Abney Hall
Abney Hall is a substantial Victorian villa residence surrounded by a park in Cheadle, Stockport, England ( grid reference SJ85958923 ). The hall dates back to 1847 and is a Grade II* listed building.

History

Early history
The foundations of the Hall were laid in 1842 on the site of 'Cheadle Grove Print Works', which was built in 1760 and later burnt down; it was completed in 1847 and underwent extensions in the 1850s and later in the 1890s. It was originally called 'The Grove' after the old print works and was the home of a former mayor of Stockport, Alfred Orell, who died in the year of its completion. Abney was then sold to Mr. James Watts (later Sir James Watts) who rebuilt the upper storey and added two short wings sometime in the early 1850s. The architects for those alterations were Travis and Magnall, the Manchester firm which also designed the spectacular Watts Warehouse on Portland Street, Manchester. Towards the rear of the building beside the landing of some stairs can be seen a miniature octagonal roof-light - modelled on a similar structure in Ely cathedral. James Watts was also responsible for renaming it 'Abney Hall' after, in the words of his son, "Sir Thomas Abney who entertained Sir Isaac Watts for thirty years" . In the 1890s, Abney Hall was further altered, and considerably extended by the architect and interior designer George Faulkner Armitage. In 1912, a valuation and inventory was taken for insurance reasons. The task was completed by Waring & Gillow Ltd. who valued the contents of Abney Hall and Buckley Hall (a detached stone and lime building within the grounds that was demolished in 1963) at £13,150 5s 0d.

Later history
Abney Hall was sold 1958 for £14,000 to Cheadle and Gatley Urban District Council which adapted it and opened it as the new Cheadle Town Hall in 1959. Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council then took it over in 1974 and moved much of the remaining historical furniture from the Hall to Bramall Hall and Lyme Hall. Various parts of the grounds were sold off until there is only the present amount of land which is only one 10 th of the original area. The Hall is now used as offices, though, of recent years, it has been opened to the public under the auspices of the Civic Trust's Heritage Open Days scheme in September, and the grounds are open to the public all year round.

Grounds
The park was originally part of the Mersey flood plain, and much of the land is still very damp. This land has now formed wet meadows, which are becoming increasingly rare in Stockport as land is drained for development. Abney Hall is one of the few places in Stockport to feature such wetlands.

Agatha Christie
The last private owner of Abney Hall, another James Watts, was Agatha Christie's brother-in-law. Mrs. Christie often visited the Hall and wrote two stories from there: the novel After the Funeral and the short story The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding , which is part of a collection of short stories of the same name. The Hall was also used as a basis for Chimneys, a country house and seat of the fictional Marquesses of Caterham, in The Secret of Chimneys and The Seven Dials Mystery . Many references to various places around Cheadle can be found in her books. Vanessa Wagstaff writes, "Abney became Agatha's greatest inspiration for country-house life, with all the servants and grandeur which have been woven into her plots. The descriptions of the fictional Styles, Chimneys, Stoneygates and the other houses in her stories are mostly Abney in various forms."

Visitors
Abney Hall has had numerous famous visitors, some of whom are listed below:
  • In 1857, Prince Albert visited the Hall during a two-day visit to Manchester and described it as 'one of the most princely mansions in the neighbourhood'.
  • Agatha Christie's brother-in-law, James Watts, was the last private owner of the Hall and Mrs. Christie often spent time there.
  • Benjamin Disraeli
  • E.M. Forster
  • William Ewart Gladstone


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