Carlisle Castle is located very near to the city centre of Carlisle. With a history spanning over 900 years, the castle has seen very many historic events. Built during the reign of William II (William the Conquerer’s son – 1087 – 1100), the castle occupies the site of a previous Roman fort.
Up until the reign of William II, Cumberland (now Cumbria) was considered to be part of Scotland. In the early 1090s, William drove the Scottish out of Cumberland and established English (Norman) control over the area by building fortifications, such as the castle at Carlisle.
Over the coming centuries the castle at Carlisle would change hands many times as the English and Scottish fought for control of Cumberland. The first recorded attempt of the Scottish trying to re-assert control came during the Anarchy.
The castle at Carlisle would have originally been built out of wood and was most likely a ringwork, but was later replaced in stone on the order of Henry I between 1122 and 1135, though there has been some debate if the castle was actually completed by King David I of Scotland when his forces retook the castle in 1135. The present stone keep on the site dates from this period.
Carlisle Castle was converted on the order of Herny VIII to accommodate artillery. In 1567, Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned at the castle for a number of months. The castle would go on to be besieged for eight months during the English Civil War (1640-1649) by Parliamentarian forces.
The effective military life of the castle came to an end in 1745 during the Second Jacobite Rising. The Scottish took the castle, leaving a garrison to man it. When the English forced the Scottish forces to retreat, they recaptured the castle and Carlisle and imprisoned or executed the Scottish garrison.
After 1746 the castle fell into a state of disrepair, though some minor repairs were made at the end of the 18th Century. After this, the Army took possession of the castle and used it up as a base for a regiment up until 1959, though some of the castle site is still used by the Army Reserve to this day.
The site the castle occupies is roughly 4 acres in extent, being roughly triangular in shape. The castle consists of a stone keep, outer and inner wards which are divided by a half-moon battery, breastwork and and inner ditch to provide an additional line of defence and large curtain walls.
The castle is now in public ownership and is managed by English Heritage. You can visit the castle by paying a small fee.