Oakham Castle set to reopen with day of Norman celebrations

Norman celebrations at Oakham Castle EMN-160524-145359001
Norman celebrations at Oakham Castle EMN-160524-145359001

Oakham Castle will get its grand unveiling during a day of Norman celebrations on Bank Holiday Monday following a £2.1m restoration.

The castle is the best preserved Norman Great Hall in England and in keeping with its heritage, there will be a day of Norman celebrations from 11am to 4pm.

There will be demonstrations and chances to have a go at a variety of activities, including Norman coin striking, falconry, archery and weaving. Knights on horseback will parade through the town and guided tours of the site will help unlock the castle’s secrets.

The castle has been closed since September to undergo extensive restoration work, made possible thanks to a Heritage Lottery Fund grant.

Portfolio holder for culture Oliver Hemsley (Con) said: “The transformation that’s taken place really is something to behold and we hope as many people as possible will come along on Monday to get a glimpse of what’s been accomplished.

“We’re laying on a fantastic array of free events and activities that will give visitors a taste of life in Norman England, with lots to see and do throughout the day.

“The castle has long been a hidden gem at the heart of Oakham. Now the restoration is almost complete, this is a great way for us to begin an exciting new chapter in its history.”

As well as carefully restoring the Great Hall and its collection of 230 commemorative horseshoes, the restoration has revealed Oakham Castle’s original defensive wall for the first time in decades, with large sections now clearly visible from Cutts Close and Burley Road.

Prior to the opening, there will be a presentation of a new horseshoe by the Earl of Gainsborough.

Now the Great Hall is finished, full focus of the restoration moves to the surrounding castle grounds and the repairs to the wall.

A new path and stairway are being constructed to give direct access to the castle from Burley Road car park, while a viewing platform has been created on top of the Motte to provide a vantage point over the town and castle grounds.

This work is expected to be complete by September.

Money from the Heritage Lottery Fund will also help turn Oakham Castle into a first-class culture and heritage centre, with concerts, dances, living history days, storytelling and activities planned from the summer.

To coincide with the reopening of the castle, the High Sheriff of Rutland Dr Sarah Furness will be upholding her ancient right to call on people to assist in apprehending criminals and villains, as part of the hue and cry.

The event will assemble from 1.30pm and the cry will start at 2pm. Each hue and cry will start next to Swans of Oakham in High Street and end by the Market Square.

A suitably dressed villain will set off first and the High Sheriff will shout ‘Raise the Hue and Cry’ before participants set off to retrieve the red handkerchief from the villain’s back pocket.

The event will conclude with Rutland Bassett Hounds pursuing the scent of the villains. The High Sheriff will show her gratitude to all who answer her call by donating a glass of ale after the event.

All participants must register by e-mailing RutlandSheriff16@gmail.com There is a £5 minimum sponsorship fee (£2.50 for children). Donations are also invited at https://www.justgiving.com/RutlandHueAndCry/

All funds raised will go to The High Sheriff’s Fund in aid of Hope, Warning Zone and For Rutland in Rutland.

On Monday, Oakham High Street, Market Place, Market Street and part of Church Street will be closed to traffic. Access to Church Street car park is available from Station Road.