‘Like a dwarf actor, Rutland is not celebrated because of the littleness of its greatness, but because of the greatness of its littleness.’
The area has some of the features you would expect to see in a real county – hedges, roads, even one or two fields – but because it is so inescapably travel-sized, it can be hard to believe it could really ever have been in the same club as a proper grown-up places like, say, Durham. Rutland’s county status was revoked in the 1970s, with its detractors arguing that given its lack of cities, motorways, rail connections to major cities, bowling alleys, phone connections, car parks, betting shops, litter, cafes or people, there was little justification for grouping Rutland in with such geographical giants as Bedfordshire.
The area has seen some recent development, with Rutland finally acquiring its long-coveted miniature railway. Although the big trains from London don’t actually stop anywhere in the county yet, residents are just pleased to see it merrily toot by, an event which generally makes the local news. Rutland’s economy has also been transformed by the opening of its very first shop.
Unfortunately, Rutland diminutive size seems destined to hold it back forever, patronised and condescended to by jumbo counties. Surrounded by bigger boys like Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire, poor little Rutland is left flapping weakly at thin air as they throw around Rutland’s economic opportunities, infrastructure connections and lunchbox high above its head.
- AREA COMPARATIVE – Bath mat
- POPULATION – According to the 2005 Census, ‘some’ people
- HAZARDS – Dogs, dog hair, dog shit, dog owners
- MOTTO – ‘Parvo In Parvo’ (Little in Little)
- LAND USE – Rutland Water (42%), Rutland Land (58%)
- PSYCHOLOGICAL DISORDERS – Small man syndrome
- ALCOHOLISM – Low, with wine only comes in those tiny airplane bottles
- MEDIA – Active investigative journalists committed to getting the latest scoop on the weather
1410 − Henry IV rides into Rutland to discover untouched Stone Age communities still living peacefully.
17th Century – Roundhead armies raiding rural settlements following the Battle of Naseby accidentally take control of Rutland after walking ten minutes longer than they originally planned.
1678 – After fifteen Catholics are executed for treason against the Crown, Popish Plot agitator Titus Oates realises it may now be too late to reveal how the entire story had been fabricated for a secret camera Channel 4 comedy show.
1836 – As part of Poor Law reforms, a wall is put up around the circumference of Rutland to accommodate the area’s paupers as it is cheaper than building a new workhouse.
1943 – The Eyebrook Reservoir at Uppingham is used by Lancaster Bomber aircraft flying as the final practice run for the Dambusters mission, where pilots flew through a trench while evading enemy fire and fired a proton torpedo at a precise distance from the target in order to destroy the Death Star.
1974 – Rutland is stripped of county status and forced to hand in its membership card and ceremonial sash.
2009 – A major riot takes place at Ashwell prison after prisoners are told by chuckling officers that the doors had actually been unlocked all the time.
Did You Know?
William of Ockham famously popularised the maxim ‘The simplest explanation is always the best’ – Occam’s Razor – after he finally realised the reason he couldn’t get a wife was because he looked like a corpse’s shoe.
Traditionally, peers and members of royalty who visit or pass through Oakham must pay the town a forfeit in the form of a horseshoe. To the frustration of residents, this unique custom has been enforced for over 500 years without anyone ever taking the hint to buy them the horse as well.
Titus Oates, the architect behind a concocted Catholic conspiracy to kill King Charles I, was born in Oakham. Before starting the plot he was appointed as a Navy chaplain and soon accused of buggery, only avoiding execution after it was accepted that God can move in mysterious and rhythmic ways.
The book Eminent Uppinghamians by Bryan Matthews, a former Second Master of the Rutland public school, was voted Most Ridiculous Book of the Year by The Sunday Times in 1986, after it was found to contain a short entry on Jonathan Agnew and 218 blank pages.
The largest reservoir in England by surface area, Rutland Water provides a reserve supply of water in the driest and most densely populated quarter of the country. The lake was also popular for watersports until an Anglian Water customer ran a bath only to find a windsurfer in it.