The Mary Watts-Russell Memorial cross in the village of Ilam, in the Peak District National Park, in Staffordshire, England, is a Grade II* listed building, which is on the English Heritage, Buildings at Risk Register and is a striking and iconic presence in this 'model' village.
It was erected by the 'squire', Jesse Watts-Russell, as a memorial to his wife, Mary who died in 1840. It also had basins round the base of the monument, originally fed with pure spring water for the use of the villagers, though now used as flower troughs.
The design is in the style of an Eleanor Cross, one of the memorials erected by Edward I at each of the stopping places of the funeral of his wife, Eleanor of Aquitane, in 1290 . In the middle years of the 19th century a movement in the field of architecture was started, which claimed that the Gothic style was the best form for both ecclesiastical and secular architecture. A monument in the revived style was being built as a memorial to Protestant martyrs, who were burned at the stake for heresy in Oxford in 1556/6, after Queen Mary set about restoring the Catholic faith as the state religion of England.
Tragically, the cross has suffered neglect ever since it was built and is now in a sorry state of repair. A registered charity, The Ilam Cross Trust, was set up in 2004, to campaign for the rescue and preservation of the Cross. A consulting architect was appointed and drew up a specification for the repairs. Then tenders were invited from conservation contractors and a preferred bidder chosen for the work. The cost of the conservation work alone will be about £178,000 - a daunting figure for a small village community to collect.
We have been appealing for donations for over a year and have sent applications for support to many grant-making trusts and foundations, as well as local authorities. At the time of writing we have received promises of about £46,000 and several more are pending. But the final target is rising as we have also to arrange for the future care and maintenance of the memorial.
Future postings will give more details about points of interest on the monument and accounts of the progress of the campaign but, any blog-ee who reads this and is interested, can click HERE to read the full story of the Cross and an article about the little-known Irish architect, John Macduff Derick, who designed it.