The Rutland County Museum is located in Oakham, Rutland, in the old Riding School of the Rutland Fencible Cavalry which was built in 1794-95. The Riding School, with its roof of Baltic timber, is the main indoor display area of the Museum. There is a simulation of a farm kitchen of the turn of the century. The Fencibles (from the word defencible) were British militia regiments raised in the United Kingdom and in the colonies for defence against the threat of invasion during the Seven Years' War, the American War of Independence, the French Revolutionary Wars, the Napoleonic Wars and the War of 1812 in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The museum, opened in 1969, houses a collection of objects relating to local rural and agricultural life, social history and archaeology. Temporary exhibitions are shown alongside the permanent displays.
The Museum's original collections were those transferred to it when it was set up by the former Rutland County Council in 1967. These were the rural life collection of E G Bolton from Casterton Secondary Modern School and the mainly archaeological collection from Oakham School. Over the years the Museum has grown and it now has an extensive rural life collection which includes farm tools, tractors, wagons and a wide range of rural tradesmen's tools. In addition it also houses domestic and social history items, along with a large collection of archaeological material from around Rutland. One of the more thought-provoking items on display is the New Drop Gallows. It is thought to be the only surviving gallows of its type in the UK. The gallows were portable and were set up at the front of Oakham Gaol when needed. The gallows was first used in 1813 to hang two burglars. The New Drop design was not to be very effective as the drop was too short to break the neck cleanly.
The Museum has one of the oldest surviving box wagons in the country. Built in Lincolnshire and used on a farm in Preston, Rutland it dates from 1755–1795 and is unusual due to its wooden axles. One of the smaller items on display includes the Brooke Reliquary. This small casket dates from the 13th Century and originates from the workshops in Limoges, France and is believed to have held the relics of a saint. The reliquary was discovered in c.1805, after years of being concealed on the site of Brooke Priory, when building work was carried out in the cellar of Priory House. The reliquary is decorated with Limoges enamel work in shades of blue, red, yellow and green with images of Christ with two apostles or saints. The robes on the saints are engraved on copper plates which were originally gilded, but this has now worn away.
The Local Studies collection was moved from Oakham Library to the museum in 2010 and comprises a large collection of materials and resources on Rutland and the surrounding villages. It includes census records for Rutland, photographs of local villages, the Jack Hart postcard collection, Ordnance Survey maps of Rutland, editions of local newspapers and offers access to ancestry.co.uk (library edition). The collection also contains a wide range of reference books. In 2000, archaeologists unearthed Stone Age animal bones and flints from Glaston, Rutland. Finding a particular spear tip (flint leaf point) provided the find’s early Upper Palaeolithic date: tools of this type date in the lab to around 30,000 years old. This was a time when Rutland’s inhabitants likely included 2 species of human: us and Neanderthals. This makes it really hard to determine who the maker of this tool was! Here, the treeless landscape allowed herds of herbivorous animals to roam. Excitingly Rutland County Museum contains fossils of woolly rhino, bison, horse, reindeer and woolly mammoth. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors did not however live an easy life with spotted hyena, cave lions, wolves, and cave bears around.
Glaston produced few flint tools but the ones it did were fresh – they hadn’t been used many times before. It makes sense then that it’s recognised as a temporary hunting camp; a place where people on the move would have hunted and consumed meat which we know was horse. The bones tell us that they were extracting their very nutritious bone marrow too. Hyena also inhabited the site before or after the people left: they dug their own dens in the soft sands. The gnawed bones tell us the hyenas too enjoyed a feast.
There is a public pay-and-display car park available adjoining the museum site, with two disabled parking spaces immediately adjacent to the main entrance. Access to the car park is via South Street. Access to the museum is via the main entrance at the side of the building within the South Street car park. The main entrance with exhibition area, and shop area, is completely accessible to wheelchair users, with semi-automatic doors and a hearing loop. There is a split layout with stairs to the mezzanine floor, and access to the Poultry Hall through an external courtyard, up a ramp. There are seated rest stops available in the Courtyard and garden. There are textured paving areas to indicate structural obstructions such as supporting columns, and these have been painted in a high-contrast red colour. A wheelchair accessible lift is available to the mezzanine floor affording a view of the Riding School. The mezzanine houses cases showing objects from Rutland life from Prehistoric times through to the present day. A wheelchair accessible toilet is available in the Colonel Noel Suite at the rear of the Riding School, the disabled access rails are of an opposite hand to the toilet off the reception area, but currently have poor colour contrast. Wheelchair accessible areas: Main Entrance, exhibition area, visitors information area, and shop; Colonel Noel Suite; Riding School and mezzanine floor; Toilets in the Colonel Noel Suite; Courtyard; Garden; Poultry Hall and South Street Store (staff only). Non-wheelchair accessible areas: • Tiered cinema seating in the Riding School (other seating arrangements can be made) • Toilets off the main entrance with baby changing • Colonel Noel Suite kitchen • Local History and Family History Research Room. Assistance dogs are welcome. Closed on Bank Holidays.
Location : Rutland County Museum, Catmos Street, Oakham, Rutland, LE15 6HW
Transport: Oakham (National Rail) then 10minutes. Bus Routes : 146 stops 0.25 miles.
Opening Times : Monday to Friday, 09:30 to 17:00; Saturday 09:30 to 16:00
Tickets : Free
Tel: 01572 758440