The little hamlet of Bretton near Eyam was at one time a thriving community with 22 children attending the school at Great Hucklow. Many of the inhabitants were employed in local mines between the Barrel Inn and the Youth Hostel where there was a row of 6 miners’ cottages
An annual fair took place at Bretton with donkey races and a sheep roast. In the 19th century the hamlet had its own foot race. It is said that a ram was covered with soft soap to make it slippery and the runners had to catch it as it raced along the road towards Grindleford
As with Eyam, Bretton lost some of its inhabitants to the plague in the 17th century, and there are graves marked with flat little headstones in a field near to the Youth Hostel building.
Bretton is famed for its Barrel Inn which must have the best views of any Peak District public house. It stands at the side of the road leading to Sir William Hill which was at one time part of the Buxton to Grindleford turnpike road and reached a height of over 1400 feet at its summit before descending 500 feet to Grindleford in little over half a mile. The title Sir William Hill is said to date back to at least 1692, although there are several theories as to the naming of it.
Back Lane, Bretton is said to be an earlier turnpike road to the one running along the ridge top and it is reputed that Nether Bretton Farm was at one time the original Barrel Inn, the existing pub being built around the time of the later turnpike road.
There are several areas of Bretton including Nether Bretton and Bretton Clough.
On the side of Big Moor and Gotheredge Plantation, a fabulous path descends to Stoke Ford. This was the main packhorse route from Eyam to Bradwell, passing through Abney and Robin Hoods Cross.
Cockey Farm between Bretton and nearby Abney was the birthplace of William Newton in 1750. Born the son of a carpenter, he achieved fame as a poet and became known as The Minstrel of the Peak. He later became manager of Cressbrook Mill.
In 1745 the farmers of Eyam drove their cattle into Bretton Clough to hide them from Bonnie Prince Charlie and his Highlanders who had invaded Derbyshire on their way south. Over to the south-west is Abney Grange which was once owned by the Abbot of Welbeck, then became the private residence of the Bagshaws and Bradshaws.
In Bretton Clough are the ruins of five deserted homesteads which at one time were a thriving rural community. Gotheredge Farm dated from the 17th century and stood on the side of the valley. In 1785 it was the scene of a brutal murder involving a local man known as Blinker Bland. He came to the farm 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, Bretton. The villains were later caught and it is said brought to justice.
Closeby stood the two holdings of Bretton Clough Twin Farms, individually knows as Fairest Clough Farm, Bretton and Hawleys Farm, Bretton. In 1893 a rabbit warren was created at Clough Farm by the lord of the manor of Abney. It was let to London furriers and tie makers the Jacob Brothers. Rabbits were bred here for the next forty years or so, but with no great financial success. The rabbits are said to have burrowed so much that they badly damaged the land, making the slopes of shale unstable.