Carlisle Castle; medieval tower keep castle, two lengths of city wall, a 16th century battery, and part of an earlier Roman fort known as Luguvalium


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Carlisle (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
NY 39705 56224

Reasons for Designation

A tower keep castle is a strongly fortified residence in which the keep is the principal defensive feature. The keep may be free-standing or surrounded by a defensive enclosure; they are normally square in shape, although other shapes are known. Internally they have several floors providing accommodation of various types. If the keep has an attached enclosure this will normally be defined by a defensive wall, frequently with an external ditch. Access into the enclosure was provided by a bridge across the ditch, allowing entry via a gatehouse. Additional buildings, including stabling for animals and workshops, may be found within the enclosure. Tower keep castles were built throughout the medieval period, from immediately after the Norman Conquest to the mid- 15th century, with a peak in the middle of the 12th century. A few were constructed on the sites of earlier earthwork castle types but most were new creations. They provided strongly fortified residences for the king or leading families and occur in both urban or rural situations. Tower keep castles are widely dispersed throughout England with a major concentration on the Welsh border. They are rare nationally with only 104 recorded examples. Considerable diversity of form is exhibited with no two examples being exactly alike. With other castle types, they are major medieval monument types which, belonging to the highest levels of society, frequently acted as major administrative centres and formed the foci for developing settlement patterns. Castles generally provide an emotive and evocative link to the past and can provide a valuable educational resource, both with respect to medieval warfare and defence, and to wider aspects of medieval society. All examples retaining significant remains of medieval date are considered to be nationally important.

Medieval town walls were constructed as a fortified defensive enceint, the purpose of which was to protect both the inhabitants of the town within the confines of the walls from attack by armed or marauding forces and to prevent the theft or damage to property within the town by these same forces. At many towns it was the provision of these fortifications, with communal responsibility for manning and maintenance, that hastened the development of the borough. Commonly town walls take the form of substantial ditches and stone or earthen ramparts, and in towns where former Roman or Anglo-Saxon defences survived in reasonable order the original stone walls or earthworks were repaired and utilised. Entrance into the towns was through gateways, frequently defended by gatetowers, where control of those entering or leaving could be exercised and tolls could be extracted for the introduction or removal of goods, livestock, or individuals. Other defensive features on the walls included towers, bastions and artillery batteries. Batteries are fortified structures on which artillery is mounted. In its simplest form a battery is a levelled area or platform situated on a hilltop or terraced into a slope to serve as a gun emplacement. Batteries vary in size or shape and may be partly or wholly enclosed by a bank, and occasionally incorporate one or two outer ditches. More elaborate batteries have stone breastworks and internal rooms with splayed windows from which smaller guns can be fired. Roman forts served as permanent bases for auxiliary units of the Roman army. In outline they were straight sided rectangular enclosures with rounded corners, defined by a single rampart of turf, puddled clay or earth with one or more outer ditches. Although built and used throughout the Roman period, the majority of forts were constructed between the mid-first and mid-second centuries AD. Some were only used for a short time but others were occupied for extended periods on a more or less permanent basis. In the earlier forts timber was used for gateways, towers and breastworks. From the beginning of the second century AD there was a gradual replacement of timber with stone. As one of a small group of Roman military monuments, which are important in representing army strategy and therefore government policy, forts are of particular significance to our understanding of the period. All Roman forts with surviving archaeological potential are considered to be nationally important. Carlisle Castle and the lengths of city wall adjacent to the castle survive well and retain significant remains of upstanding medieval fabric. The castle has seen 800 years of continuous military use and its location close to the Scottish border meant it functioned both as the first line of defence against attacking Scottish armies and as a focal point for English military campaigns against the Scots for many centuries. It provides a significant insight into the constantly changing design and defensive strategies employed in medieval castles. Additionally the castle is located upon the central and northern half of the Roman fort known as Luguvalium. Excavations on the fort's southern defences a short distance south of the castle have found waterlogged and remarkably well preserved timber and stone features associated with the four centuries of Roman occupation. Further evidence of this nature will be preserved beneath the castle.


The monument includes the upstanding and buried remains of Carlisle medieval tower keep castle, two lengths of Carlisle city wall, a 16th century battery, and the buried remains of much of the Roman fort known as Luguvalium, a large part of which underlies the later castle. It is strategically located at the northern end of a steep bluff overlooking the confluence of the Rivers Caldew and Eden at the northernmost tip of Carlisle city centre. The monument includes the majority of a Roman fort which originally occupied this location. A turf and timber Roman fort was established here in the early AD 70s and limited excavations close to the castle have located parts of the west and south defences of this fort including a waterlogged and remarkably well preserved timber gateway. Further excavation has found that in the second century the fort's defences were moved further south and this may imply an enlargement of the fort area. In the third century the fort appears to have been enlarged yet again; limited excavation in Abbey Street and Castle Street found evidence for the defences of a stone fort south of the earlier defences. The Roman fort continued in use until the AD 330s, its fate after this is uncertain. Scattered traces of a number of crudely built stone structures, of unknown purpose but dating to the late fourth century, were built on the site of the fort's barracks. Carlisle Castle occupies the central and northern part of the Roman fort. It includes the upstanding and buried remains of the castle which was occupied from the late 11th century. Towards the eastern end of the castle is the keep, originally entered from a forebuilding on the east of which only the foundations remain. Within the forebuilding a flight of steps gave access to a first floor door, the original entrance. Building of the keep began during the 1120s. It is freestanding and has immensely thick walls. A spine wall runs the full height of the building and divides the keep into two halves, each of which was intended to be defensible. On the ground floor all the walls have traces of the original deeply-splayed Norman round-headed windows. These rooms were used for storage purposes and, at various times, prison cells. On the first floor a passage from the original entrance provides access through a Norman round-headed door into the hall. In the east wall there is a 14th century fireplace and a small room thought to have housed the winding gear for the portcullis. Other rooms built into the walls include one giving internal access to the well. Leading off the other large first floor room is a garderobe, and at the opposite end of the same wall is a spiral staircase to the second floor. Next to the staircase is a partly blocked-up room in the thickness of the wall. On the second floor there are two rooms and a small Norman kitchen with a fireplace and chimney. In the same wall as the kitchen is a staircase to the third floor. In one of the large rooms on the second floor there is a small cell containing late 15th century wall carvings made by prisoners. There is also an oratory, that is a small room set aside for private prayer, where the Scottish King David died in 1153. The third floor is relatively featureless but gives access up a steep wooden staircase to the roof where wide embrasures in the parapet were for cannon. The keep was defended by the inner bailey curtain wall, substantially buttressed on the north east side, and entered now through the inner gatehouse, or Captain's Tower, which was built in the 1160s and projects forward of the wall in order to enable soldiers to fire upon attackers scaling the walls to either side. The gatehouse was altered in the late 14th century and again in the mid-16th century when a wide wall walk carried on a high arch was added for the specific purpose of moving cannon around the walls. Internally the gatehouse has a porter's lodge on the ground floor, two floors above the gate passage which house small rooms, and a portcullis housing together with a small chute built into the wall for the portcullis counterweight. To the north of the gatehouse there are three openings beneath the wall walk; these are 16th century storage rooms. Adjacent to the north east side of the inner bailey are three 19th century buildings, the magazine, militia store, and a building housing the Regimental Museum. Prior to their construction the site of these buildings was occupied by a single range which included royal apartments, the great hall, and a chapel. Medieval fabric of these buildings survives within the museum including fireplaces and traces of 16th century windows. At the south eastern end of the museum there is a 14th century octagonal stair turret which originally provided access between the royal quarters and Queen Mary's Tower, which was situated adjacent to the south east corner of the inner bailey and which was built as the original Norman entrance to the castle. Queen Mary's Tower was blocked when the Captain's Tower was built; still visible are the foundations and part of an archway with a portcullis groove. Next to this is the narrow Dacre postern gate. Adjacent to the south east corner of the keep there is a high stone wall with traces of several fireplaces and ovens. These are remains of the Governor's or Elizabethan range. This range was rebuilt in 1577 and used as quarters for the castle governor. It was demolished in 1812. On the northern side of the keep there is a flight of steps leading to the wall walk. About halfway up these steps there is a well over 20m deep. To the west of the inner bailey lies the large outer bailey. A ditch, now dry but 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 a half moon battery built by Stefan von Haschenperg 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. The outer curtain wall and outer gatehouse was built by Henry II during the 1160s and a waterlogged moat, now dry, in front of the south curtain wall added extra defence. There are two postern gates in the wall and a rectangular tower in the west curtain wall, while at the south west and north west angles batteries were added at a later date. Access across the outer ditch is by a stone bridge. Although the parapets are relatively modern the lower part of the bridge is medieval and it replaced an earlier timber drawbridge which rested on stone walls. The outer gatehouse, also known as de Ireby's Tower, was substantially altered between 1378-83. It functioned both as the residential quarters for the Constable of the castle and 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. Above the service area is a reconstructed solar. Above the passageway is the hall where there are remains of a large hooded fireplace. The portcullis housing can be seen in the window close to the fireplace. A door leads off the hall into the eastern tower of the outer gatehouse and gives access to a solar where the original entrance, now blocked, can be seen as a short passage to the left of a window. Below the solar are two rooms, probably used as a prison, and a garderobe. Adjoining the south west and south east corners of the outer bailey curtain wall are lengths of the medieval Carlisle city walls which linked the castle with the walled medieval town lying immediately to the south. Traces of a turret exist on the length of wall running from the south east corner of the curtain wall, while on the other length the rectangular Tile Tower, originally of 12th century origin but rebuilt at different times from the 15th to the 18th centuries, projects outwards from the line of the wall. In Bitts Park to the north of the castle there is a low earthwork at the foot of the bluff on which the castle stands. Here were located massive outworks built by Haschenperg in 1542. Documentary sources indicate that the first castle to be built on the site was constructed in 1092 by William II (Rufus) as part of the strategy of wresting Carlisle and the border country from Scottish control. This castle was probably an earthwork and timber construction of which all surface traces have now been obliterated. Thirty years later Carlisle's defences were refashioned in stone when Henry I visited the town and gave money in order that it could be `fortified with a castle and towers'. During the next decade the city walls were built and construction began on the stone keep. The latter was completed by the Scottish King David I who occupied the castle from 1135 until his death in 1153. In 1157 Carlisle and its region were returned to England, of which they have been part ever since. In 1163 Henry II enhanced the castle's defences with a stone outer curtain pierced by a new southern gate. He 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 made common cause with the northerners and the city opened its gates to the Scottish army led by Alexander II. The castle was captured and documentary sources dated to 1255-6 report that Maunsell's Tower, William de Ireby's Tower, and the tower over the inner gate had been destroyed and not rebuilt. Carlisle's long sleep during much of the 13th century after Alexander II had withdrawn in 1217 was rudely broken by the war between England and Scotland (the Wars of Independence) 1296-1346. The castle and town became a focal point for English campaigns against the Scots and in 1306-7 the castle became the seat of royal government. Just before his death Edward I had the great hall built in the castle for gatherings of Parliament. Early in Edward II's reign the royal apartments were reshaped and given a tower of their own at the south east angle of the inner bailey, where they were protected by a separate system of defences. Other improvements at this time included recutting of the castle ditches, the provision of new palisades, repair to the great gatehouse, and the mounting of large fixed crossbows on the keep and western postern. After the Wars of Independence Carlisle increased its prominence in regional government. The castle became the headquarters of the Warden of the March and continued to accommodate Cumberland's sheriff. In 1378 work began on the rebuilding of the outer gatehouse to provide suitable lodgings for these magnates. In 1430 funds were again made available for Carlisle's defences and a good deal of this money was spent on cannons. After damage to the castle during the Wars of the Roses Richard of Gloucester had the Tile Tower, a purpose built gun tower, built at the time of his usurpation of the throne as Richard III in 1483-5. However, Carlisle's continued weakness in artillery precipitated a reform of its defences in 1538 when Henry VIII's reign was threatened by a unification of his former allies and enemies who united against the Protestants. Work began in 1540 and the following year came under the direction of Stefan von Haschenperg who modernised the keep, replacing its medieval battlements with gun embrasures. He backed the inner bailey walls to the north and west with ramparts wide enough to carry guns, built the half moon battery, and constructed massive outworks to the north and east of the castle. A century later the castle was refortified during the Civil War by the provision of new batteries at the south west and north west angles of the outer bailey and an increase in the number of guns on the east curtain wall. These measures enabled the castle to withstand an eight month siege by the Scottish army before the occupants surrendered in June 1645. Covenanting Scots patched up the castle before being driven out by Parliamentarians, who in their turn were driven out after the Restoration. The castle again saw military action in 1745 when Charles Edward Stuart took the castle after a short campaign on his march south. He returned in full retreat the following month hotly pursued by the Duke of Cumberland. The Jacobite rearguard hurriedly strengthened the castle but surrendered after a brief bombardment. During the 19th century a number of military buildings were constructed within the castle. An armoury (Arroyo) and Arnhem Blocks were built in the early years of the century. In 1829 a canteen (Gallipoli) was constructed and three years later garrison cells were built. In 1836 a barrack block (Ypres) was added. A military prison was built in 1840, a fives court was provided the following year and two washrooms were added four years later. In 1872-3 the castle became the training depot of the 34th Cumberland and 55th Westmorland Regiments, later amalgamated as the Border Regiment. An officers' mess was built in 1876 and the same year Gallipoli Block was extended. Within the inner bailey the building which now functions as the Regimental Museum was built in the 19th century, and in 1881 a militia store and magazine were constructed. In 1932 Alma Block was built within the outer bailey. In 1959 the depot closed but the castle remains as the headquarters of the King's Own Royal Border Regiment and it houses the Regimental Museum. Carlisle Castle, the associated structures within the curtilage including all the 19th and 20th century buildings, the city walls, the Tile Tower, the outer gatehouse, the inner gatehouse, the curtain walls and towers, the bridge over the moat, and the inner bailey with its keep, ditch and curtain walls are all Listed Grade I. The castle and the Castle Green are in the care of the Secretary of State. A number of features are excluded from the scheduling; these include all 19th and 20th century buildings with the exception of the Regimental Museum which retains significant medieval remains; all modern revetment walls, steps and railings; the surfaces of all roads, pavements, paths, flagged, tarmacked, concreted and cobbled areas; all roadsigns; all electric lighting for illuminating the castle; all lamp posts; a telephone box; all chain posts; the posts for holding entrance barriers; all benches and bins; all English Heritage fixtures and fittings; all cannons and a flagpole; the ground beneath all these features, however, is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

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Books and journals
English Heritage, , Carlisle Castle, (1992)
McCarthy, M R, Summerson, H R, Annis, R G, Carlisle Castle : A Survey And Documentary History, (1990), 172
McCarthy, M R, Summerson, H R, Annis, R G, Carlisle Castle : A Survey And Documentary History, (1990)
McCarthy, M R, Summerson, H R, Annis, R G, Carlisle Castle : A Survey And Documentary History, (1990), 64
McCarthy, M R, Summerson, H R, Annis, R G, Carlisle Castle : A Survey And Documentary History, (1990), 4-6
McCarthy, M R, Summerson, H R, Annis, R G, Carlisle Castle : A Survey And Documentary History, (1990), 64-8
DOE, List of Buildings of Historic & Architectural Interest,


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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