Historic Rutland Guide
by Ben Johnson
In 1060 Edward the Confessor bequeathed Rutland to his wife Edith. Rutland is the smallest county in England, approximately 16 miles long by 16 miles wide. From 1974 until 1997, Rutland was part of Leicestershire but is now once again an independent county.
Rutland is home to the UK’s largest man-made lake, Rutland Water. This is a popular area for bird-watchers, boaters, walkers and cyclists. A spit of land extends into the lake and here you will find the remains of a church, one of few buildings in the village of Normanton to survive the flooding which created Rutland Water. There is a small museum inside.
This small county boasts just two towns; the county town of Oakham and Uppingham. Despite its size, Rutland has a rich historical heritage: there are Roman and Anglo-Saxon settlements, a 12th century castle at Oakham, ancient churches and stone-built villages. Visitors to Rutland County Museum and Visitor Centre in Oakham can explore the history of this small county through displays and exhibitions.
There is an unusual tradition in Rutland that any reigning monarch or peer of the realm who visits the county for the first time should present a horseshoe to the Lord of the Manor. This custom is over 500 years old and still continues today. There are now over 200 horseshoes on display at Oakham Castle, the oldest said to have been given by Edward IV in around 1470. In Rutland horseshoes are hung tips down, or upside down, apparently to prevent the devil from making a nest in the bottom of the horseshoe. The horseshoe on the county’s flag is also shown upside down.
A rural farming county, Rutland is proud of its produce and is rapidly gaining a well-deserved reputation for its gastronomy. Indeed, Rutland is the only county in England not to have a McDonalds fast food restaurant!