26a. Oakham (1) Town & Great Hall of Castle
See also 26b. Rutland - Oakham (2) All Saints Church
PART 1 The Market Town of Oakham, from the station to the market place
Oakham Market Town: The day started with a cheap day return from Leicester (top left picture) to Oakham Station (top right picture and below), the train journey taking ~30 minutes. Its pleasing to note that Oakham Station has retained much of its original architecture. The Oakham level crossing signal box (built by the Midland Railway in 1899) was used as the model for the Airfix company's model kit for its signal box and is now on Oakham Town's heritage trail!
Oakham Market Town: The fine entrance to Oakham Station.
Oakham Market Town: Oakham is the county market town for the old County of Rutland (Rutlandshire) and a few noteworthy old buildings survive. Oakham is mentioned in the post-Norman Conquest Domesday Book of 1086.
Oakham Market Town: On the left is Hudson's Cottage where Jeffery Hudson (1619-1682) lived who was described as the 'smallest man from the smallest county in England. On the right is Dean's Street, once known as 'Dead Lane' possibly due to coffins being carried through it to the nearby parish church. This area was once owned by the Dean and Chapter of Westminster Abbey and known as Deanshold.
Oakham Market Town: The large thatched 'cottage' of The Manor House opposite the parish church.
Oakham Market Town: The Butter Cross (The Market Cross) in the Market Place is where dairy products such as milk, cheese and meat were sold in medieval and later times. It is noted on Speed's map of 1611. The fine timbered roof beams and stone slates are supported by an octagonal stone pier (see below).
Oakham Market Town: The Butter Cross is by the entrance to the private-public Oakham School
Oakham Market Town: There is a good little market and particularly busy on this fine Saturday afternoon.
Oakham Market Town: Flore's House, in the High Street, is one of the oldest surviving buildings in Oakham. It is an early 14th century stone house with its original east doorway (two orders of filleted shafts, foliated arch mouldings). There are two slightly projecting wings, the south one being timber framed (not shown) and the north wing has a pair of ~1500 windows on the ground floor (below left picture).
Oakham Market Town: The Rutland Coffee House and Restaurant provided an excellent budget mid-day meal for £5 - the 'Meal Deal' and as good as you will get in most cafe's and provided a fine 'fore-taste' of the Great Hall, all that remains of Oakham Castle, where, no doubt, many a fine meal was consumed.
PART 3 The Great Romanesque Hall of the former Oakham Castle
Oakham Great Hall: Oakham Castle Hall dates from ~AD 1180-1190 in the reign of King Henry II, and is one of the finest secular buildings surviving from Norman times and includes many interesting architectural aspects from this period of English architecture. Oakham Castle is more of a fortified manor house than a classic medieval castle and one of the best preserved examples of domestic Norman architecture. It contains over 200 horseshoes given to the Lord of the Manor by visiting Royalty and peers of the Realm.
Oakham Great Hall: The Hall was built for Walkelin de Ferrers, Lord of the manor of Oakham and a baron of Norman descent. He fought in the Third Crusade under the leadership of Richard the Lionheart in the Holy Land.
Oakham Great Hall: The Castle (motte and bailey?) was surrounded by a great earthen bank, much of which can still be seen, but there is nothing left of all the other buildings which would have stood within the confines of the compound. Even though it isn't really a castle in the full sense, but a description from 1340 mentions a defensive wall, a gatehouse and a drawbridge with iron chains and maybe a moat and towers? A few restored and highly decorative windows survive on one of the walls of the Great Hall.
Oakham Great Hall: The Hall has two arcades of fine round piers whose capitals are intricately carved. An old custom decrees that every peer of the realm visiting Oakham, should, on setting foot in the town, present a horseshoe to be hung inside the Castle. This custom may be related to the family name of de Ferrers, since ferrier is the Norman French word for farrier and the horseshoe has been a symbol of the de Ferrers family since Henry de Ferrers came to England in 1066.
Oakham Great Hall: The capitals of the piers of the four bay arcade are beautifully carved and the Romanesque arches too. The fine stonework was carved by English masons recruited from Canterbury Cathedral and worked from templates from the master mason William of Sens.
Oakham Great Hall: The magnificent Romanesque arches of the Norman Great Hall of the Oakham Manor!
Oakham Great Hall: On the left, an old Norman door is still in use with a newer door! and on the right, the oldest horseshoe in the collection, presented by King Edward IV ~1470 after his victory at the Battle of Losecote Field.
Oakham Great Hall: Below are examples of the beautiful carvings of the capitals of the round pillars supporting the semi-circular Romanesque arches of the arcade.
Oakham Great Hall: The bottom two stone carvings have been inserted into one of the walls covered in horseshoes.
See also 26b. Rutland - Oakham (2) All Saints Church
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