You can re-live the history of the olden days in the buildings of each generation that has survived , and that is why the small county town of Oundle, with its ancient buildings, intriguing alleyways, ancient inns and one of the finest churches in the Midlands is so satisfying to look at. Towns like Oundle began as market centres. Then, as trading increased, permanent buildings were erected close by as the dwelling places of the wealthier merchants. When crafts began to develop, the craftsmen banded together into guilds and often built a guildhall which later became the meeting place of other guilds and, finally, the town hall and civic centre of the community. There is no doubt that such a building existed in the past somewhere near the present town hall building which has been restored and was originally built by Jesse Watts-Russell, who was Lord of the Manor.
Some of the many kinds of buildings which reveal almost every style of architecture are the ancient inns, many of them having links with religion, history and literature. In nearly all the medieval towns there will be several old inns, some with inner courtyards and galleries that are still standing to this day. These are a reminder of the time when the stagecoaches drove in through a broad entrance archway and the passengers climbed off the upper deck onto the gallery of the inn to refresch themselves after the journey - which in those days could be dangerous as well as tiring. Oundle has a fine selection of ancient inns, the best known being the Talbot,now a hotel, which is rich in the atmosphere of the past. Formerly known as the Tabret(a form of Taband and sleeveless coat worn by heralds), a hostelry has existed on the site since 638AD when, as a hospitium, it was inhabited by monks who gave food, drink and shelter to pilgrims and other wanderers of the wayside. The front of the building with its transomed windows and ball-capped gables was given a stone facade in 1626 by William Whitwell, with materials that are reputed to have come from the ruins of Fotheringhay Castle. It is also assumed that the magnificent oak staircase and panelling in the residents' lounge also came from the castle at a later date.
There are many other historic buildings remaining in Oundle, including Latham's Hospital in North Street and a pretty set of four almshouses which were founded and endowed in 1611 by Nicholas Latham, rector of Barnwell St.Andrews. More recent is the Queen Victoria Hall in West Street which was built to commemorate the reign of Queen Victoria, the foundation stone being laid on the coronation day of Edward VII on 9th August 1902.
Another architectural gem is the beautiful church of St.Peter, whose tower and spire form a conspicuous landmark for miles around. The architecture is a combination of Early English, Decorated, and perpendicular styles and consists of a chancel with a south chantry, a tower with angle turrets and an octagonal crocketed spire, rising to a height of 208 feet. It may well stand on the site of a former church, founded by St.WIlfred of Northumbria, who built a monastery there in the 7th century and died in 709. There are many beautiful stained glass windows in the church , one with an exceptionally striking creation that represents the chief events in the life of Jesus and was fitted in 1864. The colourful pulpit was erected in the 16th century. There are also many fine memorials and brasses including a 15th century lecturn, reputed to have belonged to Fotheringhay church.
Known in Anglo-Saxon times as undela, or Undalum, Oundle is almost surrounded on three sides by the River Nene.oundle home page
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