Oakham, a town and a parish in Rutland. The town stands on an affluent of the river Gwash, on the Syston and Peterborough and Nottingham and Kettering section of the M.R., on which it has a station, in the fertile vale of Catmose, 2 1/2 miles E of the boundary with Leicestershire, 36 S from Nottingham, 11 ESE from Melton Mowbray, and 96 from London. It belonged to Editha, the queen of Edward the Confessor; went afterwards to the Crown; was held at Domesday, under the Crown, by the Manleverers; and passed successively to the Newburghs, the Ferrerses, the Mortimers, the Bohuns, the De Veres, the Staffords, the Cromwells, the Villierses, and the Finches. A castle was built at it by Walkelin de Ferrers; and the hall of it, one of the finest examples of an isolated Norman hall to be found in England, still stands in very fair preservation, and is used for the public business of the town, and for county courts, quarter sessions, and assizes. In connection with this castle, an ancient and curious custom prevails, in accordance with which every peer of the realm, on first passing near the castle, requires to give to it a shoe from a foot of one of his horses, or to pay a fine for declining; and many shoes so given-including five from respectively Queen Elizabeth, George IV., Her Majesty when Princess Victoria, and H.R.H. the Princess of Wales are either nailed on the castle gate or placed within the building. The town now comprises the manor of Oakham Lordship, belonging to the Finch family, and the manor of Oakham Deanshold, with Barleythorpe, belonging to the Dean and Chapter of Westminster; it has annual courts-leet for The former manor, and triennial ones for the latter, and is a polling place and the place of election for the county. The town presents a clean, well-built, and much improved appearance, about one-third of it consisting of recent edifices, and the rest undergoing rapid substitution of new houses for old ones. It has a head post office, three banks, two chief inns, an agricultural hall in the High Street, an institute with a library, a county police station, and a workhouse. The agricultural liall is a handsome stone structure, with large and lofty rooms, and is used as a public hall for entertainments.
The church, which stands on rising-ground by the site of the old castle, is an ancient cruciform building of stone, the work of several different periods from the end of the 12th to the beginning of the 16th centuries. It consists of chancel, ante-church with clerestory, nave, aisles, transepts, S porch, and a noble tower and spire. It has some good stained windows and some ancient memorials. In 1858-59 the church was thoroughly restored and repaired under the direction of the late Sir G. Gilbert Scott, R.A,, at a cost of £6086. The living is a vicarage, with the cbapelries of Egleton, Langham, and Brooke annexed, in the diocese of Peterborough; gross value, £790 with residence, in the gift of the Finch family. There are also Baptist, Calvinistic, Congregational, Primitive Methodist, Roman Catholic, and Wesleyan Methodist chapels. There is a cemetery at the N side of the town of about 4 1/4 acres, with two mortuary chapels connected by an open corridor, surmounted by a square tower with light lofty spire. Archdeacon Johnson's Charity, founded in 1584. has an income of about £4000 a year, which is devoted to the support of about 100 poor persons who have not received, parish relief and who are called the Bede House people, and to the maintenance of the school known as Archdeacon Johnson's. The latter, under a scheme approved by Her Majesty in 1875, is now managed as a first-class modern school for middle-class children, and the foundation possesses some valuable exhibitions and scholarships. The school buildings include all modern improvements, and will accommodate about ninety boys. St Anne's Charity has an annual income of about £390, devoted to pensions for poor people. Forster's Charity, with an income of about £45, is for apprenticing orphan boys, and there are some small charities which are distributed in money and food. The Workhouse stands in Ashwell Road, and is a building of stone with accommodation for 150 inmates.
The town carries on a fair amount of trade in corn, malt, and coal, and the industries include boot and shoe making on a rather large scale, brewing, and the knitting of fancy hosiery. A weekly market for butter and general commodities is held on Saturday, and another weekly market, chiefly for corn and cattle, is held on Monday. Three fairs of old standing are held on the third Monday in March, 6 May, and 9 Sept., and a pleasure fair is held in May. Cattle fairs are also arranged on some Monday in every month with the exception of January, the dates being fixed so as to avoid interfering with Stamford fairs. There are some good country houses in the neighbourhood of the town, among which may be mentioned Oakham Lodge, Catmose, Catmose Cottage, and Coed Maes. Geoffrey Hudson, the famous dwarf of the time of Charles I., was a native.
The parish includes the village and manor of Barleythorpe and the hamlet of Gunthorpe. The village of Barleythorpe is situated about a mile NW, on the road to Melton Mowbray. Barleythorpe Hall is a modern mansion of stone, used as a hunting-box by the Earl of Lonsdale. Gunthorpe is about 2 miles S. Area of Oakham Deanshold, with Barleythorpe, 1235 acres; population, 1146. Area of Oakham Lordshold, 2010 acres; population, 2396 ; population of the ecclesiastical parish, 4398.
The parish register dates from the year 1564.
The church of All Saints, seated on rising ground, by the site of the old castle, at the north-east end of the town, is a cruciform building of stone, chiefly in the Perpendicular style, consisting of chancel, ante-church, nave of four bays with clerestory, aisles, transepts, south porch and a western tower with four pinnacles and an octagonal spire, relieved by three tiers of spire lights and containing a clock and 8 bells, which were re-cast in 1910 and re-hung in a steel frame; the organ was erected in 1872 and enlarged at various dates up to 1910: the reredos, a fine structure of alabaster, the gift of C. K. Morris esq. was erected in 1898, and brass altar rails, presented by the Earl of Lonsdale, and a marble pavement were added in the same year: the pulpit, lectern, reading desk, chancel benches and screens are all of carved oak, in the Decorated style: the ceiling is also of oak, panelled: there is a memorial window to Colonel the Hon. Henry Cecil Lowther, of Barleythorpe M.P., D.L. d. 6 Dec. 1867: at the west end of the church there is a monument to Ann, the daughter of Andrew Burton esq. of Oakham and Fellow of Gray's Inn, ob. June, 1642; there are other memorials to the Freer family, and a tablet to John Bullivant Lieut. 76th Regiment, who served under General Sir John Moore at Corunna and elsewhere, and died 2 May, 1825; there is also a brass recording the centenary commemoration of the foundation of Sunday schools: in 1858-9 the church was thoroughly repaired, refloored and reseated and new carved screens erected, at a cost of £6,086: there are 850 sittings, most of which are appropriated to the inhabitants.
The Roman Catholic church, in Mill street, built in 1883, under the direction of Father Van Dale, and dedicated to SS. Joseph and Edith is a small and plain structure of brick with freestone facings and has a turret containing one bell.
The Congregational chapel, in High street, founded in 1662, has 320 sittings.
The Baptist chapel, in Melton road, founded in 1770, will seat 350. There is another Baptist chapel (Providence) in New street.
There are also Wesleyan Methodist and Primitive Methodist chapels.