Date Published: 12 February 2019
New figures show that Oakham Castle has more than doubled the number of visitors through its historic gates following extensive restoration work funded by the National Lottery.
The castle is England’s most complete Norman Great Hall, dating back almost 800 years to the time of the Norman Conquest. It underwent a £2.2million restoration between 2015 and 2016 following a bid by Rutland County Council to the Heritage Lottery Fund.
After reopening its doors as one of the East Midland’s most popular free attractions, the Castle welcomed an unprecedented 55,000 visitors in 2017. However, figures for last year show that 2018 was the Castle’s best ever year for visitors with more than 60,000 making a trip to the site. This is more than double the number of pre-restoration visitors, which stood at around 29,000 each year.
“This is fantastic news and shows just how popular Oakham Castle has become, not just for the people who live in Rutland but also visitors from across the country and even further afield. It’s wonderful to see that the Heritage Lottery Fund grant we secured has given the Castle a new lease of life and we should all feel incredible proud to have such an important piece of piece history here in Rutland.”
Lucy Stephenson, Cabinet Member for Culture and Leisure
The grade I listed Great Hall, a scheduled ancient monument, is a significant landmark for the East Midlands. It appears in the Trip Advisor Hall of Fame having been rated Excellent by visitors for five consecutive years.
As part of a three-year project, National Lottery money has been used to conserve the castle and turn it into a first-class culture and heritage centre. As well as preserving its key features, including a defensive perimeter wall, brand new interactive displays and exhibits have been added for guests to enjoy.
The castle is also used as a wedding venue and a centre of learning for the county, with a varied programme of educational events for local schools.
Jonathan Platt, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund East Midlands, said: “Thanks to National Lottery players, Oakham Castle has been preserved for future generations and now offers a wide range of opportunities for the local community and members of the public to experience a truly unique piece of English history.”
Major events such as the Rutland Food and Drink Festival and Rutland Community Poppy Project drew thousands of visitors to Oakham Castle last year, helping to reach the record total of 60,600 visitors in 2018.
Consolidation works undertaken at the Castle by Rutland County Council in 2018 have also uncovered new archaeological features that were previously unknown to historians.
Following the discovery, investigations carried out alongside the University of Leicester Archaeology Service suggest that Oakham Castle once had a defensive tower in its south-eastern corner, as well as stronger fortifications than previously thought.
Further community archaeology digs within the Castle grounds are planned later on this year, and aim to uncover even more about the ancient monument. Details of dates and how to get involved will be published in the coming months.
“We are delighted that our work funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund is continuing to shed new light on the Castle’s history. It’s amazing to think we are still learning so much about this much-loved site. It’s a big part of Rutland and the community in Oakham.”
Councillor Lucy Stephenson
For more information about Oakham Castle, as well as events and attractions, visit the Oakham Castle website.