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The Andrews Pages Picture Gallery : Staffordshire
A selection of photographs, prints and postcards. Some have personal or family connections
Ilam Hall
Ilam Hall, home of Mr. Watts Russell

Ilam Hall.
J. & C. Mozley, Derby.
Lithograph of Ilam Hall, rebuilt during the reign of King George IV,
and published in William Adam's "The Gem of the Peak" (1857)[1]

Adam wrote the following:[1]

"From thence [the Isaac Walton Hotel] we proceeded to ILAM HALL, the beautiful seat of Jesse Watts Russell, Esq., which is but a short distance from the Inn."


"The new house, erected but a few years ago, is a castellated structure, chiefly in the Elizabethan style. "This fine mansion, and the lovely scenery around, seem in perfect unison with each other, and when beheld from the road leading along the side of Bunster hill," near the gate, the view is peculiarly rich and beautiful. The grounds are kept in admirable order, and the cottages which we passed are remarkable neat and clean. The old ones are removed, and some in the Swiss style are erected in their stead." ... [He had noted in the first edition of his guide, published in 1838, that these were "heavy looking, being chiefly built of black marble"[2].]

"THE HOUSE. - We do not remember at any time to have visited a mansion, in which both the exterior and interior magnificence are in such happy unison as at Ilam. But what rendered the charm to us still greater, was the perfect feeling of domestic comfort which remained undisturbed by the grandeur which surrounded it."

"It would be impossible, in the short space at our disposal, to enter into a detail of the several objects which engaged our attention whilst passing through the various elegant apartments, where nothing appeared omitted that could possibly serve to complete the picture. From the Entrance Hall and Armoury, finished off in oriental splendour, there was"

" All that most to luxury invite."

"Although Ilam must not be considered as what is termed a "show house", yet we have reason to believe that Mr. Russell has great pleasure in allowing strangers to be conducted through it if they come with a satisfactory introduction. There are some very fine pictures in this house worth seeing."

The original Hall, then owned by Jesse Watts Russell, High Sheriff of the County of Stafford, had been demolished in 1820[3]. It had been bought for him in 1809 by his father, Jesse Russell (d. 1820) and had previously been owned by Sir John Port. Adam was not resident in Derbyshire when Ilam Hall was rebuilt, but Ebenezer Rhodes visited Ilam twice whilst the work was underway. After his first visit, when the house was being built, he had described the architectural style as that which had "most prevailed in the reign of Elizabeth"[4]. When he went to Ilam for the second time the newly built hall was still not quite complete. Although he did not say so, some of its architectural features were similar to the likes of Wollaton Hall and Hardwick.

"Ilam Hall, though not entirely finished, had a grand effect even at a distance ; approaching nearer, the detail began to display itself, and the general design and arrangement to be clearly understood. On a verdant knoll, a little above the margin of the river Manyfold, that ran rippling and sparkling through the meadows below, I stopped to gaze upon the new mansion at Ilam, which is truly a noble structure, and a proof of the professional skill and taste of the architect*. The principal part of the building, with its large bay windows, octagonal projections, and richly ornamented parapets, is in that peculiar style of architecture which was fashionable in the reign of Elizabeth; but there are portions of this structure that nearly assimilate with the gothic, both in character and ornament, and these are decidedly the finest and most imposing parts. The whole appears to be admirably contrived, both for picturesque effect and convenience ; but the most beautiful feature in this noble mansion is the circular gothic lantern by which it is surrounded. It is not a paltry thing, made merely for the purpose of admitting light ; its dimensions are ample, and perfectly in proportion with the capacious base on which it rests. The circle of which it is composed presents to the eye a series of pointed arches, resting on appropriate shafts : these, in connexion with each other, describe a circle, and constitute the framework of the lantern. Where light is wanted in the central part of a building, the dome is sometimes so constructed as to be a noble ornament ; but the lantern at Ilam is a more noble contrivance, and one of the most tasteful and elegant architectural ornaments that ever adorned a building. The place altogether does infinite credit to the taste and liberal spirit of the proprietor, who will make this romantic spot - this beauteous gem in British scenery - not less attractive than its neighbouring Dovedale. I have mentioned a part only of what is already accomplished at Ilam: a museum, a splendid conservatory, and a picture gallery are intended to be added.
*[Footnote] John Shaw, Esq., of Bedford Square, London."[4]

Some forty years later Timothy Spencer Hall was another person who admired Ilam. ".. the Hall, the seat of Mr. Watts Russell, which rises nearby [the church], is one of the most beautiful and tasteful modern structures of its class in England, and the architectural style of most of the village has been made in accord with it.[5]"

View from the River Manifold
Post WW1 view of the Hall from beside the weir
near St. Bertram's Bridge on the River Manifold.

Jesse Watts Russell passed away at the Hall on Good Friday 1875 aged 88. He had been married three times. His first wife was Mary Watts Russell, whom he married on 29 Jan 1811 at St. Marylebone Church London. Her father was David Pike Watts was of Portland Square London and Watts Russell was to adopt his father in law's name in conjunction with his own by Royal licence. Mary was buried at Ilam on 29 August 1840. He married his second wife, Maria Ellen Barker, on 20 July 1843 at the British Embassy in Munich. She was also buried at Ilam, on 6 Nov 1844. He did not marry again until 1862. Martha Leech of Wexford, who survived him, became his third wife.

An obituary described him as a well-known and highly-respected gentleman[6] He had studied at Worcester College, Oxford. He had sat in the unreformed House of Commons in the time of George IV, and had served as a magistrate in Staffordshire, Derbyshire and Northamptonshire; and had been High Sheriff of Staffordshire in 1819. His picture collection was sold shortly afterwards[7] and his library went under the hammer at Sotheby's early the following year[8].

Mr. Robert William Hanbury, M.P. for Tamworth, became the new owner[9]. He died in 1903[10] and, according to Thomas Tudor, Ilam Hall was still in the family in 1926 although was partly closed[11].

A youth hostel by this time
Postcard of Ilam Hall, probably taken shortly after the end of WW2.
The Hall now belonged to the National Trust.

William Twigg of Matlock bought the hall, grounds and fishing rights for £1,600 in 1933, intending to either sell it on or demolish it if it did not sell[12]. In November 1934 the next owner, Mr. Robert McDougall of Manchester, gave to the Hall Youth Hostel Association[13], having previously offered it to Stoke City Council[14]. The YHA were unable to utilise the whole building, so demolished the main part of the hall. They converted the kitchens and servants' quarters; the portico of the main building, shown on Image 3, was also to remain[15]. In 1940 the Burton paper declared it had since become what was said to be the largest youth hostel in England[16]. Now Grade II listed, it is now in the hands of the National Trust who lease it to the YHA.

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 when "S. R." visited Ilam Hall, then the home of the Porte family.

Ilam, its hall and the Manifold and Hamps rivers are mentioned in a lengthy footnote on Derbyshire's Parishes, 1811: Dovedale.

Joseph Francis Donegani worked for Robert Hanbury before moving to Matlock Bath, read his biography and see the Donegani family photograph.

1. "Ilam Hall". lithograph by J. & C. Mozley, Derby from The Gem of the Peak (6th edition)
2. "Ilam Hall from River". No publisher. Posted on 14 Dec 1923 at Ashbourne. Part of the message read: "The Fat Stock was yesterday. ... Mr. Joseph Harrison from Mayfield wanted some of his D Grains[?] I told him to write to you."
3. "Ilam Hall Youth Hostel". Published by Youth Hostels Association, North Midlands. G. Pagan [photographer]. Posted 4 July 1947 at Ashbourne. Sent by backpacker staying at the hostel to parents.
All images provided by and © Ann Andrews collection.
Researched, written by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.


[1] Adam, W. (1857, 6th edtn.) "The Gem of the Peak; or Matlock Bath and Its Vicinity. ..." John and Charles Mozley, Derby, and 6, Paternoster Row, London; Bemrose and Sons, W. and W. Pike, and Wilkins and Sons Derby, Bemrose and Sons, Matlock Bath ; ...... The same image was published in the 1843, 1845 and 1851 editions.

[2] Adam, W. (July 1838) "The Gem of the Peak; or Matlock Bath and Its Vicinity. ..." London; Longman & Co., Paternoster Row ; ... Mawe, Royal Museum, Matlock ; .....

[3] "Derby Mercury", 22 November 1820. An advertisement announced the "Sale of household furniture, plate glass windows, Mahogany and other doors, Marble Chimney pieces, and other effects".

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

[5] Hall, Spencer Timothy (1863) "Days in Derbyshire", Simpkin, Marshall and Co, Stationers' Hall Court, London, and printed by Richard Keene, All Saints, Derby.

[6] "Derby Mercury", 7 April 1875.

[7] "Morning Post" 5 July 1875. Sale of pictures, porcelain and tapestry by Messrs. Christie, Manson and Woods.

[8] "London Evening Standard" 26 January 1876.

[9] "Derby Mercury" 25 August 1875.

[10] "Yorkshire Evening Post", 29 April 1903.

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

[12] "Derby Daily Telegraph", 21 September 1933. Matlock Engineer's Bid. The article stated that the previous owner was a Mr. E. C. S. Backhouse.

[13] "Staffordshire Sentinel", 28 June 1934. Ilam Hall Offer. Considered by the Council. Proposal that it should be declined.

[14] "Ashbourne Telegraph", 2 November 1934. Famous Bridge, Woodlands and Park Land. Herbert McDougall had already given three Dovedale properties to the nation.

[15] "Burton Observer and Chronicle", 13 June 1935.

[16] "Burton Observer and Chronicle", 25 January 1940.

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Ilam Church

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