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OAKHAM CASTLE (Rutland County Council) NOTE: Currently not accessible while conservation and archaeological work is carried out to the building and grounds. Should re-open in March 2016. Oakham Castle disappoints many people looking for castellated towers, ramparts and a moat. It is not that sort of castle. It is instead the 12th century Great Hall which is all that remains of Oakham’s original manor. Apart from its age (c1180) and design (a wonderfully complete Norman hall), Oakham Castle’s claims to fame are its court house and horse shoes. The first Assizes were documented here in 1229 and Magistrates still sit here occasionally, making it the longest continuously-used court in England.

As for the horseshoes; down the centuries every peer of the realm who visits Oakham presents a horseshoe and now the collection numbers 230+ from the earliest recorded in 1470 presented by Edward IV, to the latest presented in 2014 by the Duchess of Cornwall. Well worth a visit when the transformation is complete.

OAKHAM MARKET PLACE & BUTTER CROSS: The stone-flagged heart of town, though on market days almost too busy to be able to appreciate the Butter Cross which has been here in one form or another since medieval times. Used over the centuries as both dairy stall and pulpit, today it has a steeply tiled sheltering roof and a five-man stocks. The Town Pump is also in this area.

Oakham's Butter Cross

Oakham’s Butter Cross

JEFFREY HUDSON’S COTTAGE, OAKHAM (not open to the public): This thatched cottage is privately owned and is famous only as the birthplace of the smallest man from England’s smallest county. Jeffrey Hudson was born here in 1619 and said to be 18 inches high until middle age when he grew to 3ft 6ins. Before this, he found employment as a professional ‘dwarf’ with gigs that included jumping out of a pie at a banquet thrown for Queen Henrietta Maria (the Queen of Charles 1). He became famous and is immortalised in Van Dyke’s painting of ‘Queen Henrietta Maria with Sir Jeffrey Hudson and an Ape’ which is in Washington DC’s National Gallery. The house has a blue plaque, so it’s easy to spot if you’re on foot, at the end of the High Street on the Melton Road.

OAKHAM SCHOOL: The school was founded in the late 16th century by Robert Johnson (as was Uppingham): the original school-room stands south of the church in the churchyard and may be viewed from the outside only. You can just read inscriptions around the walls in Hebrew, Greek and Latin. The majority of the school occupies 19th & 20th century buildings on the opposite side of the church and Market Place and these are not open to the public.

OAKHAM STATION SIGNAL BOX: Oakham’s 1899 signal box was immortalised by Hornby as the archetypal signal box in model railway form. It is now a Listed building in daily use (and so, not open to the public) but rail fans can admire it from the outside.

RUTLAND COUNTY MUSEUM, OAKHAM: The building was once the indoor riding school of the ‘Rutland Fencibles’, a cavalry regiment raised by the local Noel family in 1794. Go inside to admire the central king post and spectacular roof trusses, with paired crown posts supporting a big roof span. It’s a great little museum too.

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