Friday, 12 October 2012

Carlisle Castle

In 1092 William II (Rufus) built his earth and timber fort as part of the strategy of wresting Carlisle and the border country from Scottish control. Thirty years later Henry I visited the town and paid for a 'fortified castle and towers'. During the next decade the city walls were built and construction began on the stone keep.
Part of the Outer Gatehouse defences
The keep was completed by the Scottish King David I who occupied the castle from 1135 until his death in 1153. In 1157 Carlisle came under English control once more, and has stayed there ever since. In 1163 Henry II built a stone outer curtain pierced by a new southern gate.* A waterlogged moat in front of the south curtain wall added extra defence. Access across the ditch was by a stone bridge. The parapets are modern, but the lower part of the bridge is medieval. An earlier timber drawbridge rested on stone walls.  Henry visited the castle again in 1186 when he commissioned a new chamber for his personal use. In 1216 King John's barons rose against him, Carlisle sided with the northerners and the city welcomed the Scottish army led by Alexander II. The castle was captured and Maunsell's Tower, William de Ireby's Tower, and the tower over the inner gate were destroyed and not rebuilt.
*The outer gatehouse was also known as de Ireby's Tower. The Gatehouse was substantially altered between 1378-83. Residential quarters for the Constable of the castle were here,  as a key administrative, financial and judicial centre for the county. In the west tower of the outer gatehouse there is an anteroom - now used as the ticket office and sales area - the steward's room with a garderobe, a gaoler's room with a garderobe, and a windowless dungeon. A mural stair leads to the first floor where there is a kitchen, with a door leading to the barbican walk, and a service area. The reconstructed solar lies above the service area. Above the passageway is the hall where there are remains of a large hooded fireplace.
The hall
The portcullis housing can be seen in the wall recess. Below the solar are two rooms, probably used as a prison, and a garderobe. The castle became the headquarters of the Warden of the March and also continued to accommodate Cumberland's sheriff. In 1378 work began on the rebuilding of the outer gatehouse to provide suitable lodgings for these magnates. So when my characters are inhabiting the Gatehouse, the room s were already 166 years old! In 1430 funds were again made available for Carlisle's defences and a good deal of this money was spent on cannons.
In 1538  Henry VIII's reign was under threat from Catholic Europe, and defences were required against Scotland, always the backdoor into England. Work on Carlisle began in 1540. In 1541 Stefan von Haschenperg replacing the keep's medieval battlements with gun embrasures. He backed the inner bailey walls to the north and west with ramparts wide enough to carry guns, and built the half-moon battery.
To the west of the inner bailey lies the large outer bailey. A ditch, originally waterlogged, separates the two baileys and provided additional defence for the inner bailey. Protruding into this ditch immediately in front of the inner gatehouse is the half-moon battery built in 1542. It comprised a double row of guns; at ground level cannon fire would have raked the outer bailey, whilst below a number of square openings allowed defenders to fire on assailants attempting to cross the ditch. So sir Thomas Wharton, Matho and Meg had all better know about these things!

1 comment:

BlackTulip said...

Wow ! Fantastic visit ... thanks :)