Oakham in 1841
Oakham, or Okeham, is in Oakham Soke, in the vale of Catmoss. It had an ancient castle, erected probably by Walcheline De Ferreris, a younger branch of the family of de Ferrars, to whom Henry II had granted the manor. The manor and castle repeatedly reverted to the crown, and were again repeatedly granted. Among the possessors of them were : Richard, king of the Romans, brother of Henry III ; Edmund, earl of Kent, brother of Edward II ; De Vere, earl of Oxford and duke of Ireland, favourite of Richard II ; Thomas of Woodstock, uncle to the same king ; Humphrey, duke of Buckingham, the supporter and victim of Richard III ; Thomas Cromwell, earl of Essex ; and George Villiers, duke of Buckingham, the witty and profligate favourite of Charles II. Of this castle, the county-hall, in which the assizes are held, and the other business of the county and the town transacted, is a remain ; the other parts are in ruins. The architecture is of late Norman or very early English. The gate of the castle-yard and the interior of the county-hall are covered with horse-shoes ; the lord of the manor being authorized by ancient grant or custom to demand of every peer, on first passing through the lordship, a shoe from one of his horses, or a sum of money to purchase one in lieu of it. Some of these shoes are gilt, and stamped with the donor's name. Among them are shoes given by queen Elizabeth, by the late duke of York, and by George IV, when prince regent.
The number of houses in the parish, in 1831, was 520, inhabited by 524 families, beside 29 uninhabited houses, and 10 building. The population was 2,390, about one-fourth agricultural. The area of the parish is 3,130 acres. The town consists of neatly-built houses. The church is a large edifice, mostly of perpendicular character. It has a fine tower and spire ; the latter is said to have been erected by Roger Flore, who died A.D. 1483. There is a library connected with this church, of about 200 volumes folio, consisting chiefly of the decrees of councils, the fathers, schoolmen, and other divines. There is a school-house in the church-yard for the richly endowed grammar-school.and connected with it is a building originally used as an is hospital for aged men, but now occupied by the master of the grammar-school and his boarders. There are meeting-houses for Wesleyans, Independents, and Baptists. There is a gaol and house of correction for the county in an open spot near the castle.
The Oakham canal affords facilities for supplying the town with coal, and for sending corn to the manufacturing districts. The market, which is on Saturday, is a good corn-market ; and there are three yearly fares of ancient institution, and eight of modern date, for cattle. The assizes and quarter-sessions are held here ; and the court of election for the county members. It is the only polling-station.
The living is a vicarage united with the chapelries of Langham, Brooke, and Silverstone, of the clear yearly value of £918, with a glebe-house, in the gift of the dean and chapter of Westminster.
There were, in 1833, twelve day-schools, with 365 children ; including the grammar-school with 40 boys, and a national-school with 54 boys and 30 girls. There were three Sunday-schools, with 255 children, besides the national school, the children of which attended also on Sunday.
Jeffrey Hudson, the well-known dwarf (introduced by Sir W. Scott, in his ‘Peveril of the Peak’), was born at Oakham, A.D. 1619.