Highlow Hall

Highlow Hall is a small manor house of probably the sixteenth century, perched on top of a shoulder leading up to Smelting Hill and by ancient lanes from Hathersage to Abney and Great Hucklow. It was a home of the Eyre family of Hathersage, founded in about 1400 when Robert Eyre of Hope married Joan Padley, a local heiress.

Numerous stories are told of it by modern writers without indicating their source. Some accounts say that Highlow Hall came into the Eyre family when the younger of two sisters of the Archer family then living there married Nicholas Eyre, heir to the manor of Hope. According to legend, the older sister was almost married to him when she found that he was also paying attentions to her younger sister. Jilted, she fled the house and apparently killed herself, as some time later her ghost glided down the great oak staircase to confront Nicholas and put a curse on the house of Eyre. Within the prescribed time, this once great family was no more.

Among other ghosts supposedly seen at Highlow is a man dressed in white who, according to S.O. Addy in 1895, appears at midnight riding a white horse. Other writers mention a workman whose incessant grumbling during the restoration of the Hall in 1360 provoked Nicholas Eyre into murdering him. In another version, he was a mason whom Robert Eyre found playing dice when he should have been working, so immediately killed with his sword. There is also the ghost of one of Robert’s friends. They were returning together from a drunken outing in Chesterfield when they quarrelled. In the ensuing fight, Robert killed his friend, as he successfully claimed, in self-defence. The story adds that Robert, too, would have been killed, by a blow to the head, had he not been wearing the same hard hat he wears in what is said to be his image, a man’s head in a rolled-brim hat, carved on the north wall of Hathersage church.

One of England’s numerous White Ladies also haunted the Hall after it had become a farmhouse. She was often seen crossing the courtyard and entering by the front door, then with a rustle of silken skirts ascending the oak staircase. One farmworker who sometimes saw her by moonlight would politely touch his cap at her approach, and once ventured to speak, but received no reply nor any other sign of having been heard. A carter on his way home to Dronfield saw a woman standing with the palms of her hands resting on the cattle-trough as if gazing at her reflection. This was at about two in the morning, and, remarking on his return that the people at the Hall were astir early, he was told that he must have seen the White Lady. Bumps heard on the staircase from time to time were said to be echoes of the past, a lady in white having been murdered in one of the bedrooms, and her body dragged along the landing and down the stairs to be buried none knew where.

Further fragmentary traditions speak of tables mysteriously set for unseen guests (compare WAXHAM HALL, Norfolk), and Clarence Daniel (1973) was told of a lay preacher whom he knew, and who formerly lived at the Hall, conducting a service of exorcism during which the ghosts of a mother and child materialized at the top of the staircase.



Haunted England : The Penguin Book of Ghosts – Written by Jennifer Westwood and Jacqueline Simpson
Copyright © Jennifer Westwood and Jacqueline Simpson 2005, 2008