Conserving Oakham’s Hidden Gem

Oakham Castle is a Heritage Lottery Funded (HLF) project to transform Oakham Castle into a viable cultural venue to tell the story of Oakham’s ‘hidden gem’. The castle will provide a stunning wedding venue and education, interpretation space.

Conserving Oakham’s Hidden GemConserving Oakham’s Hidden GemConserving Oakham’s Hidden Gem

Project Overview

Works included the Consolidation to the Castle Walls, conservation to over 200 historic horse shoes, re-roofing, improved access to the site including a new build extension for improved toilet and visitor facilities, decoration works, associated Mechanical and Electrical works.


Key Challenges

Restoring the fixtures and fittings – There were extensive specialist furniture and internal woodwork conservation works required to the Courtroom Furniture, fixtures and fittings.

The Courtroom furniture in the Great Hall of Oakham castle was the product of much alteration and over painting. The configuration appeared to include elements of the 19th Century fittings, although much was removed in a remodelling of the interior c.1911.

The existing fitted furniture was almost entirely a pine substrate with the exception of turned wood supports to the arms executed in chestnut. The jury benches, dock and witness stand all had been altered, panelling showed discrepancies where it had been cut down and reworked. At some point the original grained wood surface was over-painted and it has been subject to several paint schemes since that point. Day to day modern use had led to the loss of areas of paint which has exposed lower layers of different colour schemes giving a patchy appearance.

The condition of the courtroom furniture and the state of the painted surface detracted from the presentation of the castle interior. Treatment included making good obvious losses, stabilisation of slits and damages and the removal of later electrical fittings which had become redundant. All replacement wood was matched to the 19thc pine, all replacements, adhesives and finishes were fully reversible. Newer layers of paint were removed exposing as much of the original grained surface as possible and the later layers of paint that were removed were documented for future reference.

Individual Horse Shoe PreservationThere were 230 horse shoes on the wall of the castle that have been left by peers of the realm and members of the royal family; Woodhead took all but one down to give them an individual condition check, and to sensitively clean the horse shoes. Each horse shoe was then photographed in order for Oakham Castle to create a catalogue of the horse shoes to make them accessible for the public.

Work started by looking closely at the horse shoes, and assessing the condition it was in. A condition check is then documented in order to establish what work needs to be done on each shoe. Each individual horse shoe was unique, each in different states of disrepair; generally they were dry cleaned, with some requiring to a wet clean approach (occasionally with white spirit and acetone) depending on what the horse shoes are made of. Woodhead then coated the horseshoe with crystalline wax which will then protect the horse shoes for many years to come.

Key Achievements

  • Hardhat tours held throughout the duration of the project
  • Close collaboration with friends of Oakham Castle
  • 0 Riddor Accidents
  • 100% Time predictability

Client Feedback

“Rutland county council owns this fantastic building; it’s one of the finest examples of a Great Norman Hall in Europe. We’ve got a fantastic project here funded by the heritage lottery fund to restore it to its former glory. What we want to do is open this out so that people can really be aware of it, as it’s been a hidden gem for many, many years”.

Robert Clayton, Head of Culture and Leisure, Rutland County Council