Oakham Castle Horseshoes, RutlandThere is a strange and very long-lived custom in Oakham , in Rutland, whereby every peer of the realm making his or her first visit to the town has to present a horseshoe to the castle, formerly to the lord of the manor.
The origin of this quirky forfeit is not clear, but it may well be a very long running joke, the holders of the castle for a hundred years and more from the mid-twelfth century being the Ferrers family, their name a corruption of the word ferrier (English farrier), i.e. someone who shoes horses. Walkelin de Ferrers built Oakham Castle .
Horse shoes appear in Oakham's crest, and far more importantly on the labels of Ruddles beer bottles, their wonderful ale surely Rutland's greatest contribution to British culture. The shoes in the Great Hall of Oakham Castle - there are about 200 on display there - are hung upside down, which local lore says prevents the devil from sitting in them.
The collection is impressive, though over the years most of the ordinary ones have been quietly lost. Some are as wide as the doorways in the hall. The most interesting is surely that given by Edward IV , in about 1470: like many others it is oversize, certainly not of practical origin, and it bears a shield. Quite a few of the shoes are topped by crowns, and the royal connections continue to current times, with Prince Charles paying his forfeit during a visit in 2003. In fact in modern times only visiting members of the royal family are expected to donate a horseshoe.
More British Folk Customs?