Ilam Cross

Ilam Cross Education Material | Background

The Story of Ilam Cross

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The Story of the Restoration

For the full story of the restoration of Ilam Cross please click here to download the Ilam Cross Guide

31st November 2011

There were over 200 entries in the English Heritage Angel Awards. The Ilam Cross Trust and its founder Phil Mottram were one of two runners up in their category for restoring the monument which had been on the Heritage at Risk list for some years. They were nominated for their passion, perseverance and imagination in saving the Grade II* listed Mary Watts Russell Memorial Cross.

The joint winners were St Stephen’s Church, Rosslyn Hill in Hampstead, London and Arnos Grove Cemetery in Bristol.

The awards were presented at a glittering ceremony hosted by TV presenter Clare Balding at the Palace Theatre, London, to be featured on BBC2’s Culture Show on November 3rd.

Ilam Cross, originally erected by benefactor Jesse Watts Russell in 1841 in memory of his wife Mary, was described as "one of the finest Gothic revival monuments in the country.”

But by the 1990s the angels were crumbling, carvings worn down and the finely carved stone top section and its gilt cross had been lost - blown off in a storm in the 1960s and replaced with a basic concrete cross.

That was when Phil Mottram, a cinematographer from London, stepped in to campaign for its restoration. Though he has never lived in Ilam, Phil was evacuated to the area as a boy during the war and was captivated by the Staffordshire village with its Alpine style cottages set against spectacular Peak District scenery.

Visiting frequently to trace its history, he found the main obstacle was that nobody owned the monument – the estate had been sold and broken up long ago, and any papers relating to its ownership lost.

Phil engaged the help of the Peak District National Park Authority, set up the Ilam Cross Trust and began fundraising. The Authority gave its support by securing ownership through a compulsory purchase order and selling it to the Trust for £1 in 2009.

The Trust secured grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund, English Heritage, the Peak District National Park Authority, Staffordshire Moorlands District Council, the Pilgrim Trust, the Leche Trust, the Francis Coales Foundation, LEADER and a host of smaller donors.

The restoration of the elaborately-carved, 13-metre high cross with six carved angels began last autumn. Specialist stonemasons Ian Ward & Sons, of Somerset, carried out the work and villagers, including the children of Ilam School, got involved. All were delighted when the scaffolding came down this October, revealing the restored cross in all its glory.

For Phil, now in his 80s, it has been a long, and at times, difficult process, but his main reward is to see this fine Victorian monument at the heart of the village fully restored. He is delighted that the hard work and dedication of the Trust and craftsmen have won national recognition and that the villagers have been so engaged.

Peak District National Park Authority cultural heritage manager Ken Smith said: "I’m very glad that Phil Mottram’s vision, dedication and tenacity in rescuing this significant Peak District monument have been recognised.”

And fellow Ilam Cross trustee Sue Prince said, "Without Phil this would never have happened.”

The judges for the awards were Andrew Lloyd Webber (who co-funded the awards), broadcasters Melvyn Bragg and Bettany Hughes, English Heritage chief executive Simon Thurley, the Bishop of London and Charles Moore, of Telegraph newspapers. They had to sift through more than 200 applications to find the best in four categories.

The restoration even had its own commentator on Twitter – the Ilam Imp who nestles in one of the carved alcoves

Media enquiries to: Sue Prince, Ilam Cross trustee

28th October 2011
BBC Culture Show will show a short piece about the restoration of Ilam Cross because it has been shortlisted in  English Heritage Angel Awards. The result will be announced at a glittering ceremony in London on 31st October 2011.

October 2011
The restored Cross is revealed as the scaffolding was dismantled after a year!  Unfortunately it was a rainy day, but even so the result of the months of careful work is breathtaking.  

September 2011
We heard that the Ilam Cross restoration project and its instigator Phil Mottram has been short-listed in the English Heritage Angel Awards 

This is very exciting news!  BBC Culture Show came to film a short piece about the awards.

16th September 2011
Ilam School children, staff and visitors jumped over the beautiful golden cross today.  Then everybody processed down the road to the Ilam Cross and handed the golden cross to the stonemasons.  They took it up the scaffolding and showed it to the children from the top.  

In future years all those children will be able to point at the Ilam Cross Monument and honestly say 'I jumped over that!'

In the afternoon 16 Ilam villagers climbed up the scaffolding to have a close up view of the intricate restoration work.  This will be the last time anyone will have this opportunity as the scaffolding is due to come down very soon.

July 2011
Work is progressing well on the Cross – we now have all the permissions to complete the Restoration, and are on course for the end of September.

Stone mason Ian Ward and his colleagues have been working on site, cleaning and restoring, as well as preparing the second Angel in their workshop – the first one was on view at the Dovedale Fete.We are hoping that both Angels will be installed on the Cross in August.

The next decision to be made is the design of the information display that will be positioned on the grass beside the bridge.

On Saturday 13th August, our Stonemason, Ian Ward, will be at the Manifold Valley Show displaying carvings and the story of the restoration so far. You will also be able to sign up as a Friend of Ilam Cross.

Leaflets are also available in Holy Cross Church, Ilam, the National Trust Information Centre at Ilam Hall and from Ilam Cross Trustees: Sue Prince, Amy Nottage, Russell Ashfield and Richard Temperton.

We are hoping that it will be possible for Ilam people for climb up the scaffolding to see the work at first hand on Friday / Saturday, 16/17th September – depending on ‘Health and Safety' permission!
March 2011
Work is currently progressing on the replacement of the intermediate pinnacles. These are the six shafts and gableted pinnacles and finials that spring from the level of the statue niches. We have also completed a detailed drawing of the crocketed panel to be replaced on the second level, below the statues and have also finished the replacement finials pictured in the last progress update.
Since then, we have also visited site with Mr Carr, the sculptor, in order for him to get further details of important elements of the existing statues to improve his designs for the replacement figure. He used the centuries old technique of using modelling clay to create plaster-cast ‘Squeezes’ of particular details such as hands and faces, in order to make a more accurate copy in the replacement figure. Work on the figure is progressing and we hope to provide photos of the new statue in the next update. A second block of Caen stone has been ordered in anticipation of consent being granted to replace the heavily weathered and headless statue still on site.
As for the top section, we are still waiting for English Heritage to advise the Peak Park planning authority that they are satisfied with our intended designs, or provide alternative proposals. Until then, no stone can be ordered and sadly, no progress made beyond the drawings stage. We are working with Steve Matthews to resolve this situation as fast as possible.
January 2011
The most badly damaged angel was carefully removed and taken to the Stone Mason's studio in Somerset. Work is underway to the main body of the cross. A second angel may need replacement if the brush work reveals further damage.
Ilam School has started a project about the history of Ilam. Ilam Art club has started a folk art painting of the history of the cross.
December 2010
Drawings and Listed Building Consent application was completed and submitted to the Peak District National Park Authority.
5th December 2010
The broadcast of BBC's Countryfile covering the restoration of Ilam Cross and the 18m folk art painting of the Ilam Story.
23rd November 2010
After a site meeting, the stone masons lifted one of the Angels out of her niche. She will be taken to Somerset. In Somerset at the stone masons workshop, they will repair and rebuild her with clay, then use her as a model to create a new Angel.
It is hoped that the original Angel with have a new home in Ilam Church as part of the Ilam Cross Interpretive display.
In October 2010
The Ilam Cross Trust – founded by Phil Mottram and with a Board of Trustees including locals Sue Prince and Richard Temperton - after many years of persistence has finally reached the point where the restoration of the sorely dilapidated Cross is starting.
It has been a long slog to secure ownership of the Cross, secure the funds through grants from the National Lottery, English Heritage, Leader, The Pilgrim Trust, The Peak District National Park Authority, Staffordshire Moorlands and a wide range of smaller generous donors and to acquire permission from English Heritage for the works to this scheduled monument - including the replacement of the ‘temporary' 1960's plain top section with a fully restored replica of the original design. This was all in place by earlier this year, allowing the works to be tendered over the summer months and the contractor – Ian Ward – to be selected.
Throughout the works the school will be running a project with the children – getting them involved in the process – and there will be updates in this newsletter, on the village noticeboard, on the hoarding around the Cross itself and on the village website at

… And the Trust will be busy writing a guidebook on the history and restoration of the Cross and will be establishing the Friends of Ilam Cross – inviting people to join with the Trust in ensuring the future maintenance and care of the newly restored Cross.

Many thanks to Les Bonsall and everyone else who has helped clear the plants and soil from the troughs around the Cross, in readiness for the start of the work on the 2nd November.
About the Cross
In a dominant position in the centre of the village of Ilam in the Peak District National Park in Staffordshire, is a striking and beautiful Victorian monument, in the style of an Eleanor Cross. It is modelled on one of the crosses which Edward I had erected at each stopping place of the body of his queen, Eleanor of Castile, on its progress from Nottinghamshire, where she died, to its tomb in Westminster Abbey, in 1290.

Jesse Watts-Russell and the Gothic Revival

In the case of Ilam Cross, it was built as a memorial to Mary the wife of Jesse Watts-Russell, the squire of Ilam, when she died in 1840. A product of Gothic Revival architecture in the first half of the nineteenth century, its perfect proportions and graceful carved decoration have earned it great affection and admiration as well as the distinction of a Grade II* listing. It has been described as 'one of the finest Gothic Revival monuments in the country.' For more than a century and half it has become not only an iconic presence for the village community and visitors, but also a work of art of national importance, a status confirmed by its Grade II* listing and inclusion in the English Heritage, Buildings at Risk Register.

The Ravages of Time

When coming across it for the first time, the beauty of Ilam Cross is very striking, but even a cursory inspection makes it obvious that more than 160 years of neglect has caused serious damage and general deterioration. Damage to many features, ranging from large fragments coming loose and some falling off the monument and being lost, to the more insidious gradual erosion of much of the carved decoration, have gravely affected the Cross and are causing great concern. There is also considerable anxiety about possible hidden decay caused by penetration of water into the inner parts of the monument which, if not repaired and prevented, could lead to the structural integrity of the whole monument being compromised.
Author Phil Mottram

Over the coming months the works programme will be as follows:
2nd of November, a scaffold structure and hoarding will be erected around the Cross and will remain in-situ until the work is completed in July 2011.
During November and December, Ian and his team will be carrying out a detailed condition survey of each face of the cross and they will be recording, measuring and drawing each element and removing the angels. They will also be working closely with the architect Steven Matthews producing samples for replacement details and making detailed drawings for the top section for submission for final Listed Building Consent. We hope to have an open day in December to allow everyone to see what they are up to.
From late December through to February, Ian and his team will be working at their own workshop in Somerset restoring the figures and carving replacement details for the body of the Cross – away from the weather!
From early March they will be back onsite working on the restoration in-situ and once the consents are in place they will remove the 1960's top section. From April through to July they will complete the restoration works, remount the angels and they will bring the new top section up from Somerset and it will be lifted into position. Again we hope to have regular open days to allow everyone to see the ongoing work
At the end of October the hoarding and scaffold will be removed and Cross will be revealed fully restored.

Ilam Cross, restoration finished October 2011

After restoration, with new top section and two new Angels

Become a friend of Ilam Cross

The restoration is the first stage of securing the future of Ilam Cross, it will need ongoing maintenance to prevent it ever falling into disrepair again.The Ilam Cross Trust invites you to become a Friend of Ilam Cross and help ensure its survival. A donation of just £10 per year will enable the Trust to:

  • Survey and inspect the cross for future deterioration
  • Insure the Cross against damage
  • Raise awareness of its importance
  • Provide information and education activities
Click to download and print off our leaflet (pdf).  Here you can donate or join the Friends of Ilam Cross

The ilam imp
The ilam imp is quite cross that his privacy has been distrurbed. He was hidden under the feet of one of the angles, who are (typical angels) thrilled to be having cosmetic work planned, until the nosy humans discovered him. He is now complaining quite a lot on
Follow him and the story of the restoration!

Photo: Eva Tuff
Recently rediscovered goat!

Ilam Imp's window on the world

Photo: Eva Tuff
Newly discovered winged dragon peering from behind the netting

An Ilam Angel flying for the first time

Click to read 'The History of Ilam Cross'
by Phillip Mottram