This is an archived press release
Wednesday 2 November 2011Ilam villagers were proud to reach the final 16 of the English Heritage Angel Awards for their outstanding work in restoring a Victorian monument at the centre of their village.
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 3.
Ilam Cross was originally erected by benefactor Jesse Watts Russell in 1841 in memory of his wife Mary, and 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 - @ilam_imp
For more information: www.ilam.org.uk