Ilam and Osmaston

Hilum – ‘at the hills’ is now known as Ilam, a small village with the grand hall surrounded by parkland. This picturesque Peak District village pronounced, eye-lamb,’ nestles beside the River Manifold among the most spectacular hills. It sits in the Peak District, right on the Staffordshire border with Derbyshire, close to the famous Dovedale Gorge. It has Alpine style cottages, a mansion and a river set against the soft green backdrop of tumbling pastures and being looked over by the impressive hills of Thorpe Cloud and Bunster Hill.

It has its own seventh century saint, St Bertram, a Mercian prince who travelled to Ireland, met, fell in love and eloped with a beautiful princess. On his return home with his new wife, she had a child in the forest and he went to seek help but on his return his family had been attacked and killed by wolves. He was grief stricken and devastated and gave up his royal heritage for a life of prayer and meditation, and lived as a hermit in Ilam until his death.

Nowadays, Ilam is an eco-village, attracting praise for its commitment to eco-friendly policies. It became the first community in the UK to phase out incandescent lightbulbs, and cuts its annual carbon emissions by 4 tonnes, but enjoyed by many for its stunning beauty it is valued and loved by the community who live in care this very special place.

The grand hall we mentioned earlier is Ilam Hall. Even though Ilam Hall is partly demolished, it is still imposing and stately. It’s a building enclosed in absolutely beautiful parkland and building steeped in history. The original Tudor Hall is in remnants now, the stable blocks which house a fine selection of gifts and fantastic home-cooked food where the tea rooms live in splendour.

It originally belonged to a Benedictine abbey but was sold to the Port family during the dissolution of the monasteries under the strict ruling of Henry VIII. It was sold after 250 years in the family, to David Pyke-Watts, who on is death, passed it to his daughter, who married a very wealthy industrialist. Her husband had the hall re designed by the architect John Trubshawe and it became a more fashionable Gothic building befitting the times, with ornamental chimneys and high towers.

In 1927 the hall was converted into a restaurant by a Mr Blackhouse but was closed by the 1930s. The ill-fated Hall was then sold for demolition but in the nick of time, partly saved by Sir Robert McDougall, the infamous flour magnet, who entered into an agreement with the demolition contractors. In 1934 McDougall generously donated the hall to the National trust and expressed a wish that the habitable rooms were to be used as a youth hostel for weary travels who couldn’t afford to stay anywhere as nice as this normally.

The hall is no longer open to the public, but the exterior is an impressive sight to behold and a wonderful sight to see. The renovated stable blocks and recently upgraded Italian Gardens can still be explored by the public along with other treasures hidden within the grounds of hall. It’s a wonderful place to have a picnic if you have been in the hustle and bustle of busy Ashbourne town for the day.


Osmaston is a small country estate village just outside of Ashbourne. A quintessentially English village with thatched cottages, a village green, a village pond, a pub and its very own church. It was formerly called Osmaston-in-the-Wood and is 2 1/2 miles south-east from Ashbourne railway station, 10 1/2 miles south-east from Derby and 144 miles from London.

The Manor house there, was built for Francis Wright of the prosperous Wright family who owned Butterley ironworks, and who built St Pancras station in London. The estate was mainly built to house his estate workers. A noble mansion made of dark blue limestone, it is dressed with Derbyshire gritstone and situated with commanding views of the picturesque scenery, surrounded by large well-kept gardens covering an area of 35 acres.

It was sold in 1888 to Sir Andrew Walker, who then moved to his Staffordshire estate Okeover. It is still owned by the Walker – Okeover and today is the location for the internationally recognised and Osmaston Horse Trials, as well as the more local animal Ashbourne Shire Horse Show.

Called Osmundestune in the Domesday book, the original name of the parish was White Stone, taken from the limestone of the White Peak area it resides in. The picturesque village pond stands at the bottom of the village and is overlooked by the two oldest thatched houses in the village. There are two benches to rest your weary legs on and one is made entirely from horseshoes!

The church, Saint Martin’s dates back from 1606, and though the present building was built in 1843, designed by H I Stevens, it was built to replace the earlier building, which was made of wickerwork. The first service held in Saint Martin’s was back in June 1945. The war memorial is situated against the roadside, near the church, and commemorates those who lost their lives in the First World War. The village hall was opened in 1937 and replaced the old victory hall hut. It has a thatched roof in keeping with the rest of the village, and is used for various functions. The school uses it for their dining hall.

Both villages are definitely worth a visit if you are staying in the Ashbourne area, and certainly provide some very picturesque photography opportunities for memories to take back home with you.