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Oakham Buttercross.jpg
Oakham Buttercross
Grid reference: SK857088
Location: 52°40’14"N, 0°43’60"W
Population: 9,975  (2001)
Post town: Oakham
Postcode: LE15
Dialling code: 01572
Local Government
Council: Rutland
Rutland and Melton

Oakham is the county town of Rutland. The town, which has civil parish status, lies to the west of Rutland Water, one of the largest man-made lakes in Europe. It is in the Vale of Catmose and the town itself is built on an incline, and varies from 325ft above sea level (Ladywell area) to 400ft above sea level (Brooke School area).


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).[1]

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 to 1858 by Sir George Gilbert Scott, the church is a grade I listed building.

Oakham Castle

The great hall of Oakham Castle, with the spire of All Saints church beyond

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 building is attractively ornamented with Romanesque architectural details, including six carvings of musicians. It is a grade I listed building.[2]

The hall was in use as an assize court until 1970 and is still occasionally used as a coroner's court or Crown Court. It is also licensed for weddings.

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).[3]

A Castle class corvette named HMS Oakham Castle was launched in July 1944.[4]

Oakham's horseshoes

Ceremonial horseshoes in Oakham Castle

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 (see to the right), and on the local Ruddles beer labels. Recent horsehoes commemorate visits by HRH The Princess Royal (1999), HRH The Prince of Wales (2003) and HRH Princess Alexandra (2005).[3]


Oakham railway station providing good links to Peterborough, Leicester, Birmingham and Stansted Airport.

The Birmingham to Peterborough railway line runs through the town, providing links to Birmingham, Leicester, Peterborough and Cambridge. 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 good road links to:

The main route for travellers to Leicester by road is first south to Uppingham and then westward along the A47.

Oakham is on the A606 road between Melton Mowbray and Stamford. On 10 January 2007, the A606 bypass opened diverting traffic from the town centre.

The Oakham Canal connected the town to the Melton Mowbray Navigation, the River Soar and the national waterways system between 1802 and 1847.


Oakham Buttercross, with some buildings of Oakham School beyond

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 1836-7 by Oakham Poor Law Union, it served as a workhouse for 167 inmates, until it became Catmose Vale Hospital. It now accommodates two "day" (non-boarding) School Houses for girls.

The Catmose College, founded in 1920, is a specialist visual arts college. Rutland College, formerly Rutland Sixth Form College, lies on the outskirts of the town.

Sports and recreation

Oakham Rugby Football Club play at the Rutland Showground.

Also Oakham Imps Football clubs trains on the Oakham School astroturf adjacent to the railway and play their matches at the Catmose College football pitches

Notable people

  • Sir Jeffrey Hudson
  • Titus Oates
  • Stuart Broad

Street map

OpenStreetMap of Oakham



Outside links