Minor British Institutions: The county of Rutland

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The Independent Online

Is it appropriate that the county arms and flag of Rutland feature an upturned horseshoe? The county's luck certainly ran out in 1974, a year of shame when many of the nation's idiosyncratic counties were welded together.

We lost the Yorkshire Ridings that year, for example, but nowhere was the loss felt more grievously than in Rutland, at 150 square miles the smallest proper county.

Eight hundred years of history were extinguished overnight. Subsumed, along with the City of Leicester, into an amorphous and uncaring new greater Leicestershire, the resentments never ended.

The people of Oakham, Uppingham, Whissendene, Barrowden, Edith Weston and other ancient settlements refused to remove "Rutland" from their addresses, and there were other minor acts of defiance. Could 35,000 people change the world? Yes, they could!

The mouse roared, and in 1997 Rutland regained its county status and its own postcode (LE15). "Multum in parvo", or "Much in little", as they say in Rutland.