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Carlisle Castle

Coordinates: 54°53′50″N 2°56′31″W / 54.897260°N 2.941936°W / 54.897260; -2.941936
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Carlisle Castle
Carlisle, England
Carlisle Castle
Carlisle Castle is located in Carlisle city centre
Carlisle Castle
Carlisle Castle
Coordinates54°53′50″N 2°56′31″W / 54.897260°N 2.941936°W / 54.897260; -2.941936
Grid referencegrid reference NY396562
Site information
OwnerEnglish Heritage
Open to
the public
Site history

Carlisle Castle is a stone keep medieval fortress located in the city of Carlisle near the ruins of Hadrian's Wall. First built during the reign of William II in 1092[1] and rebuilt in stone under Henry I in 1122, the castle is over 930 years old and has been the scene of many episodes in British history.

This Castle played an extremely important part in the English Scottish wars (the Wars of Scottish Independence). It has been the centre of many wars and invasions. During the Jacobite Rising of 1745–6, Carlisle became the last English fortress to undergo a siege.[2] The castle was listed as a Scheduled Ancient Monument on 7 August 1996.[3]

Today the property is managed by English Heritage and is open to the public. Until 2006, the castle was the administrative headquarters of the former King's Own Royal Border Regiment and until 2019 it was the county headquarters to the Duke of Lancaster's Regiment. A museum to the regiment is within the castle walls.


Carlisle Castle was first built during the reign of William II of England, the son of William the Conqueror. At that time, Cumberland (the original name for north and west Cumbria) was still considered a part of Scotland. William II ordered the construction of a Norman style Motte and Bailey castle in Carlisle on the site of the old Roman fort of Luguvalium, dated by dendrochronology to 72AD, with the castle construction beginning in 1092.[4]

In 1122, Henry I of England ordered a stone castle with towers to be constructed on the site. Thus a keep and city walls were constructed. The existing keep dates from somewhere between 1122 and 1135.[5] The tower keep castle is one of only 104 recorded examples, most being found on the Welsh border.[3]

Entrance to Carlisle Castle. (De Ireby's tower)

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.[6]

On 26 March 1296, John 'The Red' Comyn, since the fourth quarter of 1295 Lord of Annandale, led a Scottish host across the Solway to attack Carlisle. The then governor of the castle, Robert de Brus, deposed Lord of Annandale, successfully withstood the attack, before forcing the raiders to retreat back through Annandale to Sweetheart Abbey.[7] From 22 July to 1 August 1315, Scottish forces laid siege to the Castle. However, the Scottish lacked the resources needed to maintain a siege and withdrew.[5]

From the mid-13th century until the Union of the Crowns of England and Scotland in 1603, Carlisle Castle was the vital headquarters of the Western March, a buffer zone to protect the western portion of the Anglo-Scottish border.[8]

Henry VIII converted the castle for artillery, employing the engineer Stefan von Haschenperg. For a few months in 1567, Mary, Queen of Scots was imprisoned within the castle, in the Warden's Tower.[5] Later, the castle was besieged by the Parliamentary forces for eight months in 1644, during the English Civil War.[5]

An engraving of Carlisle Castle in 1829

The last battles for the city of Carlisle and its castle were during the Jacobite rising of 1745 against George II. 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 William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, the son of George II. Carlisle was recaptured, and the Jacobites were jailed and executed. That battle marked the end of the castle's fighting life, as defending the border between England and Scotland was not necessary with both countries again one in Great Britain.[5]

After 1746, the castle became somewhat neglected, although some minor repairs were undertaken such as that of the drawbridge in 1783.[5]

Some parts of the castle were then demolished for use as raw materials in the 19th century to create more or less what is visible to the visitor today. In 1851 the barracks were occupied by the 33rd Regiment of Foot with 10 officers, 150 soldiers, 2 servants and 25 soldiers' wives and children.[9] The Army moved in to take hold of the castle and in 1873 a system of recruiting areas based on counties was instituted under the Cardwell Reforms and the castle became the depot for the 34th (Cumberland) Regiment of Foot and the 55th (Westmorland) Regiment of Foot.[10] Under the Childers Reforms, the 34th and 55th regiments amalgamated to form the Border Regiment with its depot in the castle in 1881.[10] The castle remained the depot of the Border Regiment until 1959, when the regiment amalgamated with the King's Own Royal Regiment (Lancaster) to form the King's Own Royal Border Regiment.[11] The Army Reserve still use parts of the castle: 8 Platoon C Company 4th Battalion the Duke of Lancaster's Regiment are based within the Burma Block alongside a Multi Cap-Badge detachment of the Army Reserve, including Medics, Engineers, Logisticicians, Intelligence and Infanteers from other Cap Badges.[12]

Carlisle Castle was listed as (List Entry Number: 1014579) in August 1996, by what is now Historic England.[3] The listing for the Scheduled Ancient Monument status includes "the upstanding and buried remains of Carlisle medieval tower keep castle, two lengths of Carlisle city wall, a 16th century battery, and the buried remains of much of the Roman fort known as Luguvalium, a large part of which underlies the later castle."[3]

In 2016, Historic England undertook the first official investigation into the historic graffiti and carvings scattered over the castle site, using photogrammetric techniques to record findings. The ‘Prisoners’ Carvings’ in the Keep, and a medieval door covered in etchings, were laser scanned, photographed and filmed, alongside a Roman altar stone, medieval and postmediaeval graffiti and carvings across the complex, to produce 3D models as a record of their current condition.[13]

The exterior of Carlisle Castle, taken from Irishgate Bridge with the entrance in the centre and the keep behind. The wall on the left is a fragment of the city wall, with Tile Tower part way along.


The Castle houses Cumbria's Museum of Military Life.[14] The museum "relates the history of Cumbria’s County Infantry Regiment, the Border Regiment and the King’s Own Royal Border Regiment and local Militia", according to Visit Cumbria guide.[15]

List of governors[edit]

Governors appointed by:[16]

Post-Restoration of the monarchy[edit]

The post of Governor of Carlisle was abolished in 1838.[30]

Lieutenant-Governors of Carlisle[edit]

Arthurian Legend[edit]

In a 14th century poem, legend has it that Sir Gawain, one of the Knights of the Round Table, stayed at the Castle of Carlisle while on a hunting expedition in the haunted Inglewood Forest. He then slept with the Carle's wife and killed him. This poem has strong parallels with another 14th century poem about Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The story has since been re-adapted many times most recently in films from 1973, 1984 and 2021.[31]

By some accounts, Carlisle Castle is none other than Camelot, the mythical seat of King Arthur's court.[32]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Summerson, H. R. T (1990). Carlisle Castle: A survey and documentary history (1st ed.). English Heritage. ISBN 9781850742715.
  2. ^ "The Keep, Carlisle Castle, Carlisle, Cumbria | Educational Images | Historic England". historicengland.org.uk. Retrieved 23 May 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d Historic England. "Carlisle Castle; medieval tower keep castle, two lengths of city wall, a 16th century battery, and part of an earlier Roman fort known as Luguvalium (1014579)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 23 May 2020.
  4. ^ The Book of Dates; Or, Treasury of Universal Reference. C. Griffin & Company. 1866. p. 196.
  5. ^ a b c d e f "Carlisle Castle". English Heritage. Retrieved 19 September 2019.
  6. ^ "Carlisle Castle and medieval Scots". The History Jar. 25 February 2013. Retrieved 19 September 2019.
  7. ^ "John 'Red' Comyn, Lord of Badenoch", Foghlam Alba Archived 17 May 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ "Map: The Border Lordships 1500–1600". History Scotland. Retrieved 19 September 2019.
  9. ^ 1851 census
  10. ^ a b "Training Depots". Regiments.org. Archived from the original on 10 February 2006. Retrieved 16 October 2016.
  11. ^ "Merged regiments and new brigading—many famous units to lose separate identity". The Times. 25 July 1957.
  12. ^ "Carlisle Castle Barracks". Choose your venue. Retrieved 2 June 2018.
  13. ^ a b "A survey of the historic carvings at Carlisle Castle, Cumbria, using Structure-from-Motion photogrammetry and terrestrial laser scans. Historic England Research Report 53/2016". research.historicengland.org.uk. 2016. Retrieved 23 May 2020.
  14. ^ "Welcome". Cumbria's Museum of Military Life. Retrieved 2 June 2018.
  15. ^ Carlisle Castle
  16. ^ "The history and antiquities of Carlisle: with an account of the castles, gentlemen's seats, and antiquities, in the vicinity", Samuel Jefferson; Whittaker and Co.; First Edition (1838), p119-121
  17. ^ Cavendish, Richard (2007). Kings & queens : the concise guide. Pip Leahy. Cincinnati, O.H.: David & Charles. ISBN 978-0-7153-2376-2. OCLC 154683615.
  18. ^ Etty, Claire. "Tudor revolution?: royal control of the Anglo-Scottish border, 1483–1530" (PDF). Durham University. p. 12. Retrieved 19 September 2019.
  19. ^ Etty, Claire. "Tudor revolution?: royal control of the Anglo-Scottish border, 1483–1530" (PDF). Durham University. p. 269. Retrieved 19 September 2019.
  20. ^ a b c "On this day in 1500 – William Dacre was born". Tudor Chronicles. Retrieved 25 July 2019.
  21. ^ Lodge, Edmund. Illustrations Of British History, Biography, And Manners: In The ..., Volume 1. p. 195.
  22. ^ "SCROPE, Thomas (c.1567–1609), of Carlisle, Cumb". History of Parliament Trust. Retrieved 25 July 2019.
  23. ^ Thomas, Daniel Lleufer (1885–1900). "Stradling, Henry" . Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co.
  24. ^ The British Chronologist: Comprehending Every Material Occurrence ..., Volume 2. p. 222.
  25. ^ The British Chronologist: Comprehending Every Material Occurrence ..., Volume 2. p. 235.
  26. ^ a b "No. 8874". The London Gazette. 8 August 1749. p. 1.
  27. ^ "No. 13460". The London Gazette. 18 September 1792. p. 726.
  28. ^ "No. 18149". The London Gazette. 25 June 1825. p. 1107.
  29. ^ "No. 18802". The London Gazette. 10 May 1831. p. 899.
  30. ^ Accounts and Papers: Seventeen Volumes. UK Government. 1838. p. 58.
  31. ^ N'Duka, Amanda (6 November 2018). "'The Old Man & The Gun' Director David Lowery, A24 Team On Fantasy Epic 'Green Knight'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 14 February 2020.
  32. ^ "The legend of King Arthur: the most significant locations in Wales and England".

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]