Carisbrooke Castle is a historic motte-and-bailey castle located in the village of Carisbrooke (near Newport), Isle of Wight, England. The may have been occupied in pre-Roman times. A ruined wall suggests that there was a building there in late Roman times. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle mentions that Wihtgar, cousin of King Cynric of Wessex, died in AD 544, and was buried there. The Jutes may have taken over the fort by the late 7th century. An Anglo-Saxon stronghold occupied the site during the 8th century. Around 1000, a wall was built around the hill as a defence against Viking raids.

From 1100 the castle remained in the possession of Richard de Redvers' family, and over the next two centuries his descendants improved the castle with stone walls, towers and a keep. In 1293, Countess Isabella de Fortibus, the last Redvers resident, sold the castle to Edward I. From then on, its governance was entrusted to wardens as representatives of the crown.

In 1377, in the reign of Richard II the castle was unsuccessfully attacked by the French. It was reputedly saved by local hero Peter de Heyno who shot the French commander. Anthony Woodville, Lord Scales, later Earl Rivers, obtained a grant of the castle and rights of Lordship in 1467. He was responsible for the addition of the Woodville Gate, now known as the Entrance Gate. Woodville was killed by Richard III in 1483, but his brother Edward Woodville was given control of the castle on the accession of Henry VII in 1485.

The keep was added to the castle in the reign of Henry I, and in the reign of Elizabeth I, when the Spanish Armada was expected, it was surrounded by additional fortifications by Sir George Carey, who had been appointed Governor of the Isle of Wight in 1583. Carey later commissioned the Italian engineer Federigo Giambelli (or Genebelli) to make more substantial improvements to the defences. Starting in 1597, Giambelli constructed a modern trace Italienne fortification, a squat rampart and ditch supported at intervals by powerful bastions, which completely surrounded the old castle and bailey. The new fortification was mostly completed by 1600.

Charles I was imprisoned here for fourteen months before his execution in 1649. Afterwards his two youngest children were confined in the castle, and Princess Elizabeth died there. From 1896 to 1944, it was the home of Princess Beatrice, daughter of Queen Victoria, as Governor of the Isle of Wight. It is now under the control of English Heritage.

Description

Carisbrooke was the strongest castle on the Island; though it is visible from some distance, it does not dominate the countryside like many other castles.

There are traces of a Roman fort underneath the later buildings. Seventy-one steps lead up to the keep. In the centre of the castle enclosure are the domestic buildings; these are mostly of the 13th century, with upper parts of the 16th century. Some are in ruins, but the main rooms were used as the official residence of the governor of the Isle of Wight until the 1940s, and they remain in good repair.

The Great Hall, Great Chamber and several smaller rooms are open to the public, and an upper room houses the Isle of Wight Museum. Most rooms are partly furnished.

One of the main subjects of the museum is King Charles I. He tried to escape from the castle in 1648, but was unable to get through the bars of his window.

The chapel is located next to the main gate. In 1904 the chapel of St Nicholas in the castle was reopened and re-consecrated, having been rebuilt as a national memorial of Charles I. Within the walls is a well 200 feet deep and another in the centre of the keep is reputed to have been still deeper.

Near the domestic buildings is the well-house with its working donkey wheel. As it is still operated by donkeys, the wheel is a great attraction and creates long queues.

The Constable's Chamber is a large room located in the castle's medieval section. It was the bedroom of Charles I when he was imprisoned in the castle, and Princess Beatrice used it as a dining room. It is now home to Charles I bed as well as Princess Beatrice's large collection of stag and antelope heads. This room was used as the castle's education centre up until recently.

Surrounding the whole castle are large earthworks, designed by the Italian Federigo Gianibelli, and begun in the year before the Spanish Armada. They were finished in the 1590s. The outer gate has the date 1598 and the arms of Elizabeth I.

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Founded: 12th century
Category: Castles and fortifications in United Kingdom

Rating

4.6/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Stephen Green (8 months ago)
I really enjoyed my visit to Carisbrooke Castle. It was in winter, the wind was hollowing along the ramparts and one can just imagine what it would have felt like to walked them. I love the old castles, reading the history and imagining life in bygone days. Wonderful site to visit and the English Heritage staff on site were magic.
Mary Roberts (9 months ago)
Thoroughly enjoyed my visit. Loved talking with the Donkey Groom who obviously cared very much for them. Enjoyed the museum and climbing up and down the stairs around the battlements. Shop was also excellent.
Glenn Burchell (12 months ago)
Iconic castle remains that ooze history. This visit was linked to a themed event including "legendary jousting". Quite a spectacle, and lots of other entertainment for visiting families. Toilet facilities inadequate for large numbers of visitors, hence 4 rather than 5 stars.
Victoria Elsmore (13 months ago)
Absolutely fabulous place to spend the day when on the Isle of Wight! With over 800 years of history, there’s lots to see and learn at Carisbrooke Castle. The car park is just down the hill from the castle entrance and costs £6 for the day, or is free for members. As an English Heritage site, you do have to pay to go in but it’s well worth the money. Staff are all lovely people that greet you with a smile and a friendly greeting. Thanks Carisbrooke Castle for a great day out!
sally alexander (15 months ago)
book online.. couldn't go inside on our visit due to covid restrictions but had a great time walking around the battlements and reading info boards about all the features. Donkeys walk a wooden wheel to bring water up from the well. Lovely to meet them too. Cafe inside and shop is well stocked with things to take home. Very helpful and friendly staff made this visit a pleasure. Will be back.
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