Ilam Hall & Ilam

A model village one mile from Thorpe. The Gothic cross in the centre of the village was erected in memory of Mrs. Watts-Russell, who formerly lived at Ilam Hall which was presented to the National Trust in 1934 as a Youth Hostel by Sir Robert McDougall The Hall is still an imposing and stately structure though a substantial part of it was demolished when it became a youth hostel. The Church, which stands in the grounds of the Hall, is of Norman origin, but like the Hall was rebuilt during the 19th century Some Norman parts of it remain, and it contains a highly elaborate monument by Chantrey depicting the death-bed scene of David Pike Watts, surrounded by his only daughter and her children. Other memorials include the altar tomb of Robert Meverell (d. 1625) of Throwley Hall (the ruins of which are nearby), whose daughter married Thomas, Lord Cromwell. In the churchyard are the remains of preNorman shafts and crosses. Also in the grounds of Ilam Hall is the ancient shrine of St. Bertram who is reputed to have lived as a hermit in these parts in Anglo-Saxon times and to have converted the district to Christianity.

Ilam is a natural starting point for exploring the Manifold Valley; there is a fine stretch of the Manifold in the grounds of the Hall where, beneath the cliffs, the river regains its overland course after the subterranean journey from higher upstream. The river between Wetton Mill and Ilam, which are nearly four miles apart, has two courses - one above ground, which is sometimes dry, and the other below, through an underground lake. Near the river is the yewshaded grotto in the cliff where the witty seventeenth century dramatist, William Congreve, wrote his comedy The Old Bachelor.

Ilam is a pretty, unspoiled village and very popular with ramblers. The Dovedale Sheep Dog Trials are held here in August. There is excellent accommodation for visitors at the nearby Izaak Walton Hotel, which has local fishing rights. Not far away is Castern Hall the charming home of the Hurt family.

Open: All Year