Historic Buildings & Museums
Rutland certainly has a lot of history, and the buildings here reflect the quarrying heritage of the county; local stone from Ketton, Clipsham, Casterton and Stamford quarries are nationally famous for providing high quality building materials, and it’s thanks to these that Rutland has a plethora of ancient buildings featuring different shades of ironstone, which vary throughout the county.
Oakham Castle is a rare example of 12th century architecture. This well cared for Norman Great Hall was built between 1180 and 1190 for Walchelin de Ferriers, Lord of the Manor of Oakham. Oakham Castle is known for the magnificent collection of over 230 horseshoes hung on it’s walls and as one of the best examples of a Norman building in England.
This important historic building was originally part of a much larger fortified manor house with many of the traditional features of a castle that you would expect to see but most are sadly now lost to the mists of time. The Heritage Lottery Fund awarded a £2.165 million grant to carry out extensive restoration in 2016 which included the building and the surrounding curtain wall.
Oakham Castle is free to visit throughout the year, with a gift shop and information point on site. The Castle is open from 10am to 4pm on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The Castle is closed on Tuesdays and Sundays and also closed Christmas, Boxing Day, New Year, Good Friday and Bank Holidays. Oakham Castle is very popular as an unusual wedding venue.
Rutland County Museum, Catmose Street, Oakham. 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, with analysis showing that it 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.
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”.
A range of exhibitions are expertly 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.
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, a striking brooch styled in the fashion of a running dog 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.
Lyddington Bede House, set beside the pretty village church, was a late medieval wing of a palace belonging to the Bishops of Lincoln. However, in 1547, Henry VIII seized the palace as part of his plan to take power away from the Church. From 1600, Lyddington Bede House was passed to Sir Thomas Cecil (the Cecil family also famously owned Burghley House, which you can still visit in Stamford today) who made the decision to convert the building into an Almshouse for 12 poor bedesmen. Bedesmen were expected to pray for their benefactor and had to attend prayer twice a day, with fines being drawn up by Lord Burghley for skipping a service. Interestingly, the inhabitants were chosen by Lord Burghley himself but had to prove that they were free of French pox (syphilis), lunacy and leprosy in order to take up the position. The house has a fascinating history and gives a glimpse into life during the Elizabethan age. The medieval craftsmanship is outstanding and includes a magnificent timber arched roof and spectacularly ornate carved wooden cornice in the Great Chamber. You can still see the wooden pegs that hold the timber structure together and as you stand at the decorative arched windows you can get a tangible sense of the history that has passed through this grand building.
The House is now owned by English Heritage and is open to visitors from March to October. Visitors are welcome to view the house as well as the individual Bedesmen’s rooms, with their fireplaces and tiny windows, and admire the former Bishops’ Great Chamber. Note: Before you leave Lyddington, pop next door into the village church. The first mention of St. Andrew’s church was in 1163 but the present building dates mainly from the 14th century. It’s a beautiful ancient church with a high vaulted ceiling and behind the pulpit there is a medieval wall painting that was only uncovered in 1937. It’s believed to be of Edward the Confessor dressed in an ermine clock and cap and holding an orb. See if you can spot the six acoustic jars that are set into the wall of the chancel. These earthenware pots were installed into the walls to improve and amplify the voice of the priest. It’s doubtful that this would have achieved the desired effect but it is incredibly rare to see an example of this practice in the UK
The 17th Century cottage, which used to belong to England’s smallest man, Jeffrey Hudson, can be found on Melton Road in Oakham (not open to the public). Jeffrey, who was born and baptised in Oakham in 1619, only grew to 18 inches tall (45 cms). His parents and siblings were of normal stature and today we believe his small size was due to a growth hormone deficiency.
Jeffrey had a fascinating life, being known as “The Queen’s Dwarf” as he belonged to Queen Henrietta Maria (the wife of King Charles I) after being presented in a pie by the Duke and Duchess of Buckingham as a gift, on the royal couples visit to their home. When, in 1644, he later killed a man in a duel in an apparent attempt to move away from his role as the Queen’s mascot, he was expelled from her court. In the following years he was captured by Barbary pirates and, after spending around 25 years in Africa as a slave, Jeffrey was rescued and returned to England. He had appalling luck though and, after spending time back at home in Oakham, he returned to London during 1676. Unfortunately, it was a time of great religious and political turmoil and he was once again imprisoned, for being a “Roman Catholick” [sic], at the Gatehouse prison, until his release in 1680. It is believed that Jeffrey Hudson died two years later and is buried in an unmarked Catholic pauper’s grave.
The Seaton Viaduct, also known as the Harringworth Viaduct, was completed around 1878 and crosses the valley of the River Welland between Harringworth in Northamptonshire and Seaton in Rutland. It consists of 82 arches along its length of ¾ mile. The viaduct lies on the Oakham to Kettering line and is a stunning feature of the landscape. It is the longest masonry viaduct across a valley in Britain and was constructed in 1878. The Viaduct, a Grade II listed building, was originally built from bricks that were fired onsite that were red in appearance. As restoration work has been carried out over the years, more sturdy bricks that have a blue appearance but are better at dealing with the effects of weathering have replaced some of the red originals. Some of the bricklayers who carried out repairs have reported seeing the hand and footprints of children set in the original bricks. Children would have been used as labour to help fill and fire the clay-filled brick moulds.
The public schools of Oakham and Uppingham have an historic importance in the county too. Both were founded in 1584 by the Archdeacon Robert Johnson and have seen their share of successful celebrities come through their doors, including actor, writer and comedian Stephen Fry (Uppingham) and England International Rugby Player Lewis Moody (Oakham). Both schools still retain parts of the original buildings and chapels and regularly hold sporting and arts events enjoyed by Rutland residents.
Watch a typically English game of cricket at Oakham School during the summer - Leicestershire County Cricket Club first played there in 1935 and their association with the school continues to this day.
Uppingham School has one of the largest private theatres in the country. The theatre is based on the original Leipzig Gewandhaus concert hall in Leipzig, Germany.
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Number of results: 12
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Historic House / Palace
The Castle is the centrepiece of the estate. It is a large quadrangular house with a central courtyard. Each section has a different appearance, reflecting the different architectural styles that have been employed here since building began in the 13
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Cathedral / Minister
The Cathedral’s primary function, as it has been for over 1300 years, is to provide a sacred space for the worship of God but as well as being a living and working centre for Christianity – it has become in recent years the very heart of Peterborough
Church / Chapel
Rutland's most famous landmark was saved from flooding when Rutland Water was created in the 1970s. Now with the floor raised almost half way up the church, it is a fascinating building with a unique history.
Heritage / Visitor Centre
Make sure you pop into the interactive Rutland Water Visitor Centre on your next visit to Rutland. There are lots for kids to get their hands on, with items telling the history of Rutland Water and explaining the wildlife on the nature reserve, plus...
Heritage / Visitor Centre
Known as the ‘best stone town in England’ Stamford is a must on any tour. It is architecturally outstanding with numerous medieval buildings as well as fine Georgian streets and squares.
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Historic House / Palace
Burghley, one of the largest and grandest houses of the first Elizabethan Age.
Built and mostly designed by William Cecil, Lord High Treasurer to Queen Elizabeth I, between 1555 and 1587, the main part of the House has 35 major rooms...
Historic House / Palace
Set beside the church of the picturesque ironstone village of Lyddington, Lyddington Bede House originated as the medieval wing of a palace belonging to the Bishops of Lincoln.
Ancient turf maze.
The brewery tap opened its doors in September 1995 and is recognised as one of the best brew pubs in the UK.