Ilam, Staffordshire

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Ilam is about 4 miles from Ashbourne, at the entrance to the beautiful Manifold Valley. Ilam is extremely picturesque, with its "Swiss chalet" style houses and matching school house.
Ilam is also home to Ilam Hall - once a stately home, now a youth hostel owned by the National Trust. Ilam Hall is set in large parklands that are open to visitors.

Ilam hall
A hall has been here since John Port had the 1st one built in 1546. Both William Congreve and Dr Samual Johnson have stayed at the hall when it was owned by the Port family. Congreve wrote his first play, "The Old Bachelor" here and Paradise valley inspired Johnson to write his novel "Rasselas".
In 1820 the estate was bought by Jesse Watts-Russell, a wealthy industrialist. It was Watts-Russell who is responsible for the Swiss look of Ilam, he found that the valley and surrounding hills reminded him of the Alps. So he had some new cottages built in the Swiss style and rehoused most of the villagers, (they were living in estate owned houses anyway). He also built the school in 1857 and funded it, at a time when schooling was not compulsory.

He later moved to New Zealand built another Ilam Hal (see Links below). The farm/homestead that he created later grew and became the Ilam area of Christchurch. The site of the homestead was one of the main social centers of early Christchurch society.

The present homestead was built in 1914 after fire destroyed the first two buildings. There is even an Ilam school there!

In 1934 Sir Robert McDougal bought the hall and gave it the the National Trust to become a Youth Hostel - which it is to this day. The grounds are open to the public, and are a starting point for one of the prettiest river walks in the area.

The Church of the Holy Cross
Originally Saxon, the church is now mainly 17th and 19th century - the two occasions when it was restored.
Some of its Saxon origins can be seen in its carved stone Saxon font, and two stone cross shafts in the churchyard.
It is in the Chapel of St Bertram, built in 1618, that the remains and shrine of the St Bertam (or Bertelin) can be found. St Bertam was a 8th Century son of a Mercian king who renounced his royal heritage for prayer and meditation after his wife and child were killed by wolves. He converted many to Christianity. His shrine became a point of pilgrimage in the Middle Ages and is reputed to be able to work miraculous cures.

Dovedale House
Splendid large old house near the entrance of Ilam Hall. It used to be the vicarage and is now run as a residential Youth centre.

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Accommodation Locally

The Orchards, 4 star farm cottage, Ilam, Ashbourne, DE6 2BA. email tel 01538-308205

GenUKI - Ilam historical page
Ilam Gardens - New Zealand - 2nd home of Watts Russel who built Ilam

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