and 143 inhabitants. There were 20 families employed in agriculture and 3 in trade. A footpath on the outskirts of the villages leads up to Smelting Hill and access to the moor which can be like walking through a purple haze when the heather is in flower. In the skies above it is sometimes possible to see marlins , harriers and hawks preying for their next meal! From Smelting Hill there are wondrous views down onto the Hope Valley and across to the summits of Win Hill and Lose Hill with Kinder and Bleaklow in the distance away to the north. Over to the east there are The Surprise and Longshaw Lodge, and if the weather is clear you should even be able to make out the air ventilation shaft for Totley tunnel away on the horizon.
Not far from Abney is Offerton Hall. The present building dates from 1658, although a house is thought to have stood on this site as far back as the 12th century. It is a classic north Derbyshire manor house with twin projecting gables and mullioned windows. The soot-blackened chimney stack is said to have a massive girth of forty feet. Highlow Hall and its fabulous range of contemporary farm buildings can be found on the outskirts of Abney on the road to Hathersage . Set behind a ball-topped gateway, Highlow is quite spectacular. Not vast in size, but with its battlemented façade and two-storey porch, Highlow has a most romantic appearance. Little wonder that this reputedly haunted hall has a romantic attachment. Highlow was once the home of a family called Archer, but then passed on to the Eyre family through the marriage of one of two sisters. Nicholas Eyre was betrothed to the elder sister, but in true fairytale style he shifted his attentions to the younger sister. On finding out that her intended husband had become her intended brother-in-law, the heartbroken girl fled, never to be heard of again, apart that is from the occasional spectral visitation on the stairs of the Hall when she is said to curse Nicholas for his adulterous deed. She is also said to have foretold the downfall of the Eyre empire, and strangely enough the Eyre family did lose its power and strength as she predicted. However, this was not enough to appease the poor girl’s soul and the ‘white lady of Highlow’ is still said to appear from time to time, crossing the courtyard and ascending the oak staircase with a rustle of skirts and petticoats.
In Abney Clough there is a lovely crossing of Highlow Brook at Stoke Ford. At this point the brook changes its name and becomes Bretton Brook upstream to its source. Here there are woodlands and rough pasture with larch, spruce and pine, but this was in fact cultivated and farmed to some extent a couple of centuries ago. In the 19th century Bretton Clough had five farms. Gotheredge Farm which was of 17th century construction was last owned by a man called Billy Bingham who stayed there until around 1860, after which the farm fell to ruin. Gotheredge Barn however can still be found on maps. Gotheredge Farm was the setting of a vicious murder about 1785. An Abney man named ‘Blinker’ Bland came with accomplices one night with the intention of robbing the farmer of his savings. Unknown to them his money was safely banked. When the farmer recognised Blinker as one of the intended robbers ransacking his home, he was hit over the head with a milking stool and fatally wounded. His wife ran for help in her nightdress to neighbours at Fairest Clough Farm (also now demolished). The villains were later caught and it is said brought to justice. On the side of Abney Low is Cockey Farm which was the birthplace of William Newton in 1750. Born the son of a carpenter, he acclaimed fame as a poet and became known as the ‘Minstrel of the Peak’. William later became manager of Cressbrook Mill.