Oakham shown within Rutland
|Population||10,922 (2011 Census)|
|OS grid reference|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|EU Parliament||East Midlands|
|UK Parliament||Rutland and Melton|
Oakham is the county town of Rutland in the East Midlands of England 25 miles (40.2 km) east of Leicester, 28 miles (45.1 km) south-east of Nottingham, and 23 miles (37.0 km) west of Peterborough. Oakham has a population of 10,922.
Oakham lies to the west of Rutland Water, one of the largest man-made lakes in Europe. It is in the Vale of Catmose and is built on an incline, varying from 325 feet (99m) to 400 feet (122m) above sea level. It is twinned with Barmstedt, Germany, and Dodgeville, Wisconsin, US.
Tourist attractions in Oakham include All Saints' Church and Oakham Castle. Another popular and historic feature is the open-air market held in the town's market square every Wednesday and Saturday (near the ancient octagonal Buttercross with its pyramidal roof and wooden stocks, a Grade I listed building).
All Saints' Church
The impressive spire of Oakham parish church, built during the 14th century, dominates distant views of the town for several miles in all directions. Restored in 1857-58 by Sir George Gilbert Scott, the church is a Grade I listed building.
Only the great hall of the Norman castle is still standing, and is surrounded by steep earthworks marking the inner bailey. The hall dates from c. 1180—90 and according to Nikolaus Pevsner (in his The Buildings of England: Leicestershire and Rutland):
- "It is the earliest hall of any English castle surviving so completely, and it is doubly interesting in that it belonged not to a castle strictly speaking, but rather to a fortified manor house."
The outer bailey of the castle, still surrounded by low earthworks, lies to the north of the castle. Known as Cutts Close, it is now a park with a bandstand, skateboard area, flowerbeds and children's play area. Some deep hollows in the park are the remnants of the castle's dried-up stew ponds (fishponds).
Traditionally, members of royalty and peers of the realm who visited or passed through the town had to pay a forfeit in the form of a horseshoe. This unique custom has been enforced for over 500 years, but nowadays it only happens on special occasions (such as royal visits), when an outsize ceremonial horseshoe, specially made and decorated, is hung in the great hall of the castle. There are now over 200 of these commemorative shoes on its walls. Not all are dated and some of the earliest (which would doubtless have been ordinary horseshoes given without ceremony by exasperated noblemen) may not have survived. The earliest datable one is an outsize example commemorating a visit by King Edward IV in about 1470. The horseshoes hang upside-down: while this is generally held to be unlucky, in Rutland this was thought to stop the Devil from sitting in the hollow. The upside-down horseshoe motif appears in the county council's arms and on the local Ruddle's beer labels. Recent horseshoes commemorate visits by Princess Anne (1999), Prince Charles (2003) and Princess Alexandra (2005).
Rutland County Museum
The museum is located in the old Riding School of the Rutland Fencible Cavalry which was built in 1794-95. The museum houses a collection of objects relating to local rural and agricultural life, social history and archaeology.
The Birmingham to Stansted Airport railway line runs through the town, providing links to Birmingham, Leicester, Peterborough, Cambridge and Stansted Airport. Oakham railway station is positioned approximately halfway between Peterborough railway station and Leicester railway station, at both of which passengers can board a train to London - either from Leicester to London St Pancras or from Peterborough to London King's Cross. There are also two direct services to London St Pancras (one early morning and one evening), and one evening return service from London St Pancras, each weekday.
There are good road links to:
- Leicester (25 miles),
- Nottingham (29 miles),
- Melton Mowbray (10 miles),
- Uppingham (6 miles),
- Corby (13 miles),
- Stamford (11 miles).
The town is home to Oakham School, one of the major English public schools, which was founded, together with Uppingham School, in 1584. The original school building survives, northeast of the church; across its south front is the inscription Schola Latina – Graeca – Hebraica A° 1584 and above its door is a stone with an inscription in Latin, Greek and Hebrew.
Oakham School is also the current owner of Oakham's former workhouse. Built in 1836-37 by Oakham Poor Law Union, it served as a workhouse for 167 inmates, until it became Catmose Vale Hospital. It now accommodates two school houses for girls.
Catmose College, founded in 1920, is a state-funded secondary school in the town. Harington School is a sixth form centre that is located next to Catmose College. Rutland County College, formerly Rutland Sixth Form College, has now moved from the outskirts of the town to Great Casterton.
Sports and recreation
Oakham United Football Club won the Peterborough & District Football League in 2015, winning promotion to the United Counties League First Division, which lies at the 10th tier of the English football league system.
Oakham Rugby Football Club play at the Rutland Showground.
Oakham Cricket Club plays at the Lime Kilns off Cricket Lawns.
- Neighbourhood Statistics
- "Market Cross". Images of England. Retrieved 2006-10-01.
- "Oakham "Castle"". Images of England. Retrieved 2006-10-01.
- "Oakham Castle". Rutland On Line. Retrieved 2007-02-20.
- "Castle Class Corvettes". Battleships-Cruisers. Retrieved 2007-02-20.
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