December 2, 2023

Carlisle Castle & Castle Rising

Carlisle Castle

Carlisle is the great fortress city at the west end of the Scottish Border. Roman Luguvallium grew up in the shadow of Hadrian’s Wall and some vestige of the town remained when William II captured it in 1092. William repopulated Carlisle with Anglo-Norman settlers and founded the great royal castle on a bluff above the River Eden.

Carlisle Castle is an impressive reminder of centuries of strife. It sits grim and squat at the north end of the old walled city, still a medieval stronghold but much patched up after the many batterings it has endured. The layout is roughly triangular, comprising two walled baileys but no motte. The curtain walls are basically Norman. Two flanking towers survive on the west side but the walls are otherwise quite plain. During the Civil War the Scot’s tore down the cathedral nave to repair the damage wrought during the siege.

The outer gatehouse facing the city, known as Ireby’s Tower, dates from Henry III’s reign but is not a great example of military planning. It consists of two square blocks curiosly out of alignment with each other, and a small projection between them containing the entrance. Gloomy barracks now occupy the outer bailey – a reminder of the continuous military presence here down to modern times.

In front of the inner gatehouse is one of Henry VIII’s additions – a semi-circular gun battery with a covered fighting gallery facing the ditch. During the invasion scare of the 1540s, Henry thickened the inner curtain to support artillery. The wide parapet is partly carried on arcades and there is a ramp for wheeling up cannon. Within the inner bailey rises a great keep, which is virtually a cube. The keep is freestanding though very close to the curtain. As was originally conceived, each of its four stories contains a single large room.

Castle Rising

The village, four miles northeast of King’s Kynnm takes its name from the Norman castle which dominates it. William d’Albini, Earl of Sussex, started building here about 1139. One of the foremost barons of his time, he was loyal to King Stephen but consolidated his own power during the Anarchy.

Castle Rising’s earthworks are prodigious, comprising an oval ring work and a smaller bailey in front. Such is the height of the ring work bank that is almost conceals the splendid keep within. This keep is the sole building of any substance left, though there was once a well-appointed group of residential buildings alongside. The only other masonry remains are the truncated gate tower and the ruin of an early Norman church. Set in a gap in the ring work bank, the gate tower is contemporary, with the keep, but the surviving fragment of wall is later medieval. The church originally served the village. William d’Albini buried it in his rampart and built the beautiful church that still stands nearby in recompense.

The keep stands virtually intact, though long deprived of its roof and floors, except in the fore building tower. It is a rectangular structure that is considerably longer than it is high-in other words, a hall keep, and the best example of this rare type.

The ground floor was just an under-croft for storage, the principal accommodation lying on the floor above. Owing to its importance, the first floor rises through two stages, giving the illusion of three stories in all. The keep is divided longitudinally by a cross wall, thus separating the hall from the solar on the first floor. Stone vaults support a kitchen and pantry at one end of the hall, and another vault supports a chapel beyond the solar. A gallery runs along one wall at hall level.