Walk 54: Oundle Heritage Trail…Back to School

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: Probably about 1 mile (1.61 km)

Time to walk: You can run round here in about 30 minutes, but there’s tea rooms & bookshops to visit, plus we didn’t go down to the river on this walk as we covered it on Walk 9

Difficulty: All on hard paths

Parking: We used the 2 hour free car park attached to The Co-op in St Osyth’s Lane

Public toilets: There’s public toilets in the car park

Map of the route: @ Oundle Heritage Trail

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Oundle’s one of Northamptonshire’s most beautiful towns nestling amongst the curves of the River Nene. There’s been a settlement here since the Iron Age

The Saxon invasion saw the arrival of a tribe called Undalas & it’s also the resting place of St Wilfrid in 709AD. He consecrated a church as well as locating of one of his monasteries in the town. The current St Peter’s Church occupies the same site as St Wilfrid’s original Church

As the area became prosperous, wealthy traders set up shops & houses. Unlike other settlements close by, Oundle was unaffected by the Black Death in the mid 14th century

The town has mainly been built with local Jurassic limestone & the roofs of Collyweston slate

Oundle is famed for its Independent School which is one of the biggest in England & the 3rd largest boarding school after Eton & Millfield. The School also owns most of the grander houses in the town. There’s been a grammar school here since at least 1465 where Sir William Laxton (Lord Mayor of London) was educated. He founded Laxton Grammar School in 1556, administered by the Worshipful Company of Grocers, from which Oundle School evolved

Much of this walk matches the route of the Oundle Heritage Trail, but we’ve tried to make it more ‘local’ & provide deeper information

So…Let’s Walk!

1. Having parked in the Co-op we come back out into St Osyth’s Lane & head up towards the town centre…

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If you’re in need of a coffee before getting underway, The Angel‘s on the right…

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2. At the corner of St Osyth’s Lane & The Marketplace on the left is an imposing property called Bramston House…

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Bramston House is a Queen Anne town property built by Stephen Bramston, a prominent lawyer, in 1701. The front has hardly changed since that time. It was purchased by the School in 1916 & later extended through the purchase of some adjoining shops

3. Turning round in The Marketplace we’re face with another prominent building…the Old Town Hall & Market House…

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Built in 1826, this building’s similar to others we’ve come across in market towns such as Poole, with the bottom originally being open for traders & a large room on the first floor

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In the same year the Market Cross, which stood to the east of the Market House, at the top of St. Osyth Lane, was destroyed. The cross, which dated back to 1591, consisted of a tall shaft on two octagonal stone steps & was surrounded by a pent house of timber, also octagonal, with highpitched roof covered with stone slates

4. On the other side of the road’s another 17th century building which is now home to the Oundle Bookshop

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Oundle School used to run the Bookshop, but now leases to it the current operator

Next door’s another old ‘watering hole’…The Rose and Crown

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5. Rather than venturing further into the town centre at this stage, we’re going to head back past The Marketplace towards North Street…

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…passing ‘Smith’s No. 4’ Cafe Bar…

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Have a look at the above link – it’s so much more than a Cafe, with live music events etc

6. Just along from the Cafe on the same side of the road is a building known as ‘White Lion’…

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This is a Grade II listed medieval building that used to be a public house & hotel

7. Opposite is the Church which we’ll have a look at on the way back as there’s a couple more properties to look at heading out of town

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The next one of note that we come to is the imposing Berrystead…

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Built in the late 17th century as a gentleman’s town house, The Berrystead is a handsome Grade I listed building that’s now also owned by Oundle School

8. The final property of note in North Street is slightly further on, being Latham’s Hospital & School…

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Latham’s Hospital & School was built in 1611 as an almshouse for women & a school for poor peoples’ sons. There was a restoration in 1837 & a more extensive one in 1912, by when the school was closed (1905)

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Parson Nicholas Latham, Rector of Barnwell St Andrew, under the patronage of Lord Edward Montague, founded this very ancient charity in 1600

He managed to purchase property & land as far afield as Kirton in Lincolnshire & Perenhall in Bedfordshire. The income from these properties & land was used as endowments to support the hospitals which he founded in Barnwell & Oundle, & the schools in Barnwell, Oundle, Brigstock, Hemmington & Weekley

9. If we carried on in the same direction we’d eventually come to Oundle North Bridge…

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We covered this area as part of an earlier walk which can be accessed by clicking on the link below:

https://northamptonshirewalks.wordpress.com/about/walk-9-wonderful-water-wildlife-willows-and-wandering-westie/

10. Let’s head back up into the town on the opposite side of the road & have a look at St Peter’s Church…

IMG_7066There’s been a Church in Oundle since at least 709. The current St Peter’s Church occupies the same site as St Wilfrid’s original building

At 210 feet, the spire is the highest in Northamptonshire. As you enter through the porch there’s a hidden room above. William Laxton was educated in that room nearly 500 years ago. He moved to London, became Lord Mayor & left his money to found Oundle School

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It wasn’t the most decorative Church we’ve been in recently

11. Exiting the Church, across the churchyard is the Laxton School Building. It was rebuilt in 1855 to replace the old school building & alms houses…

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12. Rather than retracing our steps up the main street we continue through the churchyard up the side of the Laxton Building…

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…& at the top is another fine house with a red door…

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This is the old School House which was built in 1763 for £336 replacing the previous 15th century building

13. Carrying on up the alleyway, this is now beginning to remind us of wandering round the backstreets of Oxford or Cambridge

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14. At the t-junction we come to New Street which is where the main Oundle School buildings are located. The School boasts a long & distinguished alumni (see link), but probably the most notable for us is Bruce Dickinson from Iron Maiden…666 😉

Turning away from the town centre, on the right is The Cloisters…

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…& opposite is School House which began life as a boarding house in 1887, although by tradition it was originally the residence of the Headmaster – now no longer the case

15. The other main School building just around the corner is The Great Hall…

IMG_7086The Great Hall was constructed in 1908, with the North & South Wings added shortly afterwards.It’s used for a variety of functions throughout the year including concerts, receptions, lectures, debates & assemblies. The building also houses the offices of the Headmaster & the school admissions department

16. It’s time now to head back to the town centre so we about turn & head back along New Street…

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On the right’s The Talbot Hotel…

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IMG_7091The Talbot Hotel was one of the first buildings in England to be classified as a grade 1 heritage property. The hotel’s origins date from the 7th Century, although the oldest part is medieval.

The hotel is famous for its New Street & inner courtyard facades which were rebuilt with stone from Fotheringhay Castle in 1630. The stone windows & timber staircase overlooking the inner courtyard are, reputedly, also from Fotheringhay Castle. The staircase is believed to have been used by Mary Queen of Scots when descending to her execution at the castle on 8 February 1587. Local history has it that an imprint on one of the staircase’s posts is that of the Queen’s ring

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17. The only main area we’ve not yet had a look at is West Street so at the War Memorial we turn right…

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Another good local butchers which was advertising game

Another good local butchers which was advertising game

If you fancy a quick cuppa then we can recommend ‘Beans’ on the corner…

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…or if you fancy something a bit sweeter there’s always The Oundle Candy Co

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18. Sugared out we walk briskly up the left side of West Street & arrive at another impressive building…Cobthorne

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Cobthorne, also owned by the School, is the current residence of the Headmaster. It was built in 1656 by William Boteler, one of Cromwell’s Major-Generals

19. Slightly further along is one of the town’s oldest pubs…The Ship Inn

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It’s supposed to be haunted by the ghost of a former landlord who committed suicide by jumping out of an upper story bedroom window, breaking his neck. His ghost has been encountered by several subsequent licensees & visitors to the pub.

The large entrance at the side was designed for horses & their coaches to arrive / depart…

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20. Working our way further along West Street the next 3 properties we’re going to look at are on the opposite side of the road

The first one is known as Paine’s Cottages & The Manse…

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The above properties were the ends of a 15th century house, long gone. It once belonged to Sir Walter Mildmay of Apethorpe Hall who was Chancellor to Elizabeth I

 21. The next is Oundle’s rather unique theatre, The Stahl Theatre

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Originally The Congregational Church dating back to 1864, The Stahl Theatre was converted following a bequest from a wealthy American ex student & opened in 1980

With the ability to seat an audience of over 400, the Theatre is owned & managed by Oundle School, & run by the Drama Department staff, many of whom have a professional theatre background. It houses both School productions and visiting professional theatre companies

22. The third & final property on this side of the street is almost next door…Queen Anne House

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This house is named after Queen Anne who is said to have visited a former lady-in-waiting who lived there

23. Again this is a walk where we’ve learnt so much – it never fails to amaze! Over the road’s another interesting structure called Danfords…

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Little has been written about this grand archway which looks like a gateway to a much bigger property beyond – unfortunately that’s not the case though

24. Our walk along West Street’s almost complete, but before we turn back there’s another impressive Church at the end…

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The Church of the Most Holy Name of Jesus is Oundle’s Catholic Church

25. The final building along here is just on the bend with Mill Road

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This is the old Courthouse which today houses Oundle’s Museum. The Museum moved to the Courthouse in 2000 with the help of a Heritage Lottery Grant & achieved ‘Accreditation’ status in 2007, a scheme that sets nationally agreed standards for museums in the UK

We didn’t have time to have a look today, but will definitely visit next time

26. It’s now time to head back to where we left the car. On the way we passed a building we didn’t see on the way down West Street, The Queen Victoria Hall where Mother Goose was being performed by Oundle Amateur Theatrical Society (OATS)…

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IMG_7122If you fancy a tea on the way back then there’s a rather trendy teashop called ‘brew babu’

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So that’s the end of our short walk around the centre of beautiful Oundle & we certainly feel better ‘educated’ than when we first arrived. There’s plenty to see &, if you combine this walk with our riverside one, it would be possible to spend a full day exploring

As a side note we were also looking at a walk around Barnwell Country Park with a view to making this a separate entry & getting some bird pictures

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We walked round the perimeter of the park &, maybe because it was winter, but the only wildlife we saw was 3 ducks & 2 swans. So we’ll give it the benefit of the doubt & have another look in the summer. However…here’s a few photos we took…

Go Walk!!

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