A History of the County of Rutland: Volume 2. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1935.
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Rutland, the smallest county in England, presents unusual features different from those of other counties. Its origin and development are stamped upon the county and its people, and the individuality still endures.
The district long lay wild and uncultivated: a great part of it remained in its primeval state until the early part of the 12th century, and this has strongly influenced its subsequent history. Its origin as a county is unique. It represented neither one of the sub-kingdoms of early Saxon times nor one of the newer areas formed for defence against the Danish invaders. It was a wild country with patches of cultivation surrounding the estate given to a succession of Saxon queens. County organisation did not emerge until the 12th century. To its remote position and wild character the chief features of its history can be traced: the sparseness of settlement in early days and the few remains of Roman and Saxon times; its fame since the days of Henry I as a hunting country; its lack of big towns and monastic houses; its connection with the wool trade and, from the close of the middle ages, its popularity as a place of residence for wealthy country gentlemen.
Although sporadic finds of the Neolithic, Bronze and Early Iron Ages have been made, there is no evidence of any settlements of these periods, and the evidence regarding the tumuli found at Barrow, Essendine, Glaston, Uppingham and Wing is insufficient to assign a date to them. (fn. 1) The Roman road called Ermine Street, which runs from Great Casterton to Lincoln, had perhaps the strongest influence in the development of the district in early times. It brought Romano-British settlements to Great Casterton and Market Overton, where the remains of Roman camps may be seen. (fn. 2) Earthworks at Ridlington, Whissendine and Ranksborough Hill in Langham may be of the Roman period, but nothing has been found to give them a definite date. (fn. 3)
The early pagan Saxon cemeteries at North Luffenham, Cottesmore, and Market Overton indicate important settlements adjoining those sites, dating back perhaps to the 5th or 6th century. With the exception of these cemeteries, there is little to show habitation until the 10th century, when it would seem that the land, although still very sparsely populated, was being employed for profitable purposes. The types of settlements throw some light on the development of the district. The nucleated or clustered villages off the high road, found near Ermine Street on the east, are Teutonic in origin; while the ring-fence type of village, in which three or four roads inclose a piece of land, still probably a village green, indicates forest settlements of a later date. Examples of this type of settlement will be found at Belton, Langham, Manton, Wing, Exton and elsewhere.
The district known as Rutland in the 10th century, which comprised apparently Martinsley Hundred with Oakham, was held by Aelfthryth (945–1000?), mother of Ethelred the Unready. After his mother's death, Ethelred gave it in 1002 to his Norman queen Emma, on their marriage. Emma probably retained her dower lands when, after the death of Ethelred, she married King Cnut, and her son Edward the Confessor gave them to his queen Edith, from whom Edith Weston took its name. It would appear that by the time of the Conquest the district was gradually becoming cleared and had been granted to great lords to bring into cultivation and to colonise. The Domesday Survey of 1086, however, with its record of woods, spinneys and undergrowth, of sparse inhabitants and few ploughs, suggests that this process had not gone far. In the next century we have the picture of Henry I, as he rode north by the western borders of Rutland, marking down with the keen eyes of a hunting enthusiast five hinds in 'Riseborough wood.' On his return a year later he made permanent arrangements for the afforestation of a strip of Leicestershire and the greater part of Rutland. No great hardship seems to have been caused by his action, possibly because he was also responsible for the formation of the barony of Oakham with its hunting privileges, but the lawlessness of the hereditary foresters was the cause of bitter complaint. The most notorious was Peter de Neville, who became forester about 1248, and his misdeeds and exactions fill the roll of the Forest Eyre of 1269. He was justly outlawed; one of his most unpopular actions was to imprison men in his house at Allexton, where the prison floor was flooded, instead of in Oakham gaol, but it was for a theft in Shropshire that he was finally hanged. (fn. 4) In succeeding centuries, the bounds of the forest were lessened, until it was finally disafforested in 1630, but it exercised a very definite influence on the development of the county. Its attractions as a hunting country still remain, although the deer have long since disappeared, excepting in the park of Exton. The history of the Cottesmore Hunt goes back to the early part of the 18th century, when the county was hunted by Mr. Thomas Noel of Exton Park, the author of one of the first books on hound-breeding. It was not till 1788 that Sir William Lowther, later the 1st Earl of Lonsdale, bought the hounds and established the Cottesmore Hunt. (fn. 5)
The formation of the barony of Oakham was the second important event of Norman times. To Walchelin de Ferrers, who certainly held the barony from 1166–1199, the county owes its most remarkable architectural feature in the Hall of Oakham Castle. Whether the story that he went on the Second Crusade and was present at the siege of Acre is true or not, it seems evident that he must have had at some time a close personal connection with Oakham. As a member of a younger branch of the Ferrers family, he may have hoped to found a powerful baronial house in Rutland, but when Normandy was lost his sons severed their connection with England, and after the death of his daughter, Isabel de Mortimer, Oakham became for three centuries a royal appanage. (fn. 6) None of the other great landholders in the county lived there, but a roll of debts owed to the Jews in the later 12th century shows that Alberic, Count of Dammartin and William Mauduit, the King's Chamberlain, had used their Rutland property as security for loans. The charter of Mauduit shows the speculative nature of some of these transactions, for the payment of the debt only became due on the death of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Of the lesser men, the sub-tenants—for subinfeudation had gone on apace—we know but little. Few laymen appear on the debtors' roll, but the parsons of Bisbrooke, Whissendine and Morcott, as well as the Priory of Brooke, were in debt to the Jews. (fn. 7) The names of a good many Rutland tenants appear on the baronial side in the struggle with King John, but not as taking a leading part; (fn. 8) and the royal authority in Rutland was strengthened by the grant of the county in 1227 by Henry III to his brother, Richard, Earl of Cornwall, followed by the gift of Oakham some years later. (fn. 9) The consolidation of the county administration probably took place at this time. Richard himself had no personal connection with Rutland, but his officials seized the opportunity of the county, the soke and barony of Oakham, and the hundreds of Martinsley, Alstoe, and East all being in their master's hands to introduce a more effective administration. Perhaps this led to opposition in the county, resulting in strong support of Simon de Montfort's movement against Henry III. In spite of the inclosure of the town of Oakham with a fence, for which the king granted material from Ridlington Park, the town was taken by the insurgents and the hall damaged by fire. (fn. 10) The war in Rutland seems to have been a very local affair, with no important leaders, and some fifty years later, in 1311, we find that there were no knights resident in the county to represent it in Parliament, their place being taken by 'the more discreet and able men of the shire.' (fn. 11) A good deal of lawlessness is revealed at this time, when bands of men supported themselves by indiscriminate robbery, and the keepers of the peace had difficulty in preserving order—the case of the vendetta between the Harington brothers and John of Wittlebury, lord of Wittlebury manor and chief keeper of the peace in the county in 1336, is an excellent illustration. (fn. 12) In spite of repairs to the Castle, escapes from Oakham gaol were frequent, and the prisoners probably found safety in the forest lands. Henry Despenser, Bishop of Norwich, was at Burley when he set out to suppress the Peasants' Revolt, but there is little evidence of the men of Rutland taking an active part in the rising. This lawlessness was perhaps of less importance than appears from the judicial records of the time, for there is evidence of a steady growth of prosperity. The towns of Rutland were never important, although there had been markets at Oakham, Market Overton, and probably at Uppingham 'time out of mind'; but in the 13th century the lords of the towns obtained new royal charters for their markets and fairs with a view to safeguarding their rights to the increasing tolls and dues. In the next century, fairs were also granted at Belton, Burley, Barrowden, and Empingham. (fn. 13)
Apart from the hall of Oakham Castle and the Bishop of Lincoln's house at Liddington, little medieval domestic architecture of importance has survived in the county. What still exists is found chiefly in the older parts of rebuilt houses or in particular features, such as windows, re-used in later buildings, but the county can still show many good examples of the smaller stone manor houses, yeomen's dwellings, and cottages of the late 16th and 17th centuries. The abundance of good building stone influenced the style of architecture, which is seen even in many of the cottages, whose picturesqueness adds much to the beauty of the villages. Thatch, either of reed or straw, is still common, being found even in Oakham, and roofs of Colleyweston and other 'stone slates' are found almost everywhere. Except in Oakham and Uppingham, brick is little used, though bricks were being made in the county at the close of the 17th century. (fn. 14)
Possibly the Saxon queens had a hall at Oakham from which the affairs of the Soke of Oakham were administered, but the existing hall was built by Walchelin de Ferrers about 1190. It belonged to an early fortified house, not properly a castle, as it is sometimes called; Essendine Castle and Woodhead Castle were perhaps of the same nature, but nothing remains of either except the earthworks. The first Norman lords, being absentees, would require houses, probably of an unsubstantial character, only for their bailiffs and other officers, but the disposal of sub-manors had begun before the Conquest and subinfeudation grew rapidly afterwards. The little castles consisting of a mount, or mount with a bailey attached, which dot the country, are generally attributed to the 'Anarchy' of Stephen's reign, but it well may be that some of them belong to the early period of the Barons' Wars. They probably had wooden towers crowning the mount and palisades defending the lower earthworks. Such castles were thrown up at Pilton, Beaumont Chase, and Burley, but they soon became useless for military purposes.
The fortified manor house of Oakham, to which the name of castle became attached in the 13th century, consisted of two courts, surrounded by a broad ditch, in the first of which stood the existing late 12th-century hall. This hall is one of the most beautiful and least spoilt examples of the architecture of the period to be found in any domestic building in England, the exquisite detail of the arches and capitals of the arcades being nowhere excelled. The long stiff-stalk foliage of the capitals, often compared with that in the quire of Canterbury Cathedral, is typical of the contemporary classical carving employed in Burgundy and elsewhere on the Continent, and the sculpture on the corbels and label-stops is of the same classic type. (fn. 15) The whole of the work is a splendid example of the new school of craft then beginning to prevail. The surviving portions of masonry in other parts of the castle are apparently of 13th-century date. (fn. 16)
The lords of the manors, tenants of the greater barons, lived on the land and in the early 13th century built houses generally within moated sites for protection from man and beast. No houses of this date survive in the county, but the moats remain at Hambleton, Horn, North Luffenham, Whissendine and elsewhere.
Flore's House in Oakham retains a good 13th-century moulded doorway, and internally an interesting lavatory basin of perhaps a century later, but the building was subsequently much altered. To the 13th century also belongs a vaulted cellar in Ryhall, and a window in a house at Braunston dates from about 1300. The gatehouse at Tolethorpe Hall, in Little Casterton parish, appears to be of the latter half of the 14th century, but it has few distinguishing architectural features.
The growing prosperity of the 14th century was probably due to the increase of sheep-farming. No sheep are mentioned in the Domesday Survey of Rutland, but 200 years later the export of Rutland wool was evidently an established trade, which could be injured by the quarrel between England and Flanders in 1270. (fn. 17) At first the common rights existing in the forest districts may have sufficed for the needs of the sheep-farmers. Brooke Priory, for instance, had common for 300 sheep in Leighfield Forest, (fn. 18) but the 14th and 15th centuries saw the conversion of arable land into pasture, and the consequent displacement of the population. The small parish of Horn was apparently depopulated by 1376 (fn. 19) and its lands turned to pasture. Whether the village may have suffered unusually severely in the Black Death is not known, but it is significant that William Dalby, the wealthy wool merchant and founder of the Hospital of St. John and St. Anne at Oakham, belonged to the neighbouring parish of Exton. In 1394 Dalby and his son-in-law, Roger Flore, were exporting wool through the port of Lynn to Calais. (fn. 20) The chief Rutland merchants belonged to the important company of the Staple at Calais in the 15th and 16th centuries, amongst the members in 1470 being William Trafford, John Kyrton, William Wareyn, all of Oakham, Richard Salesbury of Brooke, and Thomas Adam of Langham. (fn. 21) William Rose or Rosse, then a burgess of Calais, came from Oakham and was probably identical with the official of the same name who was Victualler of Calais for many years. (fn. 22) So great was the unrest caused by the unemployment due to the increase of sheep-farming that the government was forced in 1517 to hold an inquiry. The returns made by the Inclosure Commissioners for Rutland, although incomplete, show that the inclosures in East Hundred were of considerable dimensions. As early as 1445 the hamlet of Hardwick in Empingham had been depopulated, but many of the inclosures in the parish had been made recently by George Mackworth, the lord of the manor, and other freeholders. (fn. 23) In contrast to the inclosures in East Hundred, those round Oakham were small, and sheep-farming on a large scale could be carried on without much disturbance of the arable land. The will of Thomas Haselwood of Ridlington, made in 1558, is instructive. He was deputy for life for Francis Hastings, Earl of Huntingdon, in Leighfield Forest and Ridlington Park, where he leased rights of herbage and pannage, and later he bought the manor of Belton from Lord Mountjoy. He left a ewe and a lamb each to his four maidservants and also to all his godchildren in Belton and Wardley, besides gifts of horses to the Earl and Countess and others. Huntingdon died two years later, leaving the bailiwick of the forest to another servant; consequently Thomas Haselwood's son and heir, Francis, found himself short of pasture at Belton, and was brought into collision with some of his tenants over his inclosures. (fn. 24) In spite of the loss of Calais in 1557, which especially impoverished the town of Oakham, the wool trade flourished in the 17th century. Abel Barker, the Parliamentarian, carried on a considerable trade in wool, while Col. Thomas Waite, the regicide, who purchased the manor of Hambleton from the Trustees for the Sale of Delinquents' Lands, caused bitter complaints by his inclosures and high-handed methods. (fn. 25)
Although politically there is little to record relating to the county in the 15th century, socially it saw the beginning of a great change. The outstanding leaders in the Wars of the Roses had little personal connection with Rutland, although the Earl of Warwick had lands there. It was the scene of the battle of Loosecoat Field, where in 1470 Edward IV met and defeated the Lincolnshire insurgents near Empingham. (fn. 26) Hitherto the resident landowners were generally small men; even if lords of a manor, their estates were small, and they themselves were little known except in county matters. The Despensers at Essendine and the Bishops of Lincoln at Liddington are almost the only exceptions. The activities of these local landowners in the county were, however, very noticeable, whether as members of parliament, sheriffs, magistrates or royal officials. The most striking example of this activity comes from the next century in the person of Anthony Colley of Glaston, but many other similar examples can be found. (fn. 27) For the future, however, Rutland was remarkable as a county of resident landowners, owning large estates, still taking a leading share in county matters, but also in those of the country generally. The Mackworths, Haselwoods, Brownes, Digbys, and Haringtons all come into prominence in the 15th century, although if they built themselves new houses, there are no traces of them left. Domestic work of the 15th century is represented by the still charming but neglected house of the Bishops of Lincoln at Liddington, which, though perhaps first erected in the 14th century or earlier, appears to have been wholly rebuilt by Bishop William Alnwick (fn. 28) (1436–49), and altered by Bishop William Smith (1496–1514), when it assumed in the main its present appearance. It was, however, again altered in 1602, when it became a bede house, and thus includes work of three periods. The great hall on the first floor still retains a beautiful panelled wood ceiling and elaborate traceried cornice of the time of Bishop Smith, and there is also a good ceiling in the great chamber. Both rooms contain interesting stained glass, some of which is of Alnwick's time, but the greater part of Smith's.
The Digbys came to Stoke Dry by the marriage of Everard Digby with Alice daughter of Francis Clarke. He himself was killed in 1461 at the battle of Towton, but the family remained at Stoke Dry for many generations, and in the 16th century were also stewards of various royal manors in the county. Another Everard was a prominent courtier and was one of the Gunpowder Plot conspirators in 1605, but the most famous was Sir Kenelm Digby, courtier, diplomatist, admiral, philosopher and scientist, friend of Oliver Cromwell and also exiled royalist. His career shows a diversity of attainments rarely met with except in the 17th century. (fn. 29) The Haringtons also obtained their first connection with Exton by marriage with Catherine Culpeper, who was descended from the family of Bruce or Brus. To this descent is attributed the rise of her son John Harington in the favour of James I, who stopped at his house at Burley and hunted there on his way to assume the crown of England. Harington, who had inherited or bought large estates in the county and rebuilt the house at Burley-on-the-Hill, was created Baron Harington of Exton, but the expenses of his public life—he was governor to Princess Elizabeth, and accompanied her on her marriage journey—impoverished him, and his heirs were forced to sell most of his property. Ridlington Park, however, he left to his younger brother James, and from this branch came Sir Edward Harington, bart., the parliamentary leader in the county, his son James, one of the commissioners of the trial of Charles I, and James Harington, the author of Oceana. (fn. 30) In the 16th century two other families became great landowners, but obtained their footing in the county as royal officials. David Cecil was the steward or bailiff of various royal manors, and his son Richard enriched himself with monastic lands, which were inherited by William Cecil, Lord Burghley, the great statesman and secretary of Queen Elizabeth. His Rutland property at Liddington and Barrowden and elsewhere passed to his eldest son, whose descendants the Earls of Exeter own them at the present day. Essendine, however, was left to his younger son Robert, Earl of Salisbury, who took his first title of Baron Cecil of Essendine from it, and in his youth may have lived in the old manor house of the Despensers. (fn. 31) The Noels rose to importance in the county in the same way. Andrew Noel was the king's feodary in Rutland. His son purchased the lands of Brooke Priory and was the brother-in-law of the first Lord Harington. He bought up many of the Harington estates in the county. Others, notably Burley-on-the-Hill and Oakham Lordshold, were bought by the Duke of Buckingham, who rebuilt the house at Burley and added the famous stables there. Here was the scene of the first production of Ben Jonson's masque The Gipsies, and also of the introduction of the famous dwarf, Geoffrey Hudson, to the court. (fn. 32)
Buildings of the 16th century are less rare than those of the 15th, though not common. They include the original schoolhouses at Oakham and Uppingham, both erected in 1584, but in part altered in the 18th century. The older part of Clipsham Hall is dated 1582, and a house at Barrowden 1586. At North Luffenham Hall (formerly the Digbys' house) a barn bears the date 1555, and the oldest part of the house itself is probably of about the same time or a little earlier, though subsequently much altered and enlarged (c. 1616 and in 18th cent.); in one of the outbuildings is some timber and plaster work, the only example of its kind in the county. The gateway and lodge of the 16th-century house built on or near the site of Brooke Priory are still standing.
Houses of the 17th century are found almost in every village, generally with high-pitched gables and mullioned windows, but frequently the mullions have been removed and the windows otherwise altered. Of the large houses of the period, Exton Hall and Tolethorpe Hall date from very early in the century, but the former is now in ruins, and the latter has been altered and enlarged in modern times. Hambleton Old Hall, an unaltered building of more moderate size, now a farmhouse, was erected about 1610, and is a very charming example of its period, with loggias between the end wings on its two principal fronts. The older part of Stocken Hall is of 17th-century date, and the old manor houses at Preston and Tinwell remain externally little changed, the former, at present a farmhouse, presenting a long many-gabled front directly on the road. Several houses in the High Street of Uppingham belong to this period and style, and others of good design are found at Braunston, Caldecott, Clipsham, Edith Weston, Langham, Liddington, Manton, Morcott, Oakham, Ryhall, Thorpe-by-Water, and Wing; many of these bear dates ranging from 1604 to 1691.
There is little further information as to the county in the 16th century, although there were disturbances in the reign of Edward VI. (fn. 33) This lack of evidence suggests that the latter half of the century was a time of prosperity, while the troubles caused by the inclosing of land were probably mitigated by the disafforestation of Leighfield Forest about 1630. The negotiations relating to compensation for loss of common rights afford a pleasant glimpse of the relations between the different classes of the community, since the freeholders of Belton refused to accept the inclosed lands offered them unless the poor of the parish were also compensated. (fn. 34) There is little evidence of dissatisfaction under the early Stuart kings, since the different subsidies, the forced loan of 1626, and even the ship-money levies were raised with little opposition, but in the petition presented by various gentlemen and others to Charles I, as he went to York in 1640, there is obvious disapproval of his breach with parliament. (fn. 35) More elaborate were the petitions, presented by Sir James Harington and other Rutland gentlemen in 1642 to parliament, wherein the Irish rebellion, the influence of the Papists, and the need for various religious reforms were the chief points emphasised. (fn. 36) Indeed, these petitions suggest that the religious aspect of the quarrel was more strongly felt in the county, which seems to have been Puritan in sympathy, than its political features. When war actually broke out the majority of the leading men of Rutland joined the royalist forces, but its geographical position, especially after the battle of Edgehill, put it definitely into the sphere of the Parliamentary Midland Association. The chief protagonists were Edward Noel, Viscount Campden, and his son Baptist for the king, with Sir Edward Harington and his son James for the parliament. It is rather difficult not to view the Civil War in Rutland as a rivalry between the Noel and Harington cousins. Even the insistance on the Irish rebellion in the petition of 1642 may have been aimed at Lord Campden, who had fought in Ireland. Sir Edward Harington, indeed, secured Oakham and its magazine and called out the militia, but his efforts in this were much impeded by the success of the Noels in recruiting for the king. (fn. 37) The personal popularity of the Noels in the county emerges and an echo of it arises as late as 1648 in a petition of various Rutland parliamentarians to General Fairfax. (fn. 38) In 1643, when an expedition from Grantham under Captain Wray attempted to seize Baptist Noel's house at Exton, he met with 'resistance by the coming in of the neighbours' and was forced to withdraw, threatening vengeance on the whole Noel family. (fn. 39)
In consequence Henry Noel at North Luffenham thought it necessary to collect 'a little guard' of his neighbours to defend his house. So menacing was the royalist feeling that Lord Grey, the commander of the forces of the Midland Association, joined Wray and marched to Lord Campden's house at Brooke, but he failed to find its owner, and then turned on North Luffenham with a force estimated at 1,300 men with artillery. There could be only one end to Noel's defiance, and he was forced to surrender. (fn. 40) While in prison in London he sent a petition to the House of Lords, where it still exists, describing the siege. Lord Grey had drawn up his force on the slope opposite the house and sent a trumpeter demanding the surrender of Noel's person, his horses and arms. He refused, saying he had 'not a gunne more in my house than the feedinge of my hawkes require,' but offered to disarm those men not members of his household, for, according to Lord Grey, the little guard had increased to some 200 men. After further parleys the assault began in the evening, and was continued next day with such vigour that outhouses, stacks and barns were fired. The villagers were terrified and Noel surrendered to save their houses, but his conditions, he complained, were not kept, with the one exception of finding a suitable escort for his wife. Lord Grey admitted that 'with much difficulty I preserved their lives' (Noel and his friend Skipwith), 'but the soldiers were so enraged I could not save their goods.' The destruction of Sculthorpe hamlet is traditionally laid to their charge. (fn. 41)
Burley-on-the-Hill was taken in the same year and became the headquarters of the Rutland Committee. A garrison was maintained there until after the fall of Newark and much damage was done in erecting the fortifications. (fn. 42)
The little information that reaches us during the remainder of the Civil War is largely concerned with disagreements between different commanders. The best-known amongst the parliamentarians, in addition to Sir James Harington, were Colonel Thomas Waite, Abel Barker and Evers Armyn. There was little more fighting in the county, although the Rutland Committee was often in fear of a royalist rising. The heavy taxation demanded was unpopular, and even when collected the local men were unwilling to transmit it to London. (fn. 43) A curious clause in the will of Sir Edward Harington, dated 1654, shows that he still had in his possession part of the sum raised for the defence of the county. (fn. 44) After 1644, and still more after the fall of Newark, many royalists compounded for their estates, while in 1657 the Duke of Buckingham recovered Burley—or what remained of it after its garrison had burnt and deserted the house in a panic in 1645—and other Rutland estates by a judicious marriage with Mary Fairfax. (fn. 45) Even more unpopular was the Protector's government, and probably the general feeling of the county was truly represented in the address presented to Charles II on his restoration in which the signatories made their 'thankfull acknowledgement' to God 'of His goodnesse in so great a Blessing accomplished without effusion of blood.' (fn. 46)
The county remained famous for its large houses and estates, although Buckingham was succeeded at Burley by Daniel Finch, 2nd Earl of Nottingham. The second half of the 17th century was a time of considerable activity in building and a new influence is seen in such houses as Lyndon Hall and the Top Hall in the same place, both interesting examples of the transition from the Jacobean to the more classic type then being gradually adopted, and the hall at South Luffenham is of the same type. In these buildings gables give place to hipped roofs with small dormers, and the windows are increased in height and have moulded architraves. The more fully developed new style is best seen in Nottingham's great house at Burley-on-the-Hill, built between 1694 and 1702 on the site of the older mansion burnt by the parliamentary forces. It occupies a commanding site on the brow of a hill, and in general lay-out follows the then rapidly prevailing type in which the main block is supported by outlying buildings, and connected with them by colonnades. Its plan is strictly symmetrical and the elevations are simple and dignified. The architect is not known.
The families of Heathcote, Sherard, and Lowther appeared in Rutland in the 18th century. The great house built at Normanton by Sir Gilbert Heathcote about 1730 was pulled down in 1925, and no 18th-century building of the same size or character now exists in the county. Tickencote Hall dates from early in the century. Clipsham Hall was rebuilt, Stocken Hall enlarged, and a new south front erected at the Digbys' house, North Luffenham. Dated 18th-century houses are found in Barrowden, Caldecott, Liddington, Manton, and Oakham.
Of the five crosses formerly existing in Oakham only the picturesque covered market-cross remains: it is known as the Butter Cross, and is an octagonal structure with high-pitched roof supported on timber posts, of late 16th, or early 17th-century date. Part of the shaft of what is said to have been a market-cross, long laid aside, has been recently set up in Liddington, and mutilated village or wayside crosses are found at Barrow and Edith Weston. At Oakham the stocks still stand under the roof of the market-cross, and on the green at Market Overton there are stocks and whipping-post combined. At Wing is a well-preserved turf maze, and there is said to have been one formerly at Liddington.
Rutland was still mainly an agricultural county. The cloth manufacture of 'tammy,' which continued till the early 19th century, and the trencher manufacture were never developed on a large scale, although the repercussion of the industrial revolution reached the county. (fn. 47) Most of the arable farming was still carried on in common fields, in the old-fashioned three-field system, and though there is evidence that some of the earlier inclosures were made with a view to improvement of method and not for sheep-farming, no change on a large scale was carried out till the need for increased food production brought about a continuous series of parish inclosures from 1760 onwards. If the movement involved hardship to the tenants, and particularly to the cottagers, an improved system of agriculture eventually resulted. The movements to form friendly societies and develop home industries were a special feature of Rutland at this time. They were started to counteract the rapidly increasing poverty, which sent more and more of the inhabitants to seek parish relief. (fn. 48)
The county is famous for its schools founded in 1584 at Oakham and Uppingham by Robert Johnson. Both have developed into important schools, but the headmastership of Edward Thring at Uppingham (1853–87) had an especially wide influence on English education. There were also a noticeable number of endowed elementary schools, while the schools of rural industry promoted at the end of the 18th century deserve mention. (fn. 49)
No great monastic house was established in Rutland, for the priory of Brooke was small and impecunious. Ecclesiastically Rutland is remarkable as a land of beautiful parish churches, due to the plentiful supply of good building stone. It is difficult to find who was responsible for their building. The numerous monastic patrons of the benefices were only responsible for the chancels of the churches, although Westminster Abbey, with its well-organised estates at Oakham, may have been more active both there and at Uppingham. Presumably, too, the churches attached to the prebendal manors of the chapter at Lincoln may have owed something to the canons, but generally speaking, if we may judge from the wills that have come down to us, here as elsewhere the inhabitants of the different towns and villages took a lasting interest in the fabric of their churches. The Bishops of Lincoln, famous in the 13th century for their administrative reforms, used their influence to promote church-building as well as to procure proper provision for the vicars of the churches. Thus Bishop Hugh de Welles (1209–1235) bestowed spiritual benefits on all who helped in the rebuilding of Ketton church, and this was probably not an isolated instance. (fn. 50)
At the principal manors churches were built which served a wide area around them and took the tithes for their support from that area. As the population increased, subsidiary churches or chapels were built which were served from the older or mother churches; such, for instance, was the case of Oakham with its chapelries of Langham, Egleton, Brooke, and Gunthorpe, (fn. 51) while Hambleton and Ridlington each had three churches in 1086. (fn. 52) Several of these churches were granted to religious houses and vicarages were later ordained at them. (fn. 53)
For so small a county Rutland has an exceptionally large proportion of churches possessing features of architectural interest, some of them of considerable size and nearly all comprising work of more than one period. Of the fifty-two original parish churches, two—Horn and Martinsthorpe—no longer exist, three others (Bisbrooke, Normanton, and Pickworth) have been entirely rebuilt, while at Teigh and Thistleton the towers only are ancient. All the medieval styles, from the 12th to the 16th century, are represented in the ecclesiastical architecture of the county; though work of the 13th and 14th centuries in the main predominates, it has been frequently modified by the later insertion of windows, the addition of clearstories, parapets and other features, and in some cases by the remodelling in the 15th century of whole portions of a fabric, as in the north transept of Empingham.
Only at Market Overton does any structural part of a Saxon church remain in situ, (fn. 54) but carved fragments of pre-Conquest date have been inserted in the west wall of the south aisle at Greetham, and another found at Ketton is preserved in the church there. There were churches returned in the Domesday Survey (1086) at Oakham, Hambleton (three churches), and Ridlington (three churches), and there were priests at Ketton, Barrowden, South Luffenham, Great Casterton, and Horn, implying perhaps the existence of churches. It is quite likely the churches at these places were there before the Conquest. The expansion of the county both politically and ecclesiastically occurred in the 12th century, when nearly all the ancient churches were built or rebuilt, in most instances probably the former, and more than half retain work of this date or show evidence of a 12th-century origin. The dedications are almost entirely to Biblical saints, which were common to all periods. Of the others, the cult of St. Nicholas (to whom the churches of Cottesmore, Pilton, Stretton, and Thistleton are dedicated) did not reach this country until the 11th century. The churches of St. Botolph at Wardley, mentioned in the reign of Edward the Confessor, and St. Edmund at Egleton have dedications which they are unlikely to have received after the Conquest.
The principal surviving work of the 12th century is at Braunston (jambs of chancel arch), Cottesmore (south doorway), Edith Weston (jambs of chancel arch and east respond of north arcade), Egleton (chancel arch and south doorway), Essendine (south doorway), Morcott (tower, tower arch, and north arcade), Preston (north arcade), Seaton (jambs of chancel arch and south doorway), Stoke Dry (carved jambshafts, etc., of chancel arch), Stretton (south doorway), Tickencote (richly decorated chancel arch), Tixover (tower and tower arch), and Wing (south arcade). Sculptured tympana remain at Egleton, Essendine, Little Casterton, and Ridlington, the two former in situ, and a plain one at Stretton. The remarkable Norman chancel at Tickencote was rebuilt late in the 18th century and retains little or no ancient work, but is interesting as preserving in some measure a record of the original design. All the above work may be assigned to c. 1150–80. The later work of the century (c. 1190–1200) is more widely distributed, and includes an interesting series of nave arcades in which 'the shape and ornamentation of the capitals are frequently curious and assume a characteristic local form.' (fn. 55) The series includes Belton (south arcade), Brooke (north), Burley (north), Little Casterton (north), Edith Weston (north), Glaston, Hambleton, South Luffenham (north), Morcott, Seaton (north), Wing (north), and one bay of the north arcade at Ashwell. In these the development of the Romanesque volute into the elementary stiff-stalk foliage of the next period can be well studied in the capitals. The water-leaf with its inward-curving volutes is found at Edith Weston, Glaston, Hambleton, Seaton, and Wing, and the incurved fir-cone ornament at South Luffenham and Morcott. At Edith Weston, Glaston, and Seaton the arches have a large hollow on the soffit between two bold round or keel-shaped mouldings. Doorways of late 12th-century date occur at Brooke, Hambleton, Morcott, Oakham, and Wing, those at Brooke and Oakham having pointed arches. (fn. 56) The west front of the nave at Ketton is an outstanding piece of work of the period, in which the characteristic features of the 12th and 13th-century styles are intermingled.
The 13th century was a period of church-building throughout the land, and nearly every church in Rutland shows evidence of this activity. (fn. 57) Many churches built or rebuilt at this time were, however, extensively remodelled in the next century—as at Ashwell and Whissendine—and though they retain a good deal of 13th-century work, it is no longer predominant. The chief structural work of the period in the county is found at Great and Little Casterton, Cottesmore, Empingham, Exton, Ketton, Langham, North Luffenham, Manton, Pilton, Seaton, Stretton, Tinwell, Tixover, and Whitwell; in the towers at Brooke and Hambleton; and in one or other of the arcades at Ashwell, Ayston, Barrowden, Braunston, Burley, Caldecott, Clipsham, Edith Weston, Greetham, South Luffenham, Preston, Ridlington, Stoke Dry, and Whissendine. Some of this work is late in the century, as at Cottesmore and North Luffenham, and much of it is plain in character, with cylindrical piers and moulded capitals; but piers with engaged shafts are found at Exton and Stretton, and capitals with stiff-stalk or more natural foliage occur at Barrowden, Great Casterton, Exton, North Luffenham, (fn. 58) Ryhall, Stretton, Tinwell, and Tixover.
A characteristic feature of this period in Rutland is the open bell-turret of stone on the western gable of the nave, remaining examples of which occur at Little Casterton, Essendine, Manton, Pilton, Stretton, and Whitwell. (fn. 59) The turrets differ in design, but all are constructed to hold two bells. Another characteristic of the 13th century in the county is the late retention of the semicircular arch, (fn. 60) both in arcades and doorways. The arches are of this shape in arcades at Barrowden (chancel), Great and Little Casterton, Clipsham, Edith Weston, Empingham, Manton, Preston, Seaton, Stretton, Tixover, and in doorways at Barrowden, Braunston, Wardley, and Whitwell. The towers and spires of Langham and Ryhall and the beautiful bell-chamber stage of the tower at Ketton are excellent examples of the earlier part of the century, while those of Cottesmore and Seaton belong to its later years (c. 1280–1300), a period in which a good deal of reconstruction was carried out in other parts of the county. (fn. 61) The plain square-headed windows at Tixover are apparently original 13th-century work.
The period of reconstruction extended well into the 14th century, no fewer than thirty-seven (fn. 62) churches in the county showing work of some kind of this period. Several churches were so extensively remodelled as to assume externally in a great measure the appearance of 14th-century buildings, as at Ashwell, Clipsham, Glaston, South Luffenham, Oakham, Preston, Uppingham and Whissendine. At Langham less work of this century survives, but the nave arcades, chancel arch, and porch are of the period. In many of the churches the ballflower ornament is used with some profusion, as in windows at Ashwell and Clipsham, and the window tracery is generally very good, new windows being then freely inserted. Probably the advance of education given by the priests of the chantries founded about this time, and the resulting capacity to read the services, were reasons for this enlarged window space and the generally increased light in the churches of the 14th century, a practice carried still further in succeeding years. To this century also belong many of the fine towers and spires of the county, as at Barrowden, Caldecott, Edith Weston, Empingham, Exton, Greetham, Liddington, South Luffenham, Oakham, (fn. 63) Preston, Uppingham, and Wardley; all these have spires. Western towers of this period without spires are found at Ayston, Burley, Teigh, Thistleton, Whissendine, and Wing, (fn. 64) and there is other good work in the chancels of North Luffenham and Liddington. The beautiful 14th-century spire at Ketton surmounts an earlier central tower; the spires at Empingham and South Luffenham are crocketed.
Work of the 15th century is largely confined to the insertion of windows, the remodelling of parts, the addition of clearstories, and other structural changes. At Langham and Oakham many beautiful windows were introduced and new parapets erected, while at Whissendine, in addition to new windows in the aisles, a lofty clearstory was built. At Empingham the north transept was remodelled and a new clearstory was erected, and at Liddington the nave was rebuilt, as were the chancels at Egleton, Ryhall, and Tinwell. Other work of the period includes the western towers at Belton, Braunston, Great Casterton, and Ridlington, the clearstories at Little Casterton and Ketton, and the construction in its present form of St. John's Hospital chapel at Oakham. In all, work of this period occurs in twenty-one churches.
To the earlier part of the 16th century may be assigned the vestry at Oakham and the north porch at Stoke Dry, but the interesting remodelling of Brooke church took place late in the century.
The Dissolution of the Monasteries made little difference to the county, for the only monasteries were those of Brooke, always poverty-stricken and neglected, and the alien cell at Edith Weston, which was also allowed to fall into disreputable condition and by the end of the 14th century had been sold to the Carthusians of St. Anne's, Coventry. At neither of these are there any substantial remains of the priory buildings. (fn. 65)
We learn from the Archdeacons' Visitations of the 17th century that the state of the churches and parishes was at a low ebb—windows broken and daubed up with plaster, communion vessels damaged and wanting, bells stolen, and irreverence of every kind practised, but some work of the period is found—e.g. the south transept at Stretton and the south porches at Caldecott, Greetham, and Stoke Dry. Normanton church was rebuilt in 1764, Teigh (except the tower) in 1782–84, the nave of Tickencote in 1792, and the chancel of Manton in 1796.
The 19th century, in Rutland as elsewhere, was a period of much church restoration, in some cases (e.g. Exton) of so extensive a character as to amount almost to a rebuilding. New churches replaced the old at Pickworth in 1821 and at Bisbrooke fifty years later, and during the century the chancels at Burley, Caldecott, Edith Weston, Essendine, Hambleton, Market Overton, Pilton, Ridlington, Uppingham and Wing were entirely rebuilt, and at Thistleton all except the tower. At Normanton the 18th-century fabric, to which a west tower and portico had been added in 1826, was replaced by a new building in the classic style in 1911. (fn. 66) Barrow chapel, in Cottesmore parish, was built about 1830 on or near the site of a former chapel destroyed in 1660.
Of the greater churches the most notable are Oakham, Langham, Whissendine, Exton, Empingham, Ketton, Liddington, North Luffenham, and Seaton, all of which, in the words of Mr. Brereton, are 'admirable as whole buildings.' (fn. 67) Of these Oakham is the largest, though exceeded by others as regards length of nave and chancel. At North Luffenham the length of the chancel is 47 ft. 6 in., and in five other churches over 40 ft., while in twelve the length of the nave exceeds 50 ft. Other churches, though less in size, are scarcely less interesting by reason of individual features or on account of the antiquarian problems they present. In the smaller buildings the length of the chancels averages about 22 ft. and that of the naves 30 ft. At Tixover the nave (26 ft. 6 in.) is shorter than the chancel.
The prevailing type of plan is that of chancel and aisled nave, with porch and western tower. This is found, with variations, in thirty-eight churches, in eighteen (fn. 68) of which the tower is surmounted by a spire. In five (fn. 69) there are transeptal chapels on both sides of either the nave or chancel, and in three (fn. 70) on the south side only, but the true cruciform transeptal plan is found only at Ketton. Another type of plan is that already mentioned, where a bell-turret takes the place of a tower at the west end. (fn. 71) At Glaston the tower is between the nave and chancel, but there are no transepts.
At Ryhall are considerable traces of a 15th-century anchorage, which stood against the west wall of the north aisle of the nave.
Arrangements for medieval ritual are found in most of the churches, not only in the chancels (where old) but also in aisles and transept chapels. Good triple sedilia occur at Empingham (13th century), Seaton (late 13th century), Glaston (14th century), Liddington (14th century), and South Luffenham (14th century); with two seats at Barrowden, Caldecott, North Luffenham, and Ryhall; and single seats at Preston and Wing. (fn. 72)
Piscinæ remain in thirty-eight churches, but not always in the chancels. There are six at Empingham and five at Oakham. Interesting examples occur in the south aisles at Belton and Morcott. The rectangular form of basin is not uncommon. There are double piscinæ at Ashwell and Empingham, and at Stretton a double-arched recess with a single bowl. At Empingham, Liddington, and Seaton the piscina and sedilia form a single architectural composition. Floor drains are found at Little Casterton (two) and Whitwell. (fn. 73)
At Little Casterton and St. John's Chapel, Oakham, medieval altar slabs have been recovered and set up, while one at Whitwell is in use as a gravestone.
Low-side windows are found at Great Casterton, Essendine, Liddington, North Luffenham, Whitwell, and Wing; that at Essendine (now blocked) takes the form of a large quatrefoil set within a square frame.
There are clearstories in thirty-nine churches, mostly of 14th and 15thcentury date, but at Great Casterton the 13th-century clearstory, with circular windows, remains, and one window of similar character at Empingham has survived.
Sanctus bell turrets over the eastern gable of the nave occur at Caldecott and Manton. (fn. 74)
There are good medieval iron hinges on the south doors at Barrowden and Great Casterton.
Upper chambers over porches are found at Langham, Manton, Ryhall, and Stoke Dry (north); in another at Cottesmore, rebuilt with the porch, the floor was omitted.
The fonts are often of a rather plain character, none of the bowls having figure sculpture, but some are panelled and moulded. Of thirty-six fonts which are definitely medieval about half can be assigned to the 12th and 13th centuries, and seven or eight to the 14th century. Of these the earlier are the most interesting, the best examples being at Lyndon (archaic animal sculpture), Clipsham, Great Casterton (unmounted), Egleton, Braunston, Brooke, Oakham (intersecting arcade), Whitwell, Belton, Caldecott, Manton, Greetham, and Tickencote. Of 14th-century fonts the best are those at Exton, Ketton, Langham, South Luffenham, and Whissendine; the only good 15th-century example is at Burley. At Cottesmore the early 13th-century base has rudely carved representations of the Crucifixion and an abbot in benediction, but the bowl is a century later. The remarkable font at Market Overton is of composite character, its upper part perhaps fashioned from a late 12th-century capital. At Teigh (in addition to a modern font) there is an 18th-century vase-like mahogany bowl attached by a brass arm to the altar rail.
Little is left in the way of furniture and woodwork. The roofs, where old, are almost everywhere of low pitch and plain in character, and are mostly of late 15th, or early 16th-century date. The best are at Little Casterton, North Luffenham, Oakham, Ryhall, and Whissendine.
Medieval chancel screens remain in position only at Liddington and Stoke Dry, and the lower parts of others at Little Casterton and South Luffenham, all of the 15th century. At Egleton the screen is now in front of the tower arch. At Whissendine (south transept) is an early 16th-century screen from the old chapel of St. John's College, Cambridge, and at Glaston portions of a 15th-century screen have been used up in the pulpit and desk.
At Brooke the interesting late Elizabethan screens and pews in the chancel and oak seating in the nave are still in use.
There are Jacobean oak pulpits at Brooke, Cottesmore, Empingham, Greetham, North Luffenham, Morcott, Uppingham, and Whitwell, some much restored. The chapel at Barrow possesses a good 18th-century pulpit.
At Liddington the 17th-century arrangement of the communion rails surrounding the table on four sides is preserved, though the table is now placed on the east side of the space thus enclosed. There are also 17th-century communion tables at Tickencote (chancel), and in six other churches in different parts of the buildings. (fn. 75) At Manton is a pillar alms-box dated 1627.
Teigh preserves its 18th-century internal arrangements, with pews facing north and south, and pulpit at the west end above the doorway; there are 18th-century communion tables at Empingham (north transept) and Pickworth. At Pickworth the early 19th-century three-decker pulpit is retained.
There are stone wall benches at Brooke, Little Casterton, Pilton, and Tixover, and beautiful coffin-lids, mostly of 13th-century date, are found at Little Casterton, Empingham, Glaston (14th century), Hambleton (14th century), Liddington, Lyndon, Manton, and Whissendine. There are stone coffins at Braunston and Market Overton.
Figure brasses are rare, occurring only at Little Casterton (1381, a fine example), Liddington (1486, and another of 15th-century date, re-used in 1530), and at Braunston (1596); there are inscribed brass plates of some interest at Ashwell, Manton, and North Luffenham (Archdeacon Johnson, 1625).
Monuments of considerable interest are to be found in several of the churches. At Great Casterton and Seaton are mutilated 13th-century effigies, and effigies of later date occur at Ashwell (one of wood, another of alabaster), Burley (c. 1500), and Tickencote (wood, 1363). Of structural monuments the fine series of memorials to members of the Harington, Noel, and other families at Exton claims first mention; they comprise nine monuments ranging in date from c. 1379 to 1790, one of them a good example of the art of Grinling Gibbons. Next in importance, and not less in interest, are the three Digby monuments at Stoke Dry (1496 to 1590), while of earlier date are a 14th-century table tomb with civilian male figure at South Luffenham, and another with incised cross (c. 1400) at Manton; good mural monuments with one or more effigies are found at Barrowden (1588), Tinwell (1611), Ridlington (1613–14), Brooke (1619), and Tixover (1623).
Floor slabs with incised figures occur at Ashwell (1480), Langham (1532), and Belton (1559).
A fair amount of stained glass of 14th-century date is found at North Luffenham (figure and armorial), and glass of the same period occurs at Little Casterton (grisaille), Whitwell, and Wing (a roundel). Glass of the 15th century occurs in the north transept at Empingham (chiefly armorial), and fragments at Ayston, Ketton, Liddington, Stoke Dry, and Tickencote, and there is also some old glass from elsewhere at Clipsham and Tixover. (fn. 76)
Of the many wall paintings formerly in Rutland churches the principal remains are at Braunston (Mass of St. Gregory), Essendine, Liddington (a Doom), and Stoke Dry (St. Andrew, St. Christopher, St. Edmund), while traces of coloured mural decoration remain in a fair number of churches: Great and Little Casterton, Empingham, Uppingham, and Whitwell. There were formerly representations of St. Christopher at Edith Weston, Ridlington, and Seaton; a Doom at Wing; and a Temptation in Eden at Caldecott.
Scratch dials are found at Braunston, Ketton, South Luffenham, Lyndon, Stretton (on tympanum), and Stoke Dry.
Ancient churchyard crosses have almost entirely disappeared, the mutilated shaft at Empingham and a socket base at Lyndon alone remaining. In the churchyard at Braunston is an early carved stone figure of the type known elsewhere as 'Sheela-na-gig.'
There are dug-out chests at Brooke, North and South Luffenham, and Empingham; at Stoke Dry a bier dated 1694; and a fine display of funeral banners and armour at Exton. The Royal Arms, mostly painted panels, are found in eleven churches, but none is earlier than George II.
There are medieval bells (earlier than 16th century) at Ayston, Langham, Preston, Teigh, Tixover, and Whitwell, but none is dated. Bells of 16thcentury date, mainly from the Leicester foundry, occur at Ayston, Barrowden, Braunston, Glaston (1598), South Luffenham (1593), Morcott, Seaton (two, 1597), Wardley, and Wing. (fn. 77)
Of pre-Reformation church plate only one piece survives in the county, at Preston:—a silver-gilt paten, without date letter, but c. 1490–1500, with a Manus Dei in the centre. Elizabethan cups and patens are still in use at Ayston, Barrowden, Braunston, Egleton, Essendine (cup only), Exton, Glaston, Hambleton, Manton, Market Overton, Oakham, Pilton, Ridlington, Seaton, and Whitwell. (fn. 78) Plate of 17th-century date is more widely distributed, being found in twenty-nine churches. At Egleton an 18th-century porringer takes the place of a flagon.