Halls and horseshoes
There are ruined castles all over England and their walls and towers, fragmentary as they often are, give us quite a good idea of the ways in which medieval fortifications developed. But there’s one part of the castle that has often vanished completely: the main domestic building or hall. In peace time the hall was the heart of the castle. It was a combination of dining room, reception room, office, and even bedroom. It would be built inside the castle walls so didn’t itself have to be heavily fortified.
The capitals are especially beautiful. They are very similar to those in the choir of Canterbury Cathedral, which was remodelled between 1175 and 1185 under two notable masons called William – William of Sens and the man known as William the Englishman, to distinguish him from his French colleague. Perhaps one of the masons working for the Williams was called up to Oakham to design the hall and supervise its construction. The carved capitals, with their mouldings and leaf decorations, caught the light beautifully on the day I visited.