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The Andrews Pages Picture Gallery : Staffordshire
A selection of photographs, prints and postcards. Some have personal or family connections
Ilam, Holy Cross Church

Ilam is a small village in the Manifold valley, not far from the Derbyshire border and close to Thorpe Cloud and the entrance to Dovedale. The river goes underground at Wetton and re-appears four miles away close to llam Hall. Apparently Dr. Johnson, "in his usual masterful way, refused to believe that the Manifold disappeared underground"[1].

The stone built church, which is close to the Hall, is in the Early English style and was restored by Sir Gilbert Scott in 1856[2]. When the church was re-consecrated a Derbyshire newspaper commented that "the most material addition has been a new aisle on the north side, capable of accommodating 50 worshippers. The rest of the church has, however, been so much altered that no part of it would probably be recognised, save the venerable old porch, by those who knew it in its former condition"[3].

Scott raised the rooves and re-tiled them. He also raised the western tower and added what is known as a saddleback roof; the roof was topped with a ridge and has two sloping sides, so the structure underneath has two gable ends - hence the term saddle backed. The trefoiled opening below the roof is for the belfry. There is another on the far side of the tower.

Ebenezer Rhodes had visited Ilam in the autumn of 1820 on an excursion to Dovedale not long before the old hall was knocked down. "Workmen were excavating a vault on the north side, where a spacious Gothic chapel ... was to be erected". The octagonal chapel, shown on the left above, was to house a Chantrey monument in memory of David Pike Watts, a former owner of the Ilam estate[4]. A hundred years later Thomas Tudor thought Chantrey's technique was a tour de force but was less impressed by the life size figures[5]. Watts is shown on his death bed, with his arm resting on a pillow and holding a bible in one hand. He is blessing his only daughter (Mary Watts Russell) and her three children with his other hand[6]. Tudor may not have liked it but many others describe it as a gem of monumental art.

There are also early seventeenth century tombs to the Meverell family of Throwley Hall and the daughter of the family who married Thomas, 4th Lord Cromwell. A shrine to St. Bertram is in the south chancel aisle and memorials to the Ports, former lords of the manor, can also be found inside the church[2].

Rhodes' description of how the church looked at the beginning of the 1820s is interesting. "The tower appears to be a structure of foliage, for the stone work is so invested with ivy as to be almost entirely obscured with its verdant covering; and the dial of the clock is half buried amongst thickly entwined leaves. Ash, elder, and wild roses, of the most luxuriant growth and colour, flourish close around the walls of the church, and the adjoining burial ground is covered with the richest verdure, amongst which a grey stone occasionally appears, inscribed to the memory of those who sleep beneath. No fence or lawn marks this sequestered spot : towards the house it is open to the lawn, or only separated from it by an invisible fence ..."[4]

Many others visited Ilam. The village was on the tourist route for visitors to Matlock Bath, for example, who would hire a wagonette and later a charabanc to travel here on their way to Dovedale. The web mistress first came here as fourteen year old schoolgirl, picnicking on the grass outside the church fence one summer afternoon. It is an idyllic spot.

View of the south porch and the 1855/6 east window.
Note that the ivy described by Rhodes had regrown.
The sender wrote "I think this is such a lovely looking old church".

Also see, elsewhere on this web site:

"The Panorama of Matlock", pp20-30. Scroll down to the section on Dovedale.
The Gentleman's Magazine Library - The Peak, see p.48

1. "Ilam Parish Church, Dovedale". A. W. Bourne, 32 Babingley Drive, Leicester, No.16. Printed in Great Britain. Unused. Photographic postcard.
2. "Ilam Church". [The Wyndham Series]. W6232. Posted 20 Aug 1917.
In the collection of, provided by and © Ann Andrews.
Researched, written by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.


[1] Firth, J. B. (1908) "Highways and Byways in Derbyshire" MacMillan & Co., London.

[2] "Kelly's Directory of Staffordshire", 1896 and 1912.

[3] "Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal", 26 September 1856.

[4] Rhodes, Ebenezer (1824) "Peak Scenery" pub. London, Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, Brown, and Green, Paternoster Row.

[5] Tudor, Thomas Linthwaite (1926) "The High Peak to Sherwood, The hills and dales of old Mercia", pub. London by Robert Scott.

[6] "Exmouth Journal", 16 May 1903.

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Ilam Hall

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