The Lost Fort

My Travel and History Blog, Focussing mostly on Roman and Mediaeval Times


7 Jul 2007
  Carlisle Castle - A Brief History

The site at the British west coast, known first as Luguvallium and part of the Hadrian's Wall defenses, had seen a sequence of Roman forts from the 1st to 4th centuries AD, and then the turbulent times when Romano-Britains, Anglo-Saxons, Picts, Scots and Vikings strove for power; at that time the place was known as Caer Ligualid.

The next traceable step in the history of fortifications took place in 1092. In the wake of the Norman conquest, William Rufus, son of William the Conqueror, raised a castle on the old Roman site, a Norman style motte and bailey construction made of timber. He had pushed the Scottish frontier north of Carlisle and needed a strong border fortification. During the following century it was refortified in stone by Henry I. The 12th-century stone keep is the oldest surviving structure in the castle, which was frequently 'updated' in the centuries to follow. For example, the rounded, shot-deflecting battlements of the keep were added when Henry VIII adapted the castle for artillery in 1540.

Carlisle Castle

King David of Scotland captured Carlisle Castle in 1135. He used the unruly times of the anarchy caused by the struggles between Stephen and Maud to attempt and add Northumbria (he was Earl of Northumberland) to Scotland. He finished the stone keep begun by Henry I. David died at Carlise in 1153, and a year later Henry II ascended to the English throne and put an end to the internal strife for good.

David's successor was Malcolm IV 'the Maiden' and no match for Henry, who promptly recaptured Carlisle in 1157 and put and end to Scottish ambitions towards Northumbria as well, or so he thought. He added a second curtain wall and the outer gatehouse to the castle.

Carlisle Castle, Keep

Malcolm swore an oath of fealty for Northumberland to King Henry, thus further muddling up an already complicated pattern, because Malcom was king in his own right of Scotland and vassal of Henry II for Northumberland, while Henry II, King of England in his own right, was vassal of the King of France for the duchy of Normandy, and the possessions of his wife Eleanore, Aquitaine and Poitou. As Duke of Normandy, he was also liegelord to the Duke of Brittany, a relation not much liked by the ruling house of Brittany.

As Henry's vassal, Malcolm accompanied him on the siege of Toulouse in southern France, where Henry fished in the waters of the French king and proved a very disobedient vassal in his turn. Malcolm, on the other side, much as he called himself King of Scotland, had a bunch of Northmen sitting in Caithness and a bunch of Gaelic clans on the westcoast who didn't accept him as king; the latter were led by Somarled or Somhairle of Argyll. Somarled got killed in the battle of Renfrew and the west was a bit calmer for some time after that, but since Malcolm died shortly thereafter, it was of use only to his brother William 'the Lion' who succeeded him.

Outer Gatehouse

William was a very different character and a lot less willing than Malcolm to swear oaths to Henry, or leave one of the biggest castles in his earldom of Northumberland to him, claiming Northumbria to be part of Scotland.

Henry II over time managed to estrange his wife and antagonise his older sons - or maybe they were simply born a dysfunctional lot - so in 1173, William took his chance with Henry's eldest son, another Henry, who rebelled against daddy, and invaded Northumbria, laying siege to Carlisle while Henry the Son was busy causing troubles in the south.

The garrison of Carlisle was led by Robert de Vaux, who, confronted with diminishing supplies, unwilling soldiers and the aspect of being hanged outside the castle in chains (doesn't that remind us of someone? lol) considered surrender, but William's Scottish army left before they achieved their goal. I wonder if there were fresh problems on the westcoast and/or in Caithness that William abandoned the siege, because he laid siege to Alnwick castle only a few months later. But maybe his army was understrength then.

Battlements on the outer curtain wall

In 1174, William was captured at Alnwick, and any Scottish ambitions to Northumbria ended with an oath of fealty not only for the earldom but for Scotland itself that King William had to swear to King Henry II; result of the treaty of Falaise. Yes, that's another Norman castle, this time in Normandy proper. Those kings got around a lot. (It's also the seat of Roderic's uncle in Kings and Rebels because I'm going to use the conflict between William and Henry as model for the conflict between Villembaud and Robert.)

Henry came once more to Carlisle in 1186 and ordered a room for his private use to be established in the castle. He obviously liked the place. Or maybe he liked the idea that his presence so near to Scotland would have riled William and made him uneasy.

Inner gatehouse with inner curtain wall, and keep in the background

After Henry's death in 1189, Carlisle didn't see a king for a decade because Richard was off to the Holy Land, Germany, and other places more southerly, but John visited Carlisle several times. He wasn't very welcome, because he always raised the taxes. William's son Allexander II joined the rebellious barons in 1216, and it was his men who undermined the outer curtain and managed to win the inner gate, damaging the gatehouse in the process. There was hand to hand fighting in the keep itself until the castle finally fell to the rebels.

But Alexander was not able to earn any lasting fruits from this, and the relationship between Scotland and England remained strained and unruly. After some time of peace, Carlisle Castle came back into the focus of politics and war during the reign of the three Edwards. Edward I - who ranks high on the Top Ten list of most unpopular persons in Scotland - used the succession quarrels after the death of Alexander III to claim the hegemony over Scotland. Of course, the Scots, or at least a number of important Scottish nobles with claims of their own, told him to slink off.

Edward I did the opposite and declared war upon Scotland. As answer, the Scots launched a surprise attack on Carlisle in May 1296. They didn't succeed to conquer the place, though, and neither did they in the second attempt after the Scottish victory at Stirling Bridge. But it brought the importance of Carlisle for the English back to attention.

Western postern on the battlements, facing the tower of the inner gate

Edward I used the castle as assembling point and storage stronghold, locked prisoners up in the keep, and spent some time in the castle himself. Around the time parliament met at Carlisle in 1306, Edward had a great hall for the king's household built in the inner bailey. He also added additional fortifications, re-cut the moats (not himself, of course, and I don't think he let his son do it much as Edward II loved digging ditches) and placed some springalds, giant crossbows, on the keep and western postern. The remains of the great hall and the king's appartements have been replaced by some smaller buildings in the 19th century.

Thus, Edward I left his son a well fortified castle, and Edward II used it as base for his Scottish war as well. After But he lost the battle of Bannockburn in 1314 and returned to England, Robert the Bruce lost no time to try and get his hands on Carlisle. The town held a garrison of 500 men commanded by Andrew de Harclay. Harclay seemed to have been a skilled commander, but it was the weather that caused the final result. It was a British summer like the one last year, rain, and rain, and more rain. When the Scots tried to dig mines under the castle walls, they filled with water, the assault towers got stuck in the mud, any material to fill the ditches swam away, and so even the Scots, as used to rainy summers as the English, had enough and retreated in early August 1315.

View from the battlements into the inner bailey

With the bad press Ed II had at that time, the unsuccessful siege of Carlisle was proclaimed a victory, and Harclay earned some very wet laurels. *grin* He started a military career and was created Earl of Carlisle after he defeated the rebel Thomas of Lancaster in the battle of Boroughbridge in 1322 (remember the unhappy fate of Roger de Clifford in that context). But Harclay had not much time to enjoy his new position. He got entangled in border politics with the Scots and less than a year later was summoned to court to answer charges of conspiracy. He failed to appear and King Edward sent a party of knights to arrest him. They caught Harclay in his room in the castle, and though proclaiming his innocence, Andrew de Harclay suffered the same traitor's death as Lancaster; he was hanged, drawn and quatered on Carlisle's Gallows Hill.

Ironically, the very truce de Harclay had conspired for, was concluded between Edward II and the Scots only three months later. Quod licet Iovi ....

Edward II was disposed and murdered in 1327, and a few years later his son, Edward III, made it clear to his mother that he'd reign without her and Roger de Mortimer now, thank you very much. Mortimer lost his head, while Isabella was retired with a handsome apanage. Edward III was a better general than is father and won most of his battles, among them Crécy and indirectly, through William la Zouche Archbishop of York, St. Neville's Cross, both in 1346. Edward III last visited Carlisle Castle in 1335. After St. Neville's Cross, he and his successors concentrated on their interests in France. That time would later be called the Hundred Years War.

View across inner bailey towards the battlements on the curtain wall

The king of the Scots at that time was David II. He spent several years in France because his nobles didn't like him (did Scottish nobles ever like their king?). A few years after his return, Philippe IV of France, fearing an English invasion, asked David under the conditions of the Auld Alliance to invade England in his turn, to keep them busy in the north.

David had all the military advantages on his side, but he blundered around in the borderlands and finally managed to take up a strategically bad position at St. Neville's Cross. After the English longbowmen lured the Scottish army to attack and thus made it split into smaller groups because of the terrain, the Scots proved an easy deal for the English. Several Scottish leaders fled and David got captured. He was brought to Calais, forced into negotiations with King Edward III and kept prisoner in various English castles until 1357 (Treaty of Berwick). He promised to pay a ransom which he never managed to scrape out of the impoverished land.

Another view of Carlisle Castle

Situated so close to the Scottish border, Carlisle Castle saw lots of action in later years as well. Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned within the castle for a few months in 1568, and it was besieged by the Parliamentary forces during the English Civil War in 1644. Important battles for the city of Carlisle and its castle took place during the second Jacobite rising against George II of Great Britain in 1745. Carlisle and the castle were seized by the Jacobites, but they were driven north by the forces of the Duke of Cumberland. Carlisle was recaptured and the Jacobites were jailed and then executed.
 
Comments:
Ooh, thank you for this! I'll edit my post and put in a link.

The castle really has a fascinating history, doesn't it? Do you have any more info on the captives held there by the future Richard III?
 
Not much, Alianore. Richard III had strong connections with Carlisle in his function as Warden of the West, and those carvings in a room in the keep are said to have been made by prisoners. A booklet about Carlise Castle I forgot I bought (I bought too many of the dang things, lol) has some closeups of the carvings, but no more information.

I have more pics of the castle, so there will be more posts.
 
Impressive castle, and awesome picture. Thanks for sharing the picture (and the information *g*).
 
Gabriele

Great photo.

But is is like JUST ONE chocolate chip cooky.
 
Wow. What an amazing construction. One day I will have to visit the British isles and see all of these castles in the flesh :)
 
Thank you, Ann.

Hank,
I added a second pic so you don't have to go to sleep hungry. :) And there will be more.

Meryl,
the castle is HUGE. And I've seen a few in my life to have comparison.
 
Loved the post!

I think the future Richard III led a Scottish campaign for his brother around 1480, so I guess that would be where the captives came from.
 
Hm, sounds like the setting for a handsome laird who falls in love with Richard's daughter or some other violation of history. *grin*
 
Oh, I can just see it now! Or maybe the laird's daughter could fall in love with Richard III. There could be a scene where Richard III has to dress in a kilt . . .
 
Ohh, if he looked like the figure in the little Richard III musem in York, that would be nice.
 
1600 years as a major fortification isn't bad, is it? The Roman fortifications were important during the 7th century, and clearly a source of a certain amount of local pride. Bede records a story of the queen of Northumbria and St Cuthbert being given an antiquarian tour of the fortifications and a working Roman fountain by the local dignitaries in 685 AD. (Which implies the aqueduct was still working, nearly 300 years after the conventional 'end of Roman Britain'). Kathleen Herbert makes Carlisle a thriving city and the capital of the highly civilised Urien Rheged in the 580s in her novel Bride of the Spear .
 
How nice to have a specialist of the Times In Between onboard. :)

That's a long survival rate for Roman fortifications; in the eastern part they had been reused to build other things at that point.

Is that novel worth reading?
 
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The Lost Fort is a travel and history blog based on my journeys in Germany, the UK, Scandinavia, the Baltic Countries, and central Europe. It includes virtual town and castle tours with a focus on history, museum visits, hiking tours, and essays on Roman and Mediaeval history, illustrated with my own photos.


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Location: Goettingen, Germany

I'm a blogger from Germany with a MA in Literature and History, interested in everything Roman and Mediaeval, avid reader and sometimes writer, opera enthusiast, traveller with a liking for foreign languages and odd rocks, photographer, and tea aficionado. And an old-fashioned blogger who still hasn't got an Instagram account.
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A Baltic Sea Cruise

The Curonian Spit in Lithuania
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Mediaeval History

General Essays

by Country
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Mediaeval Art
The Choir Screen in the Cathedral of Mainz
The Gospels of Heinrich the Lion
The Hunting Frieze in Königslutter Cathedral
Mediaeval Monster Carvings
The Viking Treasure of Hiddensee

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The History of Feudalism
The Beginnings
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The privilege of the deditio

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The History of the Hanseatic League
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Goods and Trade
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The Siege of Vilnius 1390

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Geneaology

List of Mediaeval German Emperors
Anglo-German Marriage Connections

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King Heinrich IV

Staufen against Welfen
Emperor Otto IV

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House Welfen
Heinrich the Lion's Ancestors
The Dukes of Braunschweig-Grubenhagen
Otto the Quarrelsome of Braunschweig-Göttingen

The Landgraves of Thuringia
The Ludowing Landgraves of Thuringia
Albrecht II and Friedrich I of Thuringia

Dukes and Princes of other Families
Duke Otto of Northeim
Prince Wilhelm Malte of Putbus

Counts and Local Lords
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The Counts of Reichenbach
The Counts of Winzenburg

Feuds and Rebellions

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Local Feuds
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The Star Wars


England

Kings of England

House Plantagenet
Richard Lionheart in Speyer
King Henry IV's Lithuanian Crusade

Normans, Britons, Angevins

Great Noble Houses
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Contested Borders

Northumbria
King Stephen's Troubles with King David of Scots


Scotland

Kings of Scots

House Dunkeld
Malcolm III and Northumbria
Struggle for the Throne: Malcolm III to David I
King David and the Civil War, Part 1
King David and the Civil War, Part 2

Houses Bruce and Stewart
The Early Stewart Kings

Local Troubles

Clan Feuds
MacLeans and MacDonalds
A Scottish Wedding

Scotland and England

The Wars of Independence
Alexander of Argyll
The Fight for Stirling Castle


Wales

Welsh Princes

The Princes of Gwynedd
The Rise of House Aberffraw

Wales and England

A History of Rebellion
Llywellyn ap Gruffudd to Owain Glyn Dŵr


Denmark

Kings of Denmark

House of Knýtlinga
Harald Bluetooth's Flight to Pomerania

Danish Rule in the Baltic Sea

The Duchy of Estonia
Danish Kings and German Sword Brothers


Norway

Kings of Norway

Foreign Relations
King Eirik's Scottish Marriages
King Håkon V's Swedish Politics
Beginnings of the Kalmar Union

Feuds and Rebellions

Rebels
Alv Erlingsson of Tønsberg


Sweden

Troubles and Alliances

Scandinavian Unity
Beginnings of the Kalmar Union


Livonia
(Latvia and Estonia)

Contested Territories

Livonian Towns
The History of Mediaeval Riga
The History of Mediaeval Tallinn


Lithuania

Lithuanian Princes

The Geminid Dynasty
Troublesome Cousins - Jogaila and Vytautas

The Northern Crusades

The Wars in Lithuania
The Siege of Vilnius 1390


Poland

Royal Dynasties

The Jagiełłonian Kings
Władysław Jagiełło and the Polish-Lithuanian Union

The Northern Crusades

The Conquest of Pomerania / Prussia
The Conquest of Danzig


Bohemia

Royal Dynasties

The Bohemian Kings of House Luxembourg
King Sigismund and the Hussite Wars


Luxembourg

House Luxembourg
King Sigismund


Flanders

More to come


Roman History

The Romans at War

Forts and Fortifications

The German Limes
The Cavalry Fort Aalen
Limes Fort Osterburken
Limes Fort Saalburg

The Hadrian's Wall
Introduction
The Fort at Segedunum / Wallsend

Border Life
Exercise Halls
Mile Castles and Watch Towers
Soldiers' Living Quarters
Cavalry Barracks

Campaigns and Battles

Maps
The Romans in Germania

The Pre-Varus Invasion in Germania
Roman Camp Hedemünden
New Finds in 2008

The Battle of the Teutoburg Forest
Museum Park at Kalkriese

The Battle at the Harzhorn
Introduction

The Batavian Rebellion
A Short Introduction

Roman Militaria

Armour
Early Imperial Helmets
Late Roman Helmets
The Negau B Helmet

Weapons
Weapon Finds at Hedemünden
The pilum
Daggers
Swords

Other Equipment
Roman Saddles


Famous Romans

The Late Empire

Alaric
The Legend of Alaric's Burial


Roman Life and Religion

Religion and Public Life

Religion
Curse Tablets and Good Luck Charms
Isis Worship
Memorial Stones
The Mithras Cult

Public Life
Roman Transport: Barges
Roman Transport: Amphorae and Barrels
Roman Water Supply

Architecture
Roman Public Baths

Domestic Life

Roman villae
Villa Urbana Longuich
Villa Rustica Wachenheim

Everyday Life
Bathing Habits
Children's Toys
Face Pots


Other Times

Neolithicum to Iron Age

Germany

Development of Civilisation
European Bread Museum, Ebergötzen
The Hutewald Project in the Solling
Open Air Museum Oerlinghausen

Neolithic Remains
Stone Burials of the Funnelbeaker Culture
The Necropolis of Oldendorf

Bronze Age / Iron Age
The Nydam Ship

Scotland

Neolithic Orkney
The Neolithic Landscape of Orkney
Ring of Brodgar
Skara Brae
Life in Skara Brae

Bronze Age / Iron Age
Clava Cairns
The Brochs of Gurness and Midhowe - Their Function in Iron Age Society

Scandinavia

Bronze / Iron Age
The Ship Setting of Gnisvärd / Gotland


Post-Mediaeval History

Explorers and Discoveries

Explorers
Fram Expedition to the North Pole
Fram Expedition to the South Pole

Discoveries
Otto von Guericke and the Magdeburg Hemispheres
Raising a Wreck, Now and Then (Vasa Museum in Stockholm)


History and Literature

Germany

The Weimar Classicism
Introduction


Geology

Geological Landscapes: Germany

Baltic Sea Coast
Chalk Cliffs on Rugia
Flint Fields on Rugia

Harz Mountains
Bode Valley and Rosstrappe Cliff
The 'Hübichenstein' Rock
Karst Formations in Southern Harz
The Lonau Falls
The Rhume Springs
Sandstone Formations: Daneil's Cave
Sandstone Formations: Devil's Wall
Sandstone Formations: The Klus Rock

Meissner / Kaufunger Wald
Blue Dome near Eschwege
Diabase and Basalt Formations
Karst Formations
Salt Springs at the Werra

Solling-Vogler
Raised Bog Mecklenbruch
Hannover Cliffs

Geological Landscapes: Great Britain

The Shores of Scotland
Staffa

Geological Landscapes: Baltic Sea

Lithuania
Geology of the Curonian Spit

Fossils and Other Odd Rocks

Fossilized Ammonites
The Loket Meteorite (Czechia)



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