An impressive late twelfth century Great Hall, albeit heavily modified in later years, along with earthworks of the medieval manorial castle. The remains include a much reduced motte whilst the hall has an extensive display of horseshoes gifted by Kings, princes and other magnates over the years.
Notes: Found in central Oakham. There is a large pay and display car park in the immediate vicinity.
Horseshoes. Tradition has it that any visiting magnate presents a horseshoe as a gift. It is uncertain why this tradition emerged although the most likely explanation is Oakham was regularly used to accommodate important travellers and a horseshoe was removed to prevent them departing without paying.
Motte. The Norman motte has been much reduced and in the thirteenth century was simply incorporated into the curtain wall.
Replacing an early Norman motte-and-bailey fortification, Oakham Castle was built by Walkelin de Ferrières in the late twelfth century. Confiscated by King John , the castle passed through various owners including Richard, Earl of Cornwall and Lord Thomas Cromwell.
HISTORY OF OAKHAM CASTLE
Oakham was an existing Anglo-Saxon settlement prior to the Norman invasion and was originally owned by Queen Edith, widow of Edward the Confessor. It was to dominate this settlement that the first fortification was built around 1075 - an earth and timber motte-and-bailey castle. At the time of the Domesday Book (1086) the manor was owned by King William but then passed to Henry de Beaumont, Earl of Warwick who exchanged it with Henry I for Sutton in Warwickshire.
At some point, most probably in the 1160s, the Manor of Oakham was granted to Walkelin de Ferrières by Henry II. He was a great nephew to Robert de Ferrières, Earl of Derby and also held lands in Gloucestershire (Lechlade). It was he who built the Great Hall around 1180 although he had little time to enjoy his new construction for he would later spend several years in the custody of Duke Leopold V of Austria as one of the hostages held as surety to secure the release of Richard I. It was during the Ferrières tenure that the tradition emerged whereby every passing magnate donates a horseshoe on passing through the Lordship.
Walkelin died in 1201 and Oakham passed to his son, Henry de Ferrières. Like his father he had held territory in both England and Normandy but, with John's disastrous foreign policy that saw the entire duchy slip into French control, was forced to make a choice between the two monarchs. In 1207 Henry chose to pay homage to Phillip II of France and was immediately subject to the principle of Terra Normannorum - confiscation of his English estates - for life. According it was his sister, Isabella, who inherited with the estate coming under the control of her husband, Roger Mortimer.
On Isabella's death, Oakham reverted to the Crown and in 1252 was granted to the King's younger brother - Richard, Earl of Cornwall (the wider county of Rutland had been granted to Richard in 1227). His officials seem to have been particularly vigorous in extracting wealth from the area as the town seems to have enthusiastically supported the rebellion of Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester during the Second Barons War. Both town and castle were taken by the rebels and only restored to Royal control after Montfort's defeat at the Battle of Evesham (1265). It was perhaps these events that prompted significant upgrades to the castle in the mid-thirteenth century with the original wooden palisade being replaced by a stone curtain wall that was probably augmented by a number of round turrets along its length. The motte was reduced in height and included within the new curtain wall whilst a gatehouse, complete with drawbridge, was also added at this time.
The castle's defences were upgraded in 1307 on the orders of Edward II. By 1360 though the structure was in need of substantial repairs and was described as "worth nothing". Repairs for habitability were made in the 1370s sufficient to host Royal visits in 1375 (Edward III) and 1378/80 (Richard II).
Henry VI granted Oakham to Humphrey Stafford, Duke of Buckingham although it was later confiscated by Richard III. It was restored to Edward Stafford by the Tudor regime but confiscated again in 1521 when he was executed for treason and granted to Lord Thomas Cromwell. A survey at this time reported the castle as ruinous although the Great Hall continued to be used as an Assize Court and later Magistrates Court until 1970.