Rutland County Museum, located on Catmos Street in Oakham, is the perfect introduction to the smallest county in England.
Admission is FREE
The museum tells the story of the county, with exhibitions of archaeology, rural and social life.
Our experienced and knowledgeable staff help to preserve and promote Rutland’s centuries of heritage, and are always ready to help with enquiries, and tell the unique history of England’s smallest county. Whether your interest lies in the Jurassic period, medieval times or more recent eras, there’s an abundance of artefacts and treasures to uncover.
Look out for the well-documented fossil exhibits including the ice age bison horn and the gruesome sounding ‘Devil’s Toenails’, real name Gryphaea, which are extinct oysters from the Triassic and Jurassic periods that people used to carry to ward off rheumatism.
The Alpine jade axe is one of the museum’s most recent additions. Stewart Carter, while walking in Martinsthorpe, found it in on the surface of ploughed soil on the Manton to Brooke Ridge in 2015 and brought it to the museum for identification. Former museum curator, Tim Clough, an expert in stone axes, realised its importance. The axe was sent to principal curator, Dr Alison Sheridan, at the Scottish History and Archaeology Department and then to France, for further study and non-destructive analysis. The results show that the axe is made from jadeite rock, which would have been used by Neolithic craftsmen from the Mont Viso massif in the Alpine mountains of north-west Italy.
“There are only about 120 Alpine axes known from Britain and this is a first for Rutland,” says Tim. “Not only that, but this one is of a particular type which is known from Germany and France but which has only one other parallel in Britain. These beautiful axes are real works of art.” You can see the Alpine jade axe, kindly donated by Stewart Carter to Rutland County Museum.
If you have an interest in historical militia items, then you won’t want to miss another star attraction at the museum. The Friends of Rutland County Museum and Oakham Castle purchased a very unusual item, called the Exton Gun, for the museum. This private militia gun was made for the Gainsborough Family in around 1806, bearing their coat of arms, and fitted with a flintlock igniter signed “Wilm Embrey Wing”.
The Exton Gun was made at the time when people had a very real fear of a Napoleonic invasion. The gun’s purpose would have been to defend Exton Park, near Oakham, and repel French forces. However, Napoleon never attempted his planned invasion and the preparations weren’t put to the test. You can see the gun for yourself as it is now on display in the Riding School.
A range of exhibitions are displayed at the museum, covering wide-ranging eras and local issues. As well as ancient history, the Museum offers plenty of interest to those who are intrigued by the effects of more recent events on the inhabitants of Rutland. Schools are always particularly welcomed and there are a number of workshops available for children to participate in. Whether they’re learning about the Romans in Rutland or what a hard day’s work was like during the Victorian era, there are lots of opportunities for hands-on learning throughout the year.
Rutland has been a veritable treasure trove of discoveries and you can see for yourself the exquisite jewellery and artefacts that have been uncovered in various county locations. Look out for the stunning medieval gold finger-ring set with a garnet gemstone. The ring was most likely to have been worn during the twelfth to fourteenth centuries and is certified as treasure by the Treasure Act of 1996. A striking brooch styled in the fashion of a running dog was found at the Roman archaeological site in Thistleton and a gold ring with relief bezel, depicting facing male and female busts, is also from the Roman era.
Rutland County Museum is home to one of the oldest surviving box wagons in the country. The one you’ll see at the museum would have been used as a farm wagon for single or tandem horse traction. It was used in Preston, Rutland and has both axles made entirely out of wood and fitted with raves to extend the load area.
Also held at the museum is Cinema for Rutland, an initiative organised by Arts for Rutland. Screenings take place on the first Thursday and the third Friday of every month.
The Museum runs a regular programme of family activities during the year and special temporary exhibitions to showcase objects from the reserve collection to local artist exhibitions. Please see our website for current events and activities.
The visitor information holds the latest information about other events and activities in the area and the shop provides a range of souvenirs and gifts to suit all pockets.
*updated opening hours due to covid restrictions
Bank Holiday: Closed