Why you might ask did we want to go to Ilam? I asked that same question of my friend, it was his idea to visit Ilam. While we were visiting Chesterfield we had stopped by the visitor center which had a nice selection of brochures about the entire Peaks District. One that we used to help us decided where we wanted to visit was called "From the Cradle to the Grave" and what got his attention was the picture of the marble monument of David Watts Pike on his deathbed. So on a rainy January afternoon, after having visited the Royal Crown Derby Visitor Center, we headed out to find Ilam.
It is not the easiest place to find, it is a small village and finding a sign to direct us there resulted in us taking what I happily referred to as a goat path. Was it steep? Oh yes, it was. Was it narrow? Oh much too narrow. Did it keep raining? Oh yes, it did and eventually turned to snow. Finally, we arrived in Ilam, but where was the church? Not in the village, it wasn't until later that I found out that the village had been moved to improve the view from the Hall by Jesse Watts Russell in the 1820's. We finally found a small sign with an arrow pointing down a walking path. We parked the car, whipped out our umbrellas and headed down the path.
Ilam has been a pilgrimage site since Saxon times. St Bertram is buried here. He was a prince of Mercia who married an Irish princess. On the way back from Ireland she had their child and they stopped near here so that Bertram could hunt for food. While he was away wolves killed his wife and child. He was devastated and became a hermit and ended his days here. There isn't much of the Saxon church left but the baptismal font is Saxon and the images on it are said to depict the life if St Bertram. It is a very fine font and it might be worth visiting on its own.
In order to get to the church, you need to go through a sheep's gate. With winter clothing it is no easy task. We all had to suck it in to manage it. The church was open and there are small guide books that you can purchase.
We headed right to the front of the church to see the Pike Monument which was carved by Francis Chantry. It shows David Watts Pike on his deathbed blessing his daughter Mary and her three children. Mary was Jesse Watts Russell's first wife. There is a curtain across the chapel where it is located and there is also a light which you can turn on to get a better view. It is very impressive, probably one of the most impressive I have ever seen.
On the opposite side of the church is the chapel with the monument to St Bertram, much less impressive, and also a monument to the Meverell family from the 17th century. Over the door to the chapel, you will see some dried flowers hanging. The story of why they are there is on a small plaque, you will need to visit to find out the reason.
The National Trust owns the Hall and there is a Youth Hostel there. There is also a Tea Room but of course, the day we were there it was closed. Obviously, January may not be the ideal time to visit Ilam, in the warm weather there will be more options for tea etc.