Rutland - Encyclopedia

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See Rutland (disambiguation) for articles sharing the titleRutland.

RUTLAND, a midland county of England, bounded N. and E. by Lincolnshire, N. and W. by Leicestershire, and S.E. by Northamptonshire. It is the smallest county in England, having an area of 152 sq. m. The surface is pleasantly undulating, ridges of high ground running E. and W., separated by rich valleys. The principal of these valleys is the vale of Catmose, in the Oakham district, to the N. of which rises a tableland commanding wide views into Leicestershire. The vale maintains its reputation for richness of soil assigned to it by Drayton in his Poly-Olbion. This, the N.W. part of the county, is also the district of the well-known Cottesmore hunt.

The royal forest of Lyfield, or Leafield, which included the greater part of the hundreds of Oakham and Martinsley, once extended over the county between Oakham and Uppingham, and patches of it still exist. To the S. of Uppingham it was known as Beaumont Chase. The river Welland, flowing N.E., forms the S.E. boundary of Rutland with Northamptonshire. The Gwash, or Wash, which rises in Leicestershire, flows eastward through the centre of the county, and just beyond its borders in Lincolnshire joins the Welland The Chater, also rising in Leicestershire and flowing E., enters the Welland about 2 m. from Stamford. The Eye, forming part of the S.W. boundary, is also tributary to the Welland.

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The county consists entirely of Jurassic formations, viz. of Liassic and Oolitic strata - the harder beds, chiefly limestone containing iron, forming the hills and escarpments, and the claybeds the slopes of the valleys. The oldest rocks are those belonging to the Lower Lias in the N.W. The bottom of the vale of Catmose is formed of marlstone rock belonging to the Middle Lias, and its sides are composed of long slopes of Upper Lias clay. The Upper Lias also covers a large area in the W. of the county, and is worked for bricks at Luffenham and Seaton. The lowest of the Oolitic formations is the Northampton sand, which has yielded iron ore at Manton and Cottesmore. The Lincolnshire Oolitic limestone prevails in the E. of the county N. of Stamford. It is largely quarried for building purposes, the quarries at Ketton, Clipsham, and Casterton being famous beyond the boundaries of the county. The Great Oolite and Estuarine beds prevail towards the S.E. Glacial deposits of boulder clay, sand and gravel, mask the older strata in many places.


In the E. and S.E. districts the soil is light and shallow. In the other districts it consists chiefly of a tenacious but fertile loam, and in the vale of Catmose the soil is either clay or loam, or a mixture of the two. The prevailing redness, which colours even the streams, is owing to the ferruginous limestone carried down from the slopes of the hills. The name of the county is by some authorities derived from this characteristic of the soil, but the explanation is doubtful. The E. of the county is chiefly under tillage and the W. in grass. Nearly nine-tenths of the total area (a high proportion) is under cultivation, wheat being by far the most important grain crop. Turnips and swedes occupy the greater part of the area under green crops. The rearing of sheep (Leicesters and South Downs) and cattle (Shorthorns) occupies the chief attention of the farmer. Large quantities of cheese are manufactured and sold as Stilton. Agriculture is practically the only industry of importance, but there is some quarrying and boot-making.

The main line of the Great Northern railway intersects the N.E. corner, and branches of that system, of the London & NorthWestern, and of the Midland railways, serve the remainder of the county.

Population and Administration

The area of the ancient and administrative county is 97,273 acres, with a population in 1891 of 20,659, and in 1901 of 19,709. The county contains five hundreds. There are no municipal boroughs or urban districts. The county town. is Oakham (pop. 3294), and other towns are Uppingham (2588) and Ketton (1041). The county is in the midland circuit, and assizes are held at Oakham. It has one court of quarter sessions, but is not divided for petty-sessional purposes. There are 58 civil parishes. The county is in the diocese of Peterborough, and contains 42 ecclesiastical parishes or districts, wholly or in part. It returns one member to parliament.


The district which is now Rutland was probably occupied by a tribe of Middle Angles in the 6th or 7th century, and was subsequently absorbed in the kingdom of Mercia. Although mentioned by name in the will of Edward the Confessor, who bequeathed it to his queen Edith for life with remainder to Westminster Abbey, Rutland did not rank as a county at the time of the Domesday Survey, in which the term Rutland is only applied to that portion assessed under Nottinghamshire, while the S.E. portion of the modern county is surveyed under Northamptonshire, where it appears as the wapentake of Wiceslea. Rutland is first mentioned as a distinct county under the administration of a separate sheriff in the pipe roll of 1159, but as late as the 14th century it is designated "Rutland Soke" in the Vision of Piers Plowman, and the curious connexion with Nottinghamshire, a county which does not adjoin it at any point, was maintained up to the reign of Henry III., when the sheriff of Nottingham was by statute appointed also escheator in Rutland. Of the five modern hundreds of Rutland, Alstoe and Martinsley appear in the Domesday Survey of Nottinghamshire as wapentakes, Martinsley at that date including the modern hundred of Oakham Soke; East hundred and Wrangdike hundred are mentioned in the middle of the 12th century, the latter formerly including the additional hundred of Little Casterton. The shire-court for Rutland was held at Oakham.

Rutland was originally included in the diocese of Lincoln, and in 1291 formed a rural deanery within the archdeaconry of Northampton; but on the erection of Peterborough to an episcopal see by Henry VIII. in 1541, the archdeaconry of Northampton, with the deanery of Rutland, was transferred to that diocese. In 1879 the deanery of Rutland was subdivided into three portions, and in 1876 it was placed within the newly= founded archdeaconry of Oakham.

Among the most conspicuous of the Norman lords connected with this county was Walkelin de Ferrers, who founded Oakham Castle in the 12th century. The castle was subsequently bestowed by Richard II., together with the earldom of Rutland (see above), on Edward, son of Edmund, duke of York. Essendine (Essenden or Essingdon) was purchased in 1545 by Richard Cecil of Burleigh, and the title of baron of Essenden bestowed on his grandson is retained by the earls of Salisbury. Sir Everard Digby, one of the conspirators in the Gunpowder plot, belonged to the family of Digby, of Stoke Dry. Burleyon-the-hill was held by Henry Despenser, the warlike bishop of Norwich, in the reign of Richard II., and was purchased by George Villiers, duke of Buckingham, who entertained James I. there with Ben Jonson's Mask of the Gypsies. The battle of Stamford was fought at Horn, near Exton, in March 1470 between Edward IV. and the Lancastrians, when from the precipitate flight of the latter the engagement became known as Losecoat Field. On the outbreak of the Civil War Rutland displayed a strong puritanical and anti-royalist sentiment, and in 1642 the sheriff and a large number of the gentry and nobility of the county forwarded a petition to the House of Lords begging that the county might be placed in a state of defence, and that the votes of papists and prelates might be disallowed; and again, in 1648, a memorial addressed to Lord Fairfax protested against the design of the parliament to treat with Charles.

Rutland has always been mainly an agricultural county. The Domesday Survey mentions numerous mills in Rutland, and a fishery at Ayston rendered 325 eels. In the 14th century the county exported wool. Stilton cheese has long been made in Leyfield Forest and the vale of Catmose, and limestone is dug in many parts of the county. The development of the economic resources of Rutland was helped in 1793 by the extension of the Melton Mowbray canal to Oakham.

Two members were returned to parliament for the county of Rutland from 1295 until under the Redistribution of Seats Act of 1885 the representation was reduced to one member.

The only old castle of which there are important remains is Oakham, dating from the time of Henry II. and remarkable for its Norman hall. Of Essendine Castle only the moat remains. The Bede-house at Liddington dates from the end of the 14th century. Hambleton Hall, now a farm-house, is a good specimen of Jacobean architecture. Many old houses of the 17th and 18th centuries are to be met with in the villages. An interesting feature of the ecclesiastical architecture of the county is the frequent continuation of the round-headed arch after the Early English style had become fully developed; as, for instance, in the Early English churches at Great Casterton, Stretton, Empingham, Clipsham (Early English and Decorated), and St Peter's, Preston, where the nave arcade is Norman on one side and Early English on the other, but yet retains round-headed arches on both sides. Tickencote church is a remarkable specimen of late Norman work, with one of the finest chancel-arches extant in this style. Ketton church is transitional Norman, Early English, and early Decorated, the broach spire being of later date. St Mary's, Greetham, is a good example of Decorated, with fine tower and spire.

See Victoria County History, Rutland; James Wright, History and Antiquities of the County of Rutland (London, 1684); T. Blore, History and Antiquities of the County of Rutland, vol. i. pt. 2 (containing the East hundred and including the hundred of Casterton Parva; Stamford, 1811); C. G. Smith, A Translation of that portion of Domesday Book which relates to Lincolnshire and Rutland (London, 1870).

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