Carlisle Castle


Carlisle castle, Cumbria
Photo © Soloist, 22 May 2005
Carlisle Castle from the ramparts
Photo © Soloist, 22 May 2005

Carlisle Castle is situated in the historic town of Carlisle, Cumbria in England. The castle is over 900 years old and has taken part in many historical episodes in British history. Given the proximity of Carlisle to the border between England and Scotland, it has been the centre of many wars and invasions. Today the castle is managed by English Heritage and is open to the public. The castle is headquarters of the King's Own Royal Border Regiment and a museum to the regiment is within the castle walls.

Carlisle Castle was first built by William II of England, the son of William the Conqueror who invaded England in 1066. At that time, Cumberland (the original name for Cumbria) was still considered a part of Scotland. William II arrived and drove the Scots out of Cumberland to claim the area for England. He built a Norman style motte and bailey castle in Carlisle on the site of an old Roman fort, with construction beginning in 1093. The need for a castle in Carlisle was to keep the northern border of England secured against the threat of invasion from Scotland. In 1122, Henry I of England ordered a stone castle to be constructed on the site. Thus a keep and city walls were constructed.

The act of driving out the Scots from Cumberland led to many attempts to retake the lands. The result of this was that Carlisle and its castle would change hands many times for the next 700 years. The first attempt began during the troubled reign of Stephen of England. The Scottish King, David captured the town, exploiting the domestic troubles of England. It was he who completed the walls and stone keep. However the English seized back the city and castle several years later.

For a few months in 1568, Mary, Queen of Scots was imprisoned within the castle. Later the castle was besieged during the English Civil War during 1644 by Parliament forces which lasted 8 months.

The most important battles for the city of Carlisle and its castle were during the second Jacobite rising against George II of Great Britain in 1745. The forces of Prince Charles Edward Stuart travelled south from Scotland into England reaching as far south as Derby. Carlisle and the castle were seized and fortified by the Jacobites. However they were driven north by the forces of the William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, the son of George II. Carlisle was recaptured and the Jacobites were jailed and then executed. That battle marked the end of the castle's fighting life, as defending the border between England and Scotland was not necessary as both countries were now one in Great Britain. Some parts of the castle were then demolished for use as raw materials. The Army moved into take hold of the castle, with control for maintenance passing to English Heritage.

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