Lucky horseshoes

Oakham Castle

Oakham Castle

This is Oakham Castle. Doesn’t look much like a castle does it? I think it looks more like a church.

But it is on my  Fifty before Fifty challenge of castles to explore so explore we did.

It also has a very quirky collection … and I like quirky :)

The definition of a castle is “a large building or group of buildings that are fortified against attack”. So this qualifies. At one point it had fortifications including a moat and a drawbridge, walls and a couple of towers.

What we have left now is the Great Hall, one of the finest surviving examples of 12th century architecture in Britain today.

013bIt stands just behind the market place in Oakham, along a small cobbled street that once was a bridge crossing the moat.

014bIt has strange beasts climbing the walls and is completely free to enter (I also like free).

The structure of the hall is decorated with carvings – six musicians sit above the columns. They are made of local stone and believed to have been carved by the same stone masons who worked on Canterbury Cathedral.

015bBut the castle is famous for its extraordinary collection of horseshoes.

The castle belonged to the de Ferrers family, whose name is believed to be derived from the Norman French word for farrier and whose coat of arms bore a horseshoe. It was built by Wakelin de Ferrers between 1180 and 1190.

It became tradition for any peer of the realm visiting the castle to present the Lord of the Manor with a horseshoe. Not one that fitted a horse you understand, but a large and ostentatious symbol of their wealth.

The oldest is the large brown one to the bottom left of the photo above. It was presented by Edward IV, brother of Richard III who, coincidentally I have been doing a bit of research on recently.

He presented it in 1470 after his victory at the Battle of Losecoat Field a few miles down the road during the War of the Roses.

Over the centuries many peers have presented horseshoes and the walls are covered in them.


There is one from our current Queen, one from Queen Victoria when she was just a young princess and many, many more. More recent ones have been presented by the Princess Royal in 1999 and Princess Alexandra in 2005.

Sadly some of them were melted down for the metal during  one of the two world wars. Apparently it was mainly the Tudor ones, which is why there aren’t many examples of them left.

The newest horseshoe to adorn the walls of Oakham Castle is this one.

018bOakham Castle was blessed by a Time Team visit last year. The episode was televised on February 10 – bugger, I missed it. But, by the miracle of modern television it is being repeated this Saturday morning on More 4. I shall be glued to the television to see what they discovered.

As a complete aside, I have started yet another blog. This blog, which is almost a year old now, appears to have become a diary of my experiences and travels, my second blog Dory’s Eye, is a photographic blog with each post just a single image and no words. My new one, Well you know now is a random collection of things that I find interesting, stories, pictures, research but less of me in it, if you know what I mean. It’s the stuff that wouldn’t quite fit in here. I would love it if you would take a look and tell me what you think. There are only a few posts on it at the moment though.


  1. At the farm we hung the found horseshoes ( unearthed from plowing the field etc. ) right side up so “the luck ” didn’t run out. I see them hung the otherway in your photo. Goodness. ( must be superticious old Celtic farmers around here)
    I enjoyed looking in on your new blogs!

    • That’s exactly what we said when we saw them, they do appear to be hung the wrong way up. Maybe these superstitions don’t go back that far? And thank you so much for checking out my new blog :)

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