Leicester

Oakham Castle defensive walls uncovered

The ancient walls of Oakham Castle Image copyright Rutland County Council
Image caption Oakham Castle's ancient walls have been uncovered by archaeologists from the University of Leicester

Archaeologists have uncovered a castle's defensive walls for the first time in 150 years.

Oakham Castle, in Rutland, dates back to 1180 but only the Great Hall is currently visible.

As part of a £2m restoration, trees and shrubs have been removed from the embankments and the remaining sections of ancient walls uncovered.

Work also includes retiling the hall's roof, plastering its walls and a new toilet block.

Image caption The Great Hall is the only surviving building at Oakham Castle but the surrounding defensive walls have now been uncovered

Oakham Castle was originally built as a manor house and was later heavily fortified with walls, a moat and a drawbridge but by the 16th Century most of the castle was a ruin.

Sections of the defensive curtain wall have survived underneath mounds of earth but are on Historic England's "heritage at risk" register.

Archaeologists from the University of Leicester have removed several tonnes of earth to reveal the remains of the walls.

Image caption Oakham Castle walls

County councillor Roger Begy, culture portfolio holder, said: "Conservation experts have already taken steps to preserve the castle boundaries but this is the first time that we've dug down to expose the walls themselves.

"Once the restoration is complete we hope to have repaired and revealed much more of the defensive curtain wall so that visitors can get a true sense of what this incredible building was like many hundreds of years ago."

Inside the Great Hall, more than 200 commemorative horseshoes given by visiting monarchs and peers and dating back 550 years are being cleaned.

Image copyright Rutland County Council
Image caption When a member of the Royal family or a noble visits Rutland for the first time, they traditionally give a commemorative horseshoe to Oakham Castle

The Heritage Lottery grant is also paying for lime render on the hall's walls, new tiles on the roof, a toilet block and wheelchair access ramps.

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