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Ilam (Holy Cross)

ILAM (Holy Cross), a parish, in the N. division of the hundred of Totmonslow and of the county of Stafford, 5 miles (N. W.) from Ashbourn; containing, with the hamlets of Castern, Rushley, and Throwley, 263 inhabitants. The parish is situated on the banks of the river Dove, near the great road from London to Manchester, and comprises by measurement 3000 acres, almost the whole of which is pasture land. Jesse Watts Russell, Esq., is proprietor of 986 acres, whereof 125 consist of woods and plantations: a vein of copper, lately discovered upon this property, has been let to some Cornish miners, who are also working veins of lead-ore. Ilam Hall is delightfully situated on a gentle eminence, with two verdant terraces and a fine lawn in front; behind the Hall, on the south-west bank of the Manyfold, is a flourishing wood of oak, ash, elm, &c., rising in the form of an amphitheatre, and above this is a cultivated acclivity crowned by a coppice, which may be seen at a distance of several miles. The village is small and secluded, picturesquely seated in the vale of the Manyfold, and within half a mile of its junction with the deepest, narrowest, and most romantic part of Dovedale. It has lately been entirely rebuilt in the Elizabethan style, and the beauty of its appearance rendered more striking by the erection of a highly ornamented cross, about 45 feet in height, to the memory of Mrs. Mary Watts Russell, first wife of J. W. Russell, Esq. This beautiful structure is hexagonal in form, and much resembles the crosses generally known by the name of Queen Eleanor's crosses: in the niches on each face are figures of angels holding scrolls with suitable inscriptions, executed in Caen stone by Westmacott; and around the base of the cross runs a stream of clear water, which serves the purpose of a well to the inhabitants, and to which allusion is made in an inscription on the monument.

The living is a vicarage, endowed with the rectorial tithes, valued in the king's books at £6. 13. 4., and in the gift of Mr. Russell: the tithes have been commuted for £410, and the glebe, with house, &c., is valued at £30. The church was rebuilt about the year 1500: an octagonal chapel with stained glass windows, has been added by the patron, who has erected in it an elegant white marble monument in memory of his lady's father, the late D. P. Watts, Esq., who is represented on his death-bed in the act of taking leave of his daughter and her three children; the whole group being admirably executed, by Chantrey. Much interest appertains to the church from its containing the tomb of St. Bertram, a hermit who passed the latter years of his life in the neighbourhood, and whose memory is still preserved in numerous legends among the poor. Congreve, the dramatic poet, retired to this secluded and romantic spot, after his return from Ireland, and here wrote his first comedy, The Old Bachelor.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, seventh edition, published 1858.