Oakham Castle

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Oakham Castle


The Oakham Castle.jpg
The Great Hall of Oakham Castle
Type: Fortified manor house
Location: 52°40’15"N, 0°43’39"W
Town: Oakham
Built c. 1180-1190
Condition: Great Hall in good condition
Owned by: Rutland Council

Oakham Castle is in Oakham, the county town of Rutland. It was built between 1180 and 1190, in the reign of King Henry II for Walchelin de Ferriers, Lord of the Manor of Oakham. It does not have the appearance of a castle, but today is in the form of a hall surrounded by long-abandoned earthworks enclosing a broad bailey.

The Castle is known for its collection of massive horseshoes and is also recognised as one of the best examples of domestic Norman architecture in Britain.[1] Admission to the castle is free. It stands in the town centre: a gateway from the Market Square leads to the castle grounds, and the town’s playing fields spread out beyond the earthen ramparts.

Oakham Castle is owned and managed by the local council. It is licensed for weddings.

General Information

Castle Lane leading from the Market Place to the castle
Horseshoes on the east wall

Oakham Castle does not represent the traditional image of a castle due to its small size. The Great Hall is all that remains of an early mediæval fortified manor house. It did, however, have many of the traditional features of a castle such as a curtain wall, a gatehouse and a drawbridge with iron chains. There is also historical and archaeological evidence to suggest that Oakham Castle possessed towers at strategic points along the walls as well as a moat.

The Great Hall comprises a nave and two arcaded aisles, each with three large stone columns. There are a number of 12th century sculptures decorating the Hall including six musicians that are supported by the columns. The sculptures are carved from local stone quarried at Clipsham and are believed to have been made by masons who had also worked at Canterbury Cathedral. It is thought to have been built by Walkelin de Ferrers circa 1180-90.[1]

The present gateway into the market place closely resembles the gateways at Burley on the Hill, and is thought to have been erected by the first Duke of Buckingham.[2]

Time Team, the Channel 4 archaeology series, filmed at Oakham Castle 26-28 June 2012. The programme was shown on 10 February 2013.[3]

The Horseshoes

Ferrers family shield

There remains a unique tradition that peers of the realm should forfeit a horseshoe to the Lord of the Manor of Oakham on their first visit to the town. Two hundred and thirty horseshoes currently decorate the walls of Oakham Castle. It is thought that this tradition is linked to the ‘de Ferrers’ family name. Ferrier was the Norman French word for farrier and the horseshoe has been a symbol of the de Ferrers family since Henry de Ferrers arrived in England in 1066.

The oldest surviving horseshoe in the collection is one that was presented by Edward IV in 1470 after his victory at the Battle of Losecoat Field. Recent additions to the collection are horseshoes presented by the Princess Royal in 1999, the Prince of Wales in 2003, Princess Alexandra in 2005 and the Duchess of Cornwall in 2014.

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Oakham Castle)


  • The Horseshoes of Oakham Castle, by T.H. McK Clough, Curator of Rutland County Museum
  • Oakham Castle, A Guide and History, by T.H. McK Clough, Curator of Rutland County Museum