2009 Castles of England Carlisle & Bodiam Castles

Carlisle Castle


Carlisle Castle in Carlisle, Cumbria is over 900 years old and is currently managed by English Heritage. It was first built during the reign of William II of England, son of William the Conqueror who invaded England in 1066.

Cumberland (the original name for North and West Cumbria) was then still a part of Scotland. William II drove the Scots out of Cumberland, claimed it for England and then ordered construction of a Norman style castle in Carlisle which was started in 1093.

There was a need for a castle at Carlise to keep the northern border of England secured against the threat of invasion from Scotland. In 1122 Henry I of England had a stone castle built consisting of a keep and city walls. With the Scots driven out of Cumberland, the castle and Carlisle itself changed hands many times over the next 700 years. In an initial attempt during the troubled reign of Stephen of England, the Scottish King, David took the city and completed the walls and stone keep. Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned in the castle for a few months in 1568. In 1644 the castle was besieged during the English civil war by Parliamentary forces.

The most famous battle at Carlisle Castle took place during the second Jacobite rising against George II of Great Britain in 1745. Prince Edward Stuart’s forces came down south from Scotland into England reaching as far south as Derby. Carlisle and its castle was seized by the Jacobites but they were then driven north by the forces of William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, son of George II. Carlisle was then recaptured with the Jacobites being jailed and executed. This then brought about the end of the castle’s fighting role since defending the border was no longer necessary with England and Scotland united as one country under Great Britain.

In the 19th century some parts of the castle were demolished for use as raw materials. The army then took over the castle until 1959 when control for maintenance passed over to the Department of the Environment, now English Heritage.

Bodiam Castle


Bodiam Castle is located near Robertsbridge in East Sussex and is completely surrounded by a moat with approaches from the north and south. It played a key defense role in the English Peasants Revolt and served as a place for entertaining foreign merchants and dignitaries. It was built in 1385 by Sir Edward Dalyngrigge, a former knight of Edward III, apparently at the request of Richard II in order to protect against an invasion of the French. The castle may have been built more for show than for the purpose of defense since its walls are only a couple of feet thick and much attention was paid to the comfort of the living quarters.

It is rectangular with large round towers at all of the four corners with the castle well, located on one of them and the chapel in another. The main gatehouse is on the centre of the North wall of the quadrangle for protection . There were two long bridges over the moat on both gateways which provided further defence to the main gate by exposing attackers to arrow fire, then gunfire as well as the dropping of scalding water and tar! A ruined range of domestic buildings lies within the bailey and to the right of the postern tower is the castle’s great hall. Parliamentary forces destroyed most of the inside of the castle during the English Civil War.


While the castle was being built, England and France were fighting the Hundred Years’ War which had been going on since 1337. The area where Bodiam was built was under constant  threat of a French invasion but while the castle lies on a stretch of a river that was navigable to Bodiam in medieval times this feared invasion never actually took place.

Sir Edward died around 1395 leaving no children so the castle passed to his brother’s children, including William Dallingridge, before passing to Sir Thomas Lewknow and family in the late 15th century. Throughout the centuries after its construction the castle has passed through a succession of powerful Sussex families, including the Bosvilles and the Levett family. It fell into decay in 1664 until the 20th century when it was acquired and restored by Lord Curzon who then bequeathed it to the National Trust in 1926.

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