Walk 50: Oakham Town Walk: The traditional English town is still alive

The ‘Needs to Know’

Distance: Probably only about 1 mile (1.61 km)

Time to walk: Only a short walk but with plenty to look at in lovely Oakham it took about 1.5 hours

Difficulty: Flat & all on town paths – ideal for all weathers

Parking: There’s a couple of public car parks. We used the Long Stay one near the station which was cheap & convenient

Public toilets: There’s some opposite the church that are well maintained. Otherwise it’s cafes etc

Map of the route: map2

We’d intended to do some walking around the Hamilton Peninsular area of Rutland Water which is close to Oakham, but the weather was so bad, we decided to abandon that one until the summer & have a look around the town itself – we weren’t disappointed

So what can we tell you about one of our favourite towns that’s just over the border from Northamptonshire?

Oakham is the county town of Rutland & lies to the west of Rutland Water, one of the largest man-made lakes in Europe. Not many people in the UK have heard of Rutland & it has the smallest population of any authority in mainland England & only the City of London is smaller in terms of area

The only towns in Rutland are Oakham, the county town, & Uppingham. The disappointing thing is that in all of our research is that no-one mentioned ‘The Rutles’…only people of a certain age will know 😉

Tongue in cheek, it’s a beautiful town so…

Let’s Walk!

1. We parked in the Long Stay (follow the signs), but our walk starts in the fabulous Market Square & today we were lucky there were several local vendors – as a foodie this was a great way to start our walk

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Just take time when the Market’s on to explore the Veg Man, the Cheese Man, the Fish Man & the Pie Man – so reminds of the fabulous French Markets

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2. Take time to wander round as there’s some good shops & coffee bars here too including the superb Curtis’ Bakery whose main operation is in Lincoln…

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There was also an excellent cheese vendor…

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3. Within the market near the stalls is the town water pump…

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This is the original 19th century pump that’s been restored

4. From the Square there’s access to Oakham Castle which when we visited was undergoing restoration work & we were prevented from accessing. It’s due to be finished in March 2016

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If we could have visited this is what it would have looked like

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Oakham Castle was constructed between 1180 & 1190 for Walchelin de Ferriers, Lord of the Manor of Oakham. Only the Great Hall now remains, although we’ll see the remnants of the outer walls shortly. The Castle is known for its collection of massive horseshoes & is also recognised as one of the best examples of domestic Norman architecture in England

Owned & managed by Rutland County Council, it’s licensed for civil ceremonies

5. On the other side of the square (look for the church spire) is the Buttercross…

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A buttercross is a type of market cross associated with English market towns & dates from medieval times. Its name originates from the fact that they were located at the market place, where people from neighbouring villages would gather to buy locally produced butter, milk & eggs. The fresh produce was laid out & displayed on the circular stepped bases of the cross

Their design varies from place to place, but they are often covered by some type of roof to offer shelter, although the roofs were mostly added at a much later date than the original cross they cover

The steps of Oakham’s can clearly be seen below, although the origin of the stocks isn’t well known…

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6. Some of Oakham School’s buildings are also in the Square…

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Oakham School is a co-educational independent school that was founded in 1584 by Archdeacon Robert Johnson, along with Uppingham School, a few miles away. They share a common badge design (& a strong rivalry), but whilst Uppingham’s colours tend towards blue & white, Oakham’s are black & red

Under Headmaster John Buchanan, in 1971 Oakham was the first boys’ independent secondary school in Britain to accept both male & female pupils throughout the whole school, not just in the Sixth Form. In 1995, it was the first public school to go on-line. It has many notable ‘old pupils’, two of the most well known being the cricketer Stuart Broad & Jamiroquai singer Jay Kay

7. Exit the Market Square down the narrow alley by the far top left corner from where we first entered it, towards the church…

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…turning right down the next alley, keeping the church on the left

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8. Along here on the right is evidence of the mounds of earth that were once topped by the castle walls…

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On the left opposite the mounds is The Old School

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This is the original school building which was restored in the eighteenth century. It remained the sole classroom of the school for 300 years

9. Just past the building turn left & follow the path up to Church Street…

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…turning left to go & have a look at the church itself

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10. All Saints Church has a magnificent spire which dominates the surrounding countryside…

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The tower & spire, built during the 14th century in the “Decorated Gothic” style, are slightly earlier in date than most of the rest of the exterior of the building, which is in the “Perpendicular Gothic” style. The south doorway & its porch are the oldest parts of the church

Let’s have a look inside…

11. We were given a very warm welcome by two church helpers who were clearing up after the xmas festivities. They provided us with excellent fact sheets & pointed out various parts of the church

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They also mentioned that there had very nearly been an accident at Midnight Mass due to a candle setting fire to a rope connected to the wooden ceiling!

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12. Exit the church – if you need the loo there’s some public conveniences across the road. If however, you’d prefer to put something back in, The Wheatsheaf looks very attractive

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Continue along Church Street, turning right down the narrow Dean Street…

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Dean street was once known as ‘Dead Man’s Lane’ as coffins took this route on their way to the church. It is however named after the Dean of Westminster who once owned this part of town

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13. We’re now entering one of the oldest & prettiest areas of the town…

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After a couple of hundred yards turn right down Barlow Road

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…continuing to the junction with Northgate

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14. Northgate is another pretty area, with some splendid properties. Turn left towards the station…

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On the left’s ‘The Three Crowns’ which appears to be owned/associated with ‘Steamin Bill Brewing Co’

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An alliance was formed in 1994 when 19 year old Bill Allingham of Leatherbritches Brewery brewed a house beer for Licensee Barry Lount of the Cow & Plough, Oadby. They called the beer Steamin’ Billy named after the family Jack Russell

In 1996 Bill Allingham & Barry Lount formed Steamin Billy Brewing Co Ltd with a view to opening new pubs. Their first venture was the Vaults in Wellington St. Leicester in 1996, followed by the Robert Catesby, a 1600-century Inn, in Wells Norfolk

The beer was originally brewed in the old washhouse & coal store at the back of the Bentley Brook Inn, Fenny Bentley. A decision was made to contract the beer production out as sales had outgrown the brewery; this initially was undertaken by local brewery, The Grainstore, Oakham. In 2004, the beer brewing moved for a time to the Victorian Tower Brewery in the old Thomas Salt Maltings in Burton, however the Steamin’ Billy beers are now brewed under licence at Belvoir Brewery, Old Dalby Leicester

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15. Pass the Wesleyan Chapel on the left…

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The original chapel was built on this site in 1865 & the current one has been here since 1997

16. At the end of Northgate is the junction with Oakham Station…

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The line is part of the Birmingham to Peterborough Line. Oakham is Rutland’s only surviving passenger railway station. The line from Oakham to Kettering via Corby until recently rarely saw use by passenger trains, being used largely exclusively by freight trains. Since the opening of Corby station it sees daily use with trains from London St Pancras

The famous Victorian Signal Box was built in 1899 & was the prototype for the Airfix kit signal box

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17. Head back towards the town centre passing the local Alan Partridge studio on the right…

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Aha!

Aha!

Rutland Radio is an Independent Local Radio station which started broadcasting on 13th December 1998 & is owned by the Lincs FM Group in Lincoln

18. The old property on the left is known as Hudson’s Cottage…

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Jeffery Hudson was born here in 1619. By the time he was seven, he had grown to a height of 18 inches & remained at that height until he was 30, when he suddenly grew to 3 foot 9 inches

He was a favourite of George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham & came to the attention of Charles I when leaping from a pie at a banquet at Burley-on-the-Hill. Widely known as the Rutland Dwarf, Jeffery Hudson had many adventures, including being captured by pirates & fighting in battles

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It is believed that Jeffery Hudson was the inspiration for the stories about Tom Thumb.
He died in quiet retirement in 1682

19. As the road forks, take the right-hand one & then immediately right down Westgate Street…

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20. The long stay car park where we left our car is on the right down here…

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…but we’ve got more walking to do so follow the road to the left past the bus station to the crossroads

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21. Turn right down New Street…curry anyone?

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The Memories of India look like they serve up some tasty grub

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22. At the next crossroads turn left past Tesco along South Street

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There’s a dental practice with an interesting name on the left

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23. Continue along South Street to the Friends (Quakers) Meeting House…

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24. Turn left down Gaol Street (another lovely little road)…

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…which includes the excellent Hambleton Bakery

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In September 2008 Julian Carter & Tim Hart opened Hambleton Bakery to produce top quality traditionally made bread for Hambleton Hall & Hart’s Nottingham. In addition to a growing list of wholesale customers (pubs, restaurants, delis, etc) the bakery now has retail outlets in Exton, Oakham, Market Harborough, West Bridgford & Stamford

25. At the junction turn right up the busy High Street…

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Across the road’s the impressive Victoria Hall

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The Victoria Hall was known as The Agricultural Hall from its construction in 1858 & was utilised as a meeting place for farmers & as a library. In 1899 the name was changed to The Victoria Hall & it was formally established as a charity

Over the years the building has been the focus of social life for the town and county. Major events such as Hunt Balls & Dinner Dances hosted by many of the local employers were held in the hall during the 1950’s – 1970’s

Sadly, the steady demise for these types of event lead to a decline in demand for the hall towards the late 1980’s & early 1990’s & its future was at risk. Luckily however, in 2002 an Oakham Town Health check revealed great support for the building &, in 2004, after securing grant funding, the Victoria Hall underwent some restoration. It benefitted from a major makeover on both floors & once again, has become the focus of the community

26. It was good to see that Oakham’s High Street was thriving with many independent shops & butchers etc…

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Flore’s House on the right is said to be one of the town’s oldest & stands next to Bargate which was one of the medieval entrances into Oakham

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The house was built in the 14th century by William Flore, controller of works at Oakham Castle & was occupied by his son Roger Flore, a wealthy wool merchant & lawyer who became Speaker of the House of Commons

27. Over the road on the wall of the estate agents is an impressive sundial…

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We’re back at the start of our walk & the fish man had now arrived on the market!

IMG_5110So that’s the end of our short stroll around lovely Oakham. It’s good to see a town with a thriving High Street & the people are lovely too – it’s definitely a place we could visit again & again

Go Walk!