In the centre of Ilam, close by the river bridge, is this 30 foot high cross, erected by Jesse Watts-Russell in 1840, in memory of his wife Mary.
The design was created by architect John Macduff Derrick and is modelled on one of the crosses which Edward I had erected in memory of his wife, Eleanor of Castile in 1290. Eleanor died in Nottinghamshire but was buried in Westminster Abbey and a cross was erected at each stopping place on her final journey.
The cross does show some wear from 170 years of erosion and met with a tragedy in 1960, when a storm dislodged the already weakened top. For a while, a temporary sandstone replacement was erected. Because it proved impossible to establish who actually owned the cross, there was some delay in its restoration; grant awarding bodies being reluctant to award money for the scheme. Then, in 2003, the Peak Park Authority made a compulsory purchase order and in March 2009, the cross was officially handed over to a charitable body known as the Ilam Cross Trust.
Restoration work began soon after.
On September 16th 2011, as the restoration work was nearing completion, Ilam schoolchildren, staff and visitors jumped over the golden cross. It was then processed down the street and handed to the stonemasons for fitting at the top.
In future years, those children will be able, in all honesty, to say "I jumped over Ilam cross!"
The fully restored cross was unveiled in early October and has been shortlisted for the English Heritage Angel Awards, the results of which are to be announced this Monday (31st)
To help ensure it's continued protection, the cross is a grade 2 listed building and features on the English Heritage register of Buildings at Risk. The Ilam Cross Trust continue to raise money to pay for maintenance.