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Episode 32: Rutland

Where is Rutland?

In our thirty-second episode we mentioned lots of interesting places and things in Rutland, so here are some pictures and links if you'd like to find out more!

Map of Rutland

Oakham Castle

The Great Hall of Oakham Castle is the finest surviving example of Norman domestic architecture in Europe. It was built between 1180 and 1190. The surviving structure is the impressive Great Hall of the Castle, where banquets and courts would have been held.

The Great Hall is famed for its for its unique collection of over 230 ornate ceremonial horseshoes donated by Peers of the Realm (Royalty and nobility such as Dukes, Marquis’, Earls, Viscounts, Barons and Bishops). The exact origin of this custom is lost to the mists of time, but it continues to this day. Our oldest surviving horseshoe was given to the Castle by Edward IV in 1470. Every one of the horseshoes has a story for you to discover.

The Hall is also decorated with a range of 12th century sculptures both inside and out. Above the six amazingly well preserved columns are six musicians, each one playing a different instrument. They are made of local stone from Clipsham and although damaged, are of superb quality. Evidence suggests that they were carved by masons who had worked at Canterbury Cathedral.

Rutland Roman Villa and Mosaics

The Rutland Roman villa is a Romano-British villa site in Rutland, England. The site was listed as a scheduled monument by Historic England on 23 November 2021. The villa includes the first example of a mosaic in Britain which depicts scenes from Homer's Iliad.

A geophysical survey of the site in 2021 showed evidence of a large villa complex including indications of a formal garden, a bath house, perhaps a chapel and two mausolea. Further excavations in 2022 uncovered the bath house as well as a second mosaic, possibly from a dining area of the villa.

The villa complex is likely to be a villa rustica comprising luxurious residential buildings and agricultural buildings. A geophysical survey has shown it comprises at least seven buildings, including the main residential villa, all enclosed by a series of ditches.

Initially thought to date to the 3rd or 4th century AD, further excavations in the summer of 2022 suggested that the estate had been first occupied more than a century earlier.

The dining room with the Hector mosaic was a later addition to the main villa for public feasting, suggesting that the owners wanted to impress with their wealth and Roman culture.

The mosaic measures 11 metres (36 ft) by nearly 7 metres (23 ft) and depicts the battle between Achilles and Hector at the end of the Trojan War. It is the first example of imagery from the Iliad discovered from Roman Britain and is one of only a few in the whole of Europe (such as the Villa Romana del Tellaro in Sicily). It indicates that the owner had a refined taste, knowledge of classical literature and wanted to express it publicly.

Great Casterton Skeleton

The partial skeleton was discovered in 2015 during the construction of a conservatory. The Lincolnshire Police were alerted but the body was proven to date from the third century (between AD 226 and 427 at 95% probability). A careful excavation was undertaken by archaeology contractor, MOLA. Their report is now available in full online.

Whilst we know forced labour and enslavement were ubiquitous features of the Roman Empire there is little archaeological evidence from Britain to help us understand their form, and how individuals were treated. We don’t even know whether the man at Great Casterton was a slave rather than a criminal though the shackles are similar to those associated with slavery in France and Germany.

Jupiter, Neptune or Pluto statue discovered in Rutland

We visited the British Museum to see this lovely little statue, discovered near Oakham in Rutland!

Archaeologists are not sure if he is a statue of Jupiter, Neptune or Pluto, due to his arms and any signifying objects being missing! However, the rest of him is very well preserved and we particularly like his characterful face and curly beard.

Rutland Water

Originally named Empingham Reservoir after a local village, Rutland Water lies near Oakham. It was completed in 1978 and covers 3,100 acres. At its maximum, it is thirty-four metres deep and 1,200 metres long. The 1,000 acre nature reserve lies at the western end, and Rutland Water is famed for it's wildlife: in fact, the nature reserve was designated before the reservoir had even been built!

To build the reservoir, it was necessary to flood some of the small local villages, including Nether Hambleton and Middle Hambleton, which were cleared of people. The reservoir, when full, has enough water for about three years of drought, supplying much of the East Midlands. 

The creation of the reservoir involved damming the Gwash valley near Empingham, and was completed in 1975. Flooding took a further three years. During its construction, it was known as Empingham Reservoir. It flooded six or seven square kilometres of the Gwash valley as well as the side valley at the head of which lies Oakham. 

The clay dam is 115 feet high, and around 1,200 metres long. The finished structure has been landscaped to blend in with the environment, even when viewed from Empingham, the nearest village. 

The Sea Dragon

The fossilised remains of Britain’s largest ichthyosaur, colloquially known as a ‘Sea Dragon’, has been discovered at Rutland Water Nature Reserve, which Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust manage in partnership with Anglian Water.

It is the biggest and most complete skeleton of its kind found to date in the UK and is also thought to be the first ichthyosaur of its species (called Temnodontosaurus trigonodon) found in the country.

The fragile remains of the huge skeleton were carefully excavated in August and September 2021 by a team of expert palaeontologists assembled from around the UK, in partnership with Anglian Water, Rutland County Council and Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust.

The excavation was led by world ichthyosaur expert Dr Dean Lomax and specialist palaeontological conservator Nigel Larkin, along with marine reptile specialist Dr Mark Evans, Dr Emma Nicholls from the Horniman Museum and volunteers with experience of excavating fossilised marine reptiles.

Working meticulously, almost a complete skeleton was uncovered. At over ten metres long, this is the biggest and most complete skeleton of its kind found to date in the UK and is also thought to be the first ichthyosaur of its species found in the country.

The Rutland Dinosaur

On June 16, 1968 a quarry worker named Bill Boddington spotted some unusual rocks as the Williamson Cliff quarry was being worked. His quick thinking meant that the area could claim to have been home to a significant find — a Cetiosaurus oxoniensis — and what turned out to be the most complete specimen of its kind.

Rutty, as he is nicknamed, has been on display at Leicester’s New Walk Museum since 1985, and children and adults, including the world’s dinosaur experts, enjoy going to see him.

The dinosaur was thought to have been alive 170 million years ago. When found, the bones were hidden in rocks — about four tonnes of rock — and it took many years and hundreds of man-hours for the bone fragments to be removed and for the creature to take shape. And though incomplete, most of the vertebrae was discovered and the dinosaur measures 15 metres in length (49ft). Only the more structurally sound pieces are on display, built to form a complete skeleton with replica bones. The skull was never found.

Church of St Mary the Virgin, Ketton

The Church of St Mary the Virgin is a church in Ketton, Rutland. The Church of England parish church is a Grade I listed building.

The church is the only one in Rutland that is cruciform in plan with a central tower. The 148ft spire is on four arches with triple shafts. The spire and tower date from the 14th century. There is an arched frieze and broach spire which has statues of the Blessed Virgin Mary, St Peter, St Paul and Angel Gabriel.

There is a nave with south and north aisles separated by arcades, a vestry, a chancel, north and south transepts and the tower. The clerestory was added in the 15th century. From 1861 to 1862 the church was restored by George Gilbert Scott, and the chancel was restored in 1863. The roof, decorated with angels, was designed by Sir Charles Nicholson and completed in 1950 after his death.

St Peter's Church, Empingham

The church was built mainly in the 13th century, and the tower, South porch and West front added about 1300 -1330. In the 15th century the roof was raised and round clerestory windows replaced with larger ones; one remains opening onto the North transept.

Carved figures were added on the roof and some lancet windows replaced with perpendicular ones. There were six altars: the high altar, two in each transept and one by the font. Their positions are indicated by the piscinas consisting of a niche with a drain for cleansing the communion vessels.

All Saint's Church, Oakham

All Saints' Church, Oakham is a parish church in the Church of England in Oakham, Rutland. It is Grade I listed.

The spire of Oakham parish church dominates distant views of the town for several miles in all directions. The impressive west tower and 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 (apart from some Victorian restoration) is in the Perpendicular style.

Oddly, the south doorway and its porch seem to be the oldest parts of the church, the doorway probably dating from the early 13th century with the porch having been added later that century.

In the light, spacious interior there is more evidence of the mature Decorated style of the 14th century. The tall, slender columns of the nave have intricately carved capitals showing animals, birds, figures, foliage and scenes from the Bible including Adam and Eve, the Expulsion from the Garden of Eden, the Annunciation and the Coronation of the Virgin Mary. There is also a fine Green Man.

It is a Grade I listed building. It was restored in 1857 to 1858 by Sir George Gilbert Scott.

Church of St Peter and St Paul, Uppingham

The Church of St Peter and St Paul, Uppingham is the Church of England parish church of Uppingham, Rutland. It is part of the Diocese of Peterborough.

The church is a Grade II* listed building. It is largely 14th century but was heavily restored in 1861 by Henry Parsons. It consists of a western tower, nave with north and south aisles and clerestory, chancel and north chapel, organ chamber and vestry, and north and south porches.

The tower is of three stages with angle buttresses and has a tall recessed spire with three tiers of lucarnes. The nave is of four bays and was lengthened by one bay in the 1861 restoration. The north aisle is from the Decorated period, the south aisle is Perpendicular. There are remnants of wall decoration on the south arcade consisting of red flowers and tendrils.

The chancel was rebuilt in 1861, incorporating black marble columns to the north chapel (Lady Chapel) and organ chamber. During the reconstruction some sculptured fragments of the twelfth century were found, two of which are now built into the wall on either side of the north door. A coffin lid of the thirteenth century was also found. The font of 1863 was designed by George Edmund Street for All Saints', Cottesbrooke, Northamptonshire.

Uppingham School

In 1584 Uppingham School was founded with a hospital, or almshouse, by Archdeacon Robert Johnson. The original 1584 schoolroom in Uppingham churchyard is still owned by the school and is a Grade I listed building. The original hospital building is now incorporated in the School Library.

The first recorded Uppingham schoolboy was Henry Ferne from York, who was chaplain to Charles I. Another prominent early schoolboy was the Jesuit Anthony Turner, one of the martyrs of the Popish Plot. In the 17th, 18th and early 19th centuries Uppingham remained a small school of 30–60 pupils, with two staff.

Despite its small size, pupils then regularly gained places and scholarships to Oxford and Cambridge universities. Edward Thring transformed the school from a small, local grammar school into a large, well-known public school, with 330 pupils.

Cottesmore Hunt

The Cottesmore Hunt's origins may be traced back to 1666 when Henry, Viscount Lowther made the long journey by a road with his own pack of hounds from Lowther Castle in Westmorland to Fineshade Abbey in East Northamptonshire.

The Lowthers had family connections in the Midlands, and they wished to hunt the widespread forests of Rockingham centred on the Castle overlooking the Welland valley on the southern borders of Leicestershire and Northamptonshire.

The Lowther family were to prove instrumental in the Cottesmore Hunt's later development, but they sold their pack in 1695 to Mr Thomas Noel on behalf of the Earl of Gainsborough.

Wing Labyrinth

The turf cut maze situated on the edge of the village is reputed to be mediaeval in origin and is one of just eight surviving in England today. Although called a maze it is actually a labyrinth, unicursal in structure and 14 metres in diameter, with just one grass path that winds and back tracks in a circle before finally leading to the centre.

The origin of the turf maze is unclear and there are many myths and legends surrounding the reasoning behind their existence, including references to the classical Cretan labyrinth. The Wing maze follows the ‘Chartres’ pattern which, as its name suggests, copies the design of pavement mazes found in European Cathedrals.

It has been said that the maze was followed by penitents on their hand and knees in atonement for their sins. They have also been connected to fertility rights and used for warding off evil spirits. Whatever their origin they remain a unique and fascinatingm conundrum.

However, by the 19th century the maze at Wing seems to have lost some of its magic and is described in the Leicester and Rutland directory of 1846 as ‘an ancient maze, in which the rustics of the parish run on feast days’.

Exton Hall

Exton Park is a large traditional English country estate that has been the home of the Noel family (the Earls of Gainsborough) for over four hundred years. The park has existed since the 12th century and has been visited by many famous people including Shakespeare and Handel who put on performances in the gardens of Exton.

Within the Park on the western shore of the Upper Lake stands Fort Henry built for Henry Noel, 6th Earl of Gainsborough (after whom the building is named) by William Legg of Stamford between 1786 and 1789. The lake was used by the Noels for the re-enactment of naval battles, at that time. Fort Henry, designed in the latest ‘gothic style’, was a place where the Noels could entertain their guests and was used to celebrate family births, birthdays and marriages.

The Old Hall was lived in until 1810, when there was a serious fire destroying the South East wing. The present house dates from a William and Mary farmhouse which the whole new hall was built around. John Linnell Bond made alterations to that house in 1811 and it was almost quadrupled in size in 1850; the architect was C.A. Buckler.

The mid 19th. Century brought many changes to Exton with the conversion to Catholicism of the Earl of Gainsborough in 1851. Between 1868-1869 a large Chapel was added to the East end of Exton Hall, and a private Chaplain was appointed.

Jeffrey Hudson, Lord Minimus

Jeffrey Hudson (1619 – circa 1682) was a court dwarf of the English queen Henrietta Maria of France. He was famous as the "Queen's dwarf" and "Lord Minimus" and was considered one of the "wonders of the age" because of his extreme but well-proportioned smallness.

He fought with the Royalists in the English Civil War and fled with the Queen to France but was expelled from her court when he killed a man in a duel. He was captured by Barbary pirates and spent 25 years enslaved in North Africa before being ransomed back to England.

Edith Weston Hall

Edith Weston Hall was a former country house built in an Elizabethan style by the architect Lewis Vulliamy for the Rev. Richard Lucas in 1830, replacing the Old Hall which stood near the church. He died in 1846 and was succeeded by his son Richard Lucas, High Sheriff of Rutland for 1847, who passed it on to his brother George Vere Lucas, who took the surname of Braithwaite under the terms of a will.

His son Major Ernest Lucas Braithwaite (also High Sheriff in 1902) sold the estate in 1904 to his nephew, Stafford Vere Hotchkin. In 1913 the latter sold the estate lands by auction and then in 1922 sold the Hall and Park to F. T. Walker of Norton Lees, Derbyshire, although the hall had been destroyed by fire in 1920. He sold them in 1924 to T. J. Burrowes, who sold them to Lieut.-Col. Francis Henry Hardy, who restored the hall in 1924 as the residence of the Hardy family. It was demolished in 1954.

St Andrew's Church, Stoke Dry

The church of St Andrew is an unusual looking church which consists of a nave, chancel, north & south aisles, south Digby chapel, west tower and porches to the north & south. The unusual look of the church externally is explained by the slim west tower and the addition of a upper room to the north porch with its oriel window which was added on the 16th century, unusually this is still the main entrance into the church.

The nave is the oldest part of the church from the 12th century, the chancel was rebuilt in the 14th century and the chancel arch has some fine carved Norman shafts from around 1120. These display carved beasts and flowers. On one side is a man pulling on a rope while the devil cowers underneath.

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