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Lyddington Bede house snuggles up to a church in a scenic village of ironstone houses. It was the medieval wing of a palace belonging to the bishops of Lincoln.
By 1600 it was owned by Sir Thomas Cecil, son of Queen Elizabeth I’s chief minister. He converted it into an almshouse for twelve poor bedesmen. They had to be over 30 years of age. Also included were rooms for two women over the age of 45. Other requirements besides age were that they had to be free of leprosy, the French pox, and lunacy.
Visitors can wander through the rooms with their fireplaces and small windows. One of the rooms is recreated as it might have been in late Victorian times.
The bishop’s Great Chamber has survived along with its carved ceiling cornice. There are graphic panels with information. A case displays a Bible and prayer book once in use at Bede. Audio boxes provide listening posts for letters read by the ‘bedesmen’.
In the grounds is a graveyard and a small herb garden.
Take time to visit St Andrew’s church next door, which was associated with Lyddington Bede. The tower and chancel date from 1320-1340 and are in the Decorated style. The nave and aisles were rebuilt in 1475-1500 in the Perpendicular style.
Unusual features include the position of the altar and altar rails, the acoustic jars in the chancel walls, the wall paintings in the nave, the rood loft and screen, the carved coffin lids, and the Watson and Hardy brasses. The church has stained glass windows.
Lyddington Bede House
Bluecoat Lane, Lyddington, Oakham, Rutland
Tel. 0 1572 822 438
Open: April-end Sep, Wed-Sun, 10am-6pm; Oct, Wed-Sun, 10am-5pm
Once a bishop’s retreat; AV tour; converted in 1600 to almshouses; 16th century rooms
English Heritage property; park in roadside; disabled access to ground floor only
Photos and text © by Barbara Ballard