Oakham Castle

Has been described as a Certain Timber Castle (Motte), and also as a Certain Masonry Castle

There are major building remains

NameOakham Castle
Alternative NamesOkeham
Historic CountryRutland
Modern AuthorityRutland
1974 AuthorityLeicestershire
Civil ParishOakham

Oakham castle occupies a central position in the former county town of Rutland, now part of Leicestershire. The castle complex comprises a standing great hall and the remains of a motte or mound inside a square inner bailey. To the north of this is a large rectangular outer bailey known as Cutts Close which contains dry fishponds and garden earthworks. The inner castle bailey measures approximately 140 x 140m in overall dimensions. The great hall is situated close to its western boundary, and consists of an aisled building measuring 20 x 13m internally, and is built of ironstone rubble with cut stone dressings. The inner bailey is delimited by a curtain wall dating to the 13th century. On the inside, a bank, consisting of grassed-over collapsed stone and rubble, slopes up to the wall and the remains of two towers or bastions can be identified on the western side. In the south east corner is the castle motte adjoining the enclosure wall at its highest point. It stands to a height of about 6m and has a surrounding ditch which is up to lm deep and 8-10m wide. The ground surface of the bailey is uneven, signifying the foundations of buildings, many of which are known from documentary evidence. The gateway on the south side, is still in use, although it has been rebuilt many times. To the north, the outer bailey known as Cutts Close contains earthworks of gardens and fishponds which are mentioned in 14th century documents. A substantial bank, up to 2m high, surrounds the perimeter of the outer bailey and also forms the fishponds. Oakham was the administrative centre of the manor of Oakham, with its courts and system of self government, and also the emerging county of Rutland. The hall of Oakham castle is listed in Domesday book and would have been represented at that time by a wooden building. The stone-built hall which survives today was built by Walkelin de Ferrers between 1180 and 1190

A 14th century document describes the castle in detail with a garden, fishponds and a moat. The period 1372-1386 is particularly rich in recorded detail with accounts of work done and grants made, but by 1521 the castle appears to have been in decline with much except the hall, which was used as a law court, in ruin. An engraving of 1684 shows the hall freestanding inside the castle enclosure, as it is today. There have been a number of archaeological excavations, that of 1953 confirming that the inner bailey was moated. In 1989 an archaeological evaluation of Cutts Close indicated that the south west bank was pre Norman. (Scheduling Report)

The castle complex comprises a standing great hall and the remains of a motte inside a square inner bailey. To the north of this is a large rectangular outer bailey known as Cutts Close which contains dry fishponds and garden earthworks. The inner castle bailey measures 140 x 140m in overall dimensions. The great hall is situated close to its western boundary, and consists of an aisled building built of ironstone rubble. The inner bailey is delimited by a curtain wall dating to C13. On the inside, a bank, consisting of grassed-over collapsed stone rubble, slopes up to the wall and the remains of two towers or bastions can be identified on the western side. In the south east corner is the castle motte and stands to a height of about 6m. The hall of Oakham Castle is listed in the Domesday book. The stone built hall which survives today was built by Walkelin de Ferrers between 1180 and 1190. (PastScape)

Gatehouse Comments

The Great Hall of Oakham Castle remains in occasional use as a court of law. A function it has probably continuously had since it was built. The 1305 Survey of the people of Oakham shows how many citizen owed a regular 'suit of court' requirement to attend the court, presumably not just to see the law in progress but to act as witnesses and jurors. I also suspect that much of the 'castle guard' service required of local knights would be to participate in court proceedings as court security (such officials still often retain medieval names such as marshall or bailiff). The same 1305 survey shows the amounts of rents and taxes people owed and these had to be paid, in coin and in person, probably in the castle with a clerk recording payment. That is the main function of Oakham Castle, as with most county town castles and many other castles, was as a centre of legal and political administration which played an active part in the lives of all medieval people.

- Philip Davis

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law

Historic England Scheduled Monument Number
Historic England Listed Building number(s)
Images Of England
Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSK861088
Latitude52.6709213256836
Longitude-0.72749000787735
Eastings486120
Northings308870
HyperLink HyperLink HyperLink
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
Photograph by Andrew Herrett. All rights reserved
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Books

  • Elaine Jones and Robert Ovens, 2015, John Barber’s Oakham Castle and its archaeology (RLHRS Occasional Publication 11) (On 1950s excavations)
  • Creighton, Oliver, 2015, 'Castle, Landscape and Townscape in Thirteenth-Century England: Wallingford, Oxfordshire and the 'Princely Building Strategies' of Richard, Earl of Cornwall' in Jörg Peltzer (ed), Rank and Order: The Formation of Aristocratic Elites in Western and Central Europe, 500–1500 (Ostfildern: Thorbecke Jan Verlag) p. 309-341 (slight)
  • Goodall, John, 2011, The English Castle 1066-1650 (Yale University Press) p. 5, 27, 148-9, 413, 470
  • Cantor, Leonard, 2003, The Scheduled Ancient Monuments of Leicestershire and Rutland (Leicester: Kairos Press) p. 37
  • Salter, Mike, 2002, The Castles of the East Midlands (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 98-9
  • Fernie, E., 2000, 'Castles, Halls, and Chamber Blocks' in The Architecture of Norman England (Oxford University Press) p. 49-88 esp 87
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 140
  • Cox, B., 1994, The Place-Names of Rutland (English Place-Name Society 67-69) p. li
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 417-8
  • Hartley, R. F., 1983, The Mediaeval Earthworks of Rutland, A survey (Leicester) p. 30-32
  • Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 270
  • Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 263
  • Colvin, H.M., Brown, R.Allen and Taylor, A.J., 1963, The history of the King's Works Vol. 2: the Middle Ages (London: HMSO) p. 765-6 (slight)
  • Pevsner, Nikolaus, 1960, Buildings of England: Leicestershire and Rutland (Harmondsworth) p. 18, 315-7
  • Page, Wm (ed), 1935, VCH Rutland Vol. 2 p. 8-10 online copy
  • Tipping, 1921, English Homes, period 1 (London) p. 28-31
  • Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)
  • Gotch, J.A., 1909, The Growth of the English House p. 27-33
  • Wall, C.J., 1908, 'Ancient Earthworks' in Page, Wm (ed), VCH Rutland Vol. 1 p. 115-6 online copy
  • Phillips, G., 1904, 'The Owners of Oakham Castle' The Rutland Magazine and County Historical Record Vol. 1 p. 52-53 online copy
  • Mackenzie, J.D., 1897, Castles of England Vol. 1 p. 422-4 online copy
  • Timbs, J. and Gunn, A., 1872, Abbeys, Castles and Ancient Halls of England and Wales Vol. 2 (London) p. 330-1 online copy
  • Turner, T.H., 1851, Some account of Domestic Architecture in England (Oxford) Vol. 1 p. 28-31 online copy
  • Buck, Samuel and Nathaniel, 1774, Buck's Antiquities (London) Vol. 2 p. 242

Antiquarian

Journals

  • 2015 Sept, 'Oakham Castle Update' Castle Studies Group Bulletin Vol. 20 p. 6 (news of restoration work)
  • Mesqui, J., 2014, 'La grande sale d’Oakham et les halls anglai du XIIe siècle' Bulletin Monumental Vol. 172.3
  • < >Hill, Nick, 2013, 'Hall and Chambers: Oakham Castle Reconsidered' The Antiquaries Journal Vol. 93 pp 163-216 < > online abstract and order
  • Speight, Sarah, 2008, ''Castles as Past Culture: Living with Castles in the Post-Medieval World' Cha^teau Gaillard Vol. 23 p. 385-94 (slight)
  • Creighton, O.H., 2000, 'The Medieval Castles of Rutland: Field Archaeology and Landscape History' Rutland Record Vol. 20 p. 415-24
  • Creighton, O.H., 1999, 'Early Castles in the Medieval Landscape of Rutland' Transactions of the Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society Vol. 73 p. 19-33 (plan) online copy
  • Nenk, B.S. et al, 1991 'Medieval Britain and Ireland in 1990' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 35 p. 201 download copy
  • Sharman, J. and Sawday, D., 1990, 'An archaeological evaluation in the outer bailey of Oakham Castle (SK 862 089)' Transactions of the Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society Vol. 64 p. 88-94 online copy
  • Youngs, S.M. et al, 1988 'Medieval Britain and Ireland in 1987' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 32 p. 260 download copy
  • Wilson, D.M. and Hurst, J.G., 1959, 'Medieval Britain in 1958' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 3 p. 308 download copy
  • Faulkner, P.A., 1958, 'Domestic Planning from the Twelfth to the Fourteenth Centuries' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 115 p. 150-83 online copy
  • Gathercole, P.W., 1958, 'Excavations at Oakham Castle, Rutland, 1953-4' Transactions of the Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society Vol. 34 p. 17-38 online copy
  • Wilson, D.M. and Hurst, J.G., 1958, 'Medieval Britain in 1957' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 2 p. 195 download copy
  • Wilson, D.M. and Hurst, J.G., 1957, 'Medieval Britain in 1956' Medieval Archaeology Vol. 1 p. 157 download copy
  • Radford, C.A.R., 1955, 'Oakham Castle' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 112 p. 181-4
  • Wood, M., 1935, 'Norman Domestic Architecture' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 92 p. 167-242 esp. 201-3 online copy
  • 1933, The Archaeological Journal Vol. 90 p. 398-9 online copy
  • Walker, John Holland,, 1924, 'Oakham Castle' Transactions of the Thoroton Society of Nottinghamshire Vol. 28 p. 29-45
  • Thompson, A.Hamilton, 1911-12, 'Oakham Castle' Rutland Magazine and County Historical Record Vol. 5 p. 80-88
  • Hartshorne, C.H., 1848, 'The Hall of Oakham' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 5 p. 124-42 online copy

Guide Books

  • Clough, T.H.McK., 2013 (5edn)_Oakham Castle: a Guide and History_ (Rutland County Council)
  • Clough, T.H.McK., 1981, Oakham Castle: a Guide and History (Friends of Rutland County Museum)
  • Thompson, A.Hamilton, n.d. (c. 1930), The Story of Oakham Church, School and Castle
  • Finch, Pearl, 1904, Oakham Castle (Oakham)

Primary Sources

  • Rickard, John, 2002, The Castle Community. The Personnel of English and Welsh Castles, 1272-1422 (Boydell Press) (lists sources for 1272-1422) p. 405-7
  • Allen Chinnery (ed), 1988, The Oakham Survey 13055: A Translation with Commentaries (RLHRS Occasional Publication 2) online copy

Other

  • Historic England, 2015, Heritage at Risk East Midlands Register 2015 (London: Historic England) p. 70 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2014, Heritage at Risk Register 2014 East Midlands (London: English Heritage) p. 69 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2013, Heritage at Risk Register 2013 East Midlands (London: English Heritage) p. 68 online copy
  • Time Team, 2013 Febuary 10 (1st broadcast), 'Horseshoe Hall' Time Team TV Programme (Time Team, a Videotext/Picture House production for Channel 4) view online
  • English Heritage, 2012, Heritage at Risk Register 2012 East Midlands (London: English Heritage) p. 75 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2011, Heritage at Risk Register 2011 East Midlands (London: English Heritage) p. 69 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2010, Heritage at Risk Register 2010 East Midlands (London: English Heritage) p. 60 online copy
  • English Heritage, 2009, Heritage at Risk Register 2009 East Midlands (London: English Heritage) p. 65 online copy