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Page 2: ASPECTS OF RUTLAND: Words and Pictures from Rutland



The deepest tap roots of our family tree are firmly embedded in the rural landscape of north Northamptonshire. However for at least two centuries there have been strong representation from several branches of Craxfords in the neighbouring county of Rutland.

Rutland is acknowledged as England’s smallest county, roughly square in shape and measuring about 18 miles across. Apart from its neighbour to the south, the county is bounded by Leicestershire to the north and west and Lincolnshire to the east. It is a largely flat landscape (the maximum height is 646 feet above sea level) and predominantly agricultural. Most of its population (35,650 in 2001) live in the two market towns of Oakham and Uppingham. The centre of the county is dominated by the Rutland Water reservoir.

Rutland crest

The Rutland crest

The name Rutland is probably Anglo-Saxon or Norse in origin and is a reference to the red colour of the local soil. Rutland is mentioned in the Domesday Book: the north west described as a detached part of Nottinghamshire; the south east a part of Northamptonshire. It was first described as a separate county in 1159 and formed the western edge of the kingdom of Edward the Confessor. It is a proud and fiercely independent county. It was abolished as an entity and was absorbed into Leicestershire in the boundary changes of 1974. Its county status was returned by popular demand in 1997. The County's Motto is Multum in Parvo and means “Much in Little”.

The Oakham crest

The Oakham crest

Oakham is the County town of and administrative centre for Rutland. It is a busy market town about 20 miles distant from both Leicester and Peterborough. Oakham market takes place on Wednesdays and Saturdays in the Market Place providing a wide variety of local produce (fruit and vegetables, fish and cheeses and bread), clothes, household goods and plants. Oakham’s mottot is Parva componere Magnis (Small but comparable with great)

It was on the corner of Main Street and the Market Place that Sarah Craxford opened a printing business with her husband, Charles Matkin, in the 1870s and continued to run it after his death. The building has now become the premises of an estate agent and the advertising slogan on the upper floor that can be seen on the 1920 photograph of the street has been obliterated. However the sundial, erected by Charles, remains an eye catching reminder of times past.

Matkin's sun dial, High Street, Oakham

Matkin's sun dial

Old photograph of Matkin's shop, High Street, Oakham
The current view

Matkin's of Oakham (about 1890); The same scene: July 2005

Around the corner from the Market Place is Oakham School, originally a boys Public School founded some 400 years ago. It is now co-educational providing both boarding and day school tuition. Outside the school is the old Butter Cross and opposite is the Market Cross.

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Oakham School buildings
School Entrance

Oakham School and its entrance

Also in the Market Place is “The Whipper-Inn” a seventeenth century coaching with oak beams and a four-poster bed. As well as serving local ales it has a traditional restaurant and a well-frequented bistro.

The Bistro at The Whipper-Inn

The Bistro, The Whipper-Inn

The Old Market Cross, Oakham

The Old Market Cross

The Whipper-Inn, Market Place, Oakham

The Whipper-Inn, Market Place

Oakham Castle

Oakham Castle

Oakham Castle was the residence of the Lord of the Manor of Oakham. The Great Hall was built by Walkelin de Ferrers, a Norman baron, between 1180-90. The Great Hall continued in use as a courtroom until 1970. Today, occasional Crown Courts and Coroner's Inquests still take place. The remains of other parts of this fortified manor house lie beneath the grass of the inner bailey. It was surrounded by earthen banks and stone walls which had at least two towers. To the north were gardens and fishponds.

All Saints Church, Oakham

All Saints Church

Over 200 horseshoes hang on the walls of the castle. These represent the unique custom that every peer of the realm, on their first visit to Oakham, must forfeit a horseshoe to the lord of the manor. The custom has been followed for at least 500 years, and it probably originated soon after the Norman Conquest in 1066. The oldest surviving horseshoe is probably the large elaborately wrought horseshoe headed by a plain shield put up by Edward IV in about 1470. The most recent were given by Lord Lane, then Lord Chief Justice, in 1981, by the Earl Ferrers in 1997, by HRH The Princess Royal in 1999, by HRH The Prince of Wales in 2003 and by HRH Princess Alexandra 2005.

The parish church of Oakham is All Saints, near the town centre on Church Street. The church building dates from the 13th century and the town is dominated by its spire.

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Rutland Water

Rutland Water is one of the largest man-made reservoirs in Europe and was completed in 1977 to supply up to 65 million gallons of water a day to the growing cities of the East Midlands. Set in 3,100 acres of countryside, it has a 25-mile circular track for walking and cycling. It is world famous for its trout fishing facilities offering a fleet of boats for hire through the season. The site also includes the Anglian Water Bird Watching Centre – a nature reserve with 20 hides and a permanent exhibition. It is the site of the first breeding ospreys in England for 150 years and is also the home of the British Bird Watching Fair each August.

St Matthew's Church, Normanton. By the side of Rutland Water

St Matthew's Church, Normanton.

The history of Rutland is displayed in both the County Museum in Oakham and in the Normanton Church Museum.

St Matthew's Church in the village of Normanton was built in 1826 with the nave and chancel completed in 1911. It was designed by Thomas Cundy, then architect to the Grosvenor estate in Westminster, with semi-circular portico and tower. Its original site of would have put it below the water line when Rutland Water was in the planning stage. However a project raised the level of the church placing it on a pier of stones by the side of the reservoir. The church is floodlit by night, making it a local landmark both night and day. It now houses a museum and exhibition on the building of the reservoir.

The villages

The village green, Barrowden

The village green, Barrowden

There are many quaint villages scattered around the countryside through which meander roads and narrow lanes with stone built houses built around the village green. There is usually a small church, a country pub and a duck pond.

Many individuals of the Craxford line were born and baptised at the Baptist Chapel in the twin villages of Morcott and Barrowden, which are a stone’s throw away from Oakham on the south side of Rutland Water.

The village of Edith Weston was the centre of a manor in the middle ages which formed part of the dowry of the daughters of Saxon Kings. It is thought that the village was named after Edith, wife of Edward the Confessor and it is said that the king bequeathed Rutland to his wife in 1030AD.

The Parish Church, Morcott, Rutland
The White Horse Inn, Morcott

Moorcott, Rutland: The parish church and The White Horse Inn

On the northern approach to Oakham is Cottesmore. This village is world famous both for its hunt of fox hounds (alongside the Belvoir, the Quorn and the Fernie) and for its RAF station.

We now have a family contact resident in one of the villages near Rutland Water so we have no excuse to go back, explore some more and savour the peaceful countryside.

Added: September 16th 2005
Last update: September 5th 2011

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