Carlisle Castle: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Carlisle Castle.

  • Carlisle Castle is located in the city of the same name, in Cumbria. The castle is close to the border between England and Scotland, and the remains of the Roman Hadrian’s Wall.

  • The castle is the largest and best preserved of Cumbria’s several castles. It was built on the site of a Roman fort which was home to Roman soldiers between the 1st and 4th centuries.
  • It was built during the 11th century under the command of King William II. His plan was to defend the northern part of England against attacks from Scotland.
  • Because of its important location near the border between England and Scotland, Carlisle Castle changed hands many times during its first few hundred years.
  • During the mid-16th century, King Henry VIII used the castle to store artillery and weapons.
  • Mary, Queen of Scots, was kept prisoner there for several months in 1567.

Carlisle Castle

  • During the second Jacobite rising in 1745, Carlisle Castle was part of some important battles. But once the Jacobites were defeated, the castle was no longer needed to defend the border.
  • In the mid-18th century, the castle was abandoned and parts of it were demolished to use for building materials. The army then took over the castle, and the Territorial Army still uses it today.
  • Within the castle is the Cumbria Museum of Military Life. The museum has displays of uniforms, weapons, medals and other items from several of the area’s historic regiments.
  • The second floor of the main tower has mysterious wall carvings, dating from about 1480. They show people, faces, animals and abstract shapes and patterns.
  • Carlisle Castle is said to be haunted by several ghosts. They include a dead sentry, an old caretaker, two medieval soldiers, and King Stephen whose ghost appears next to a model of the city in a display case.

What next? Discover some more facts about castles by visiting our castles resources page.

Facts About Castles

What is a Castle?

The meaning of the word castle has been used to describe a number of different types of buildings over the years. However, strictly speaking, it should only really be applied to a fortified home of a lord or nobleman. (Fortified means strengthened or designed for defence).

A castle is not the same as a palace as palaces aren’t fortified, and it’s not the same as a fortress because fortresses aren’t always homes.

The first castles were constructed in the 9th century. Many early castles were made from wood. Eventually, wood was replaced by stone, and castles continued to be made using this material until the 16th century.

Castle design changed and evolved over the centuries. As weapon technology and siege techniques developed, so castle designs adapted to counter the new threats. Castles became increasingly complex with elaborate defences in place to withstand whatever the attackers threw at them. Castles built in the late Middle Ages look very different to the motte-and-bailey castles constructed by The Normans.

Although castles varied greatly, they also had lot of features in common. Click here to learn more about some of these key castle features.

Why were castles built?

Castles were built for a two reasons. Firstly, they were constructed to defend those living within their walls, and, to a lesser extent, those living in the surrounding areas. Secondly, they were a symbol of power, strength and wealth. When the Normans invaded England in 1066, they built a series of motte and bailey castles. This wasn’t just a defensive measure – it was a way of exerting their dominance over the population.

What are some of the different types of castles?

As mentioned above, castle design changed over the years. Several different phases of castle design can be identified, ranging from simple motte and bailey castles to complicated concentric castles. Follow this link to learn more about some of different types of castles.

Here is a link to some more of our resources about castles.