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Historic England Research Records

Carisbrooke Castle

Hob Uid: 459868
Location :
Isle of Wight
Newport and Carisbrooke
Grid Ref : SZ4868087770
Summary : The site of Casrisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight. The earliest activity on the site was identified during excavations in the inner bailey, where a 6th century pagan cemetery was identified, followed by a 10th century settlement and an 11th century Saxon fort. A Norman castle was built soon after 1066. The first motte and bailey castle was built in circa 1100 by Richard de Redvers, lord of the Isle of Wight, and the castle remained in his family until 1293 when it reverted to the crown. In the 1590s Carisbrooke was one of only a few places to be completely refortified as an artillery fortress against the Spanish. The castle was used as a prison for King Charles I in 1747-8 prior to his execution. After the Civil War it became the residence of the island's governors, including Princess Beatrice (daughter of Queen Victoria). Today the chapel acts as the island's war memorial.The curtain wall was constructed by 1136 on the mound of the Norman castle. Some towers were probably added to the wall from the start, with subsequent ones added and demolished over the years. The stone Gatehouse was built after 1272, although one was present by 1136, and replaced a timber one of circa 1100. Its cylindrical towers were built in 1335-6 in response to French raids, and were heightened in 1380 after a siege by the French in 1377. Further modifications were made in 1470 by Anthony Woodville, captain of the island. By the late 19th century the Gatehouse was ruinous, and was restored in 1897 by architect and local historian Percy Stone. The gates at the inner end of the gate passage are of 15th century date. Other extant structures include Carey's Mansion built in 1584-6; the 13th century Great Hall, St Peter's Chapel, Constable's Lodging, and Well House; the 14th century south-east range; medieval chapel of St Nicholas; the Privy Garden; the Saxon Lower Enclosure, and the Artillery Fortifications and Bowling Green. The site is in the care of English Heritage.
More information : (SZ 48688777) Carisbrooke Castle (NR) (1)

For description and history. (2)

I cannot express a more definite opinion than to say that the walling exposed at the base of the ramparts is possibly Roman, and consequently the possibility of a Roman Fort. (See annotated ground photographs). In the Accessions book reference is made to 'Roman flooring slabs' having been found in 1924 whan the walling was discovered, and there is a record by a foreman when digging out the east wall, of a coin of Constantine having been found. These finds, I understand, are with the M.P.B.W. in London. Nothing else was, or has been found, and it is possible that the Roman coin is a coincidental find, and that the walling could be Norman. (3-4)

Nothing to add. Published 1/1250 revised. (5)

Carisbrooke is a squarish fort of Saxon Shore type, measuring 440 by 480 ft. It has a defensive wall 10ft thick, at least one very shallow bastion and an east gate deeply recessed between curved returns of the curtain wall. (6)

An enclosure of what appears to be a typical Roman shape lies under the Norman mound of the castle. Despite the 'Roman' features - its playing card shape, its inturned entrances and the slight traces of externally projecting towers - there is little indication that the enclosure is of Roman date. Despite excavation, admittedly limited by the presence of the Norman mound which virtually conceals it, there is very little trace of Roman pottery from the site : a wealth of pottery is a keynote of most of the Saxon Shore sites and it is this lack which calls the Roman origin of Carisbrooke most clearly into question. The site is not near the coast; it lies in the centre of the Isle of Wight and, if a Roman site and not a small early Saxon 'burgh' is perhaps better seen as a watch-tower or a refuge for the local population of the Island in Roman times rather than a fort. (7)

Excavations on behalf of the DOE by C J Young from 1976-9 did not reveal Roman occupation. It is likely that the earliest Norman castle was a quadrilateral based on the north east corner of the earlier Roman or Saxon enclosure. (8)

Carisbrooke, published as a Roman fort. (9)

Between 1976 and 1981 eleven different parts of the Castle were excavated. Many of the trenches were quite small and concerned primarily with specific aspects of the Castle's medieval and post-medieval use. Site 5 (see plan) however examined an area of 365 m2 in the centre of the Castle and established a general sequence of occupation.

The first use of the site was for a Saxon cemetery probably of the sixth century; 2 cremation urns and three inhumations were found.
The next occupation was of early or mid-eleventh century date when at least 2 timber buildings with massive post-holes were erected. Both were demolished to make way for a large defensive ditch, which in its turn, was soon filled and replaced by another c. 8m wide and 4m deep. Both ditches dated to the late eleventh century and appeared to relate to successive phases of a small Norman ringwork established in one quadrant of the pre-existing lower enclosure, which in its turn was supersceded in c1100 by the massive motte and bailey under which the walls of the lower enclosure were hidden until 1923. No evidence was found of Roman features or structures.

Roman artefacts, which might have been expected to survive in post-Roman levels even if their original contexts had been destroyed, were scarce. In total only one Roman coin was found and less than twenty sherds of Roman pottery. The pottery ranged in date from the second to the fourth century. Roman building material however occurred in quantity.

The defences of the lower enclosure were traced in 1923 along the whole of the west and south sides and for about three-quarters of the east side of the enclosure. On the north side the wall was located at only one point, but it is generally assumed that the line of the present bailey bank followed it. A very oblique angle in the line of the western wall-face makes the Enclosure a pentagon in shape. Rigold managed to examine the inner trace of the enclosure in one section and considered that the wall cut into and built against a pre-existing bank. The width and height of the bank are uncertain. Presumably there was a ditch in front of the wall originally, now entirely removed by later defensive works. Only one definite entrance is known. It lies in the middle of the east side. On each side of the entrance the wall curves inward. Another entrance possibly lay opposite this on the west side, since there is an apparent blocking visible at this point. The other noteworthy feature of the lower enclosure is a small bastion midway between the east gate and the north-east corner. This is segmental in plan, measures about 4m across its base and projects about one metre from the wall. It is built of solid masonry. Rigold considered that a visible irregularity in the wall on the west side of the enclosure was slight evidence for a second bastion and that both could be part of a regularly disposed series. Rigold refers to early Saxon pottery from the site and Young to the discovery of late Saxon occupation within the castle but further details are given. Rigold considered the lower enclosure to be Roman. He was concerned about the plan of the gateway, and slightness of the bastion but felt that they were even more out of place in a Medieval context. Young however considered the late Saxon burhs of Wessex to provide the closest parallels to the lower enclosure, although the Carisbrooke bastion would be unique in a late Saxon context. (10-11)

The arrow-head bastions of the outer defences are the product of 16th century remodelling. They were completed between 1597 and 1600 under the direction of the Italian engineer, Federigo Giambelli. (12-13)

Grade I. (14)

Additional bibliography. (15-21)

Listed by Cathcart King. (22)

The castle was granted to Edward I by the Counress of aumale in 1293, and intermittently remained in royal hands throughout the Mediaeval period. (23)

The gatehouse was remodelled in 1380 with 8 gunports. (24)

Castle excavations 1921-1996. In summary, the known historical documentation, excavations and fabric study draw the following conclusions:

1.Pre-Saxon use of the site. There is no structural evidence for any occupatin of the hilltop. Most Roman materials have been found in residual contexts or built into clearly later works

2. The hilltop was used as a Saxon inhumation cemetery in the 6th century.

3. Late Saxon occupation. Only in the 11th century is there any evidence for occupation of the hilltop. There is no direct dating evidence for the Lower Enclosure, but it is earlier than the motte and bailey. The sequence at Carisbrooke of an earthen rampart later faced in stone is similar to that at Saxon burhs. Two phases of timber structures were found, but could be dated no better than the 11th century. It is possible that it was a late Saxon burh.

4. It appears to have been remodelled shortly after the Conquest by the digging of two major ditches within the castle. The castle would have formed an enclosure within the Lower Enclosure, the remainder of the Lower Enclosure forming an outer bailey.

5. The motte and bailey was constructed soon after the enclosure castle was completed, presumably defended in timber, although replaced in stone by 1136. By then, a shell keep existed on the motte and a stone wall crowned the bailey banks. The later excavations found two buildings of 12th century date, one on the north side of the bailey, the other on the south, and both of a moderate size.

6. The later history is well-documented, the castle reaching its zenith under Countess Isabella de Fortibus (1262-93). The castle was not only the administrative centre for her estates on the Isle of Wight, but also of her estates in Devon and the North of England.

7. The castle's importance declined in the 16th century, particularly with Henry VIIIs creation of batteries and blockhouses around the Solent. However, the invasion scare of 1586-8 dramatically reversed this decline. The dpmestic accomodation was upgraded to reflect the status of the island's governor, and the defences were radically modified to form a 'modern' bastion-trace artillery fort. The work was carried out in two phases, the works of 1587-8 being of a makeshift nature, the works of 1597-1602 being comparable to nationally strategically important places such as Berwick, Pendennis, Tilbury and Portsmouth. (25)

The meaning of the placename 'Wihtgarasbyrig' and its alternatives is explored. It is possible that it relates to a fortified place of Wihtgar, who is referred to in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle as the lord of the island who died in 544, and was buried at Wihtgarasbyrig. The documentary use of the term is explored, and it is possible to link the burh derivation of the term with the Lower Enclosure at Carisbrooke Castle. It is further tempting to associate Wihtgar with the 6th century cemetery found within the Lower Enclosure.

Tomalin also draws attention to the phasing of the Lower Enclosure and particularly to the type of stone and mortar used in its construction. Binstead stone, which appears in the lowest part of the wall, was a favoured Roman building material. Quarr stone appears in the upper part of the wall build, after a 'soil-band' appears in the wall. Quarr stone rarely occurs in Saxon building work before the Late Saxon building. This suggests that the upper work was built after a period of abandonment which is indicated by the soil band.

Furthermore, a comparison of the size of the Lower Enclosure with other known burhs shows it to have been considerably smaller in area. Taking both features together, he therefore believes there is enough evidence to leave the question of Roman origin unresolved. (26)

Charles I was imprisoned here from November 1647 to autumn 1648. (27)

A new guidebook. (28)

Sources :
Source Number : 1
Source : Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date)
Source details : 1:1250 1967
Page(s) :
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Source Number : 2
Source : VIRTUAL CATALOGUE ENTRY TO SUPPORT NAR MIGRATION
Source details : MOW Guide to Carisbrooke Castle 1956
Page(s) :
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Vol(s) :
Source Number : 11
Source : Chateau Gaillard, 3. Conference at Battle, Sussex, 19-24 September 1966
Source details :
Page(s) : 128-38
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 12
Source : Medieval Britain from the air
Source details :
Page(s) : 214, 215
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 13
Source : The history of the King's Works, volume 4 : 1485-1660 (Part 2)
Source details :
Page(s) : 404-5, 407-8, 410, 530-5
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 14
Source : List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest
Source details : Borough of Newport, Isle Of Wight, 01-FEB-1972
Page(s) : 1
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 596
Source Number : 15
Source : Proceedings of the Hampshire Field Club and Archaeological Society
Source details : (J R Kenyon)
Page(s) : 140
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 39, 1983
Source Number : 16
Source : Medieval archaeology : journal of the Society for Medieval Archaeology
Source details :
Page(s) : 321
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 6-7, 1962
Source Number : 17
Source : Medieval archaeology : journal of the Society for Medieval Archaeology
Source details :
Page(s) : 253
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 8, 1964
Source Number : 18
Source : Medieval archaeology : journal of the Society for Medieval Archaeology
Source details :
Page(s) : 190
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 10, 1966
Source Number : 19
Source : Medieval archaeology : journal of the Society for Medieval Archaeology
Source details :
Page(s) : 177
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 12, 1968
Source Number : 20
Source : Scheduled Monument Notification
Source details : 10-Aug-95
Page(s) :
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Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 3
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : F1 WW 19-OCT-56
Page(s) :
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Source Number : 21
Source : The English Heritage visitors' handbook 1998-99
Source details :
Page(s) : 34-35
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 22
Source : Castellarium anglicanum : an index and bibliography of the castles in England, Wales and the islands. Volume I : Anglesey - Montgomery
Source details :
Page(s) : 190
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 1
Source Number : 23
Source : The history of the King's Works, volume 2 : the Middle Ages
Source details :
Page(s) : 591-5
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 24
Source : Fort : the international journal of fortification and military architecture
Source details :
Page(s) : 79
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 4, 1977
Source Number : 25
Source : Excavations at Carisbrooke Castle, Isle of Wight, 1921-1996
Source details :
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 18
Source Number : 26
Source : Proceedings of the Isle of Wight Natural History and Archaeological Society
Source details :
Page(s) : 55-80
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 18, 2002
Source Number : 27
Source : The Cromwellian gazetteer : an illustrated guide to Britain in the Civil War and Commonwealth
Source details : Carisbrooke Castle
Page(s) : 91
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 28
Source : Carisbrooke Castle [guidebook]
Source details :
Page(s) :
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Source Number : 4
Source : Oral information, correspondence (not archived) or staff comments
Source details : J Jones Curator Carisbrooke Castle Museum
Page(s) :
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Source Number : 5
Source : Field Investigators Comments
Source details : F2 CFW 23-OCT-67
Page(s) :
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Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 6
Source : The archaeology of Roman Britain
Source details :
Page(s) : 52
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 7
Source : The Roman forts of the Saxon Shore
Source details :
Page(s) : 141
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Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 8
Source : Rescue news : the newspaper of RESCUE, the British Archaeological Trust
Source details : (C J Young)
Page(s) : 12
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) : 20, 1979
Source Number : 9
Source : Ordnance Survey Map (Scale / Date)
Source details : Ordnance Survey Map of Roman Britain 4th edt 1978
Page(s) :
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :
Source Number : 10
Source : Rome and her northern provinces : papers presented to Sheppard Frere in honour of his retirement from the Chair of the Archaeology of the Roman Empire, University of Oxford, 1983
Source details :
Page(s) : 290-301
Figs. :
Plates :
Vol(s) :

Monument Types:
Monument Period Name : Roman
Display Date :
Monument End Date : 410
Monument Start Date : 43
Monument Type : Fort
Evidence : Conjectural Evidence
Monument Period Name : Early Medieval
Display Date : C11
Monument End Date : 1066
Monument Start Date : 1001
Monument Type : Burh, Building, Rectilinear Enclosure
Evidence : Conjectural Evidence, Sub Surface Deposit
Monument Period Name : 20th Century
Display Date : Restored 1904-5
Monument End Date : 1905
Monument Start Date : 1904
Monument Type : Chapel
Evidence : Extant Building
Monument Period Name : Early Medieval
Display Date : C6
Monument End Date : 600
Monument Start Date : 501
Monument Type : Cemetery, Inhumation, Cremation
Evidence : Sub Surface Deposit
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : Norman Motte and Bailey and ringwork
Monument End Date : 1154
Monument Start Date : 1066
Monument Type : Ringwork, Motte And Bailey
Evidence : Sub Surface Deposit, Earthwork
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : Foundations of castle dating to C11-12th
Monument End Date : 1200
Monument Start Date : 1066
Monument Type : Castle
Evidence : Ruined Building
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : 14th-16th century
Monument End Date : 1540
Monument Start Date : 1300
Monument Type : Castle, Domestic Chapel
Evidence : Ruined Building
Monument Period Name : Medieval
Display Date : Remodelled with gunports 1380
Monument End Date : 1380
Monument Start Date : 1380
Monument Type : Gatehouse, Loopholed Wall
Evidence : Ruined Building
Monument Period Name : Post Medieval
Display Date : Remodelled 1587-1602
Monument End Date : 1602
Monument Start Date : 1587
Monument Type : Bastion Trace Fort, Artillery Fort
Evidence : Earthwork, Structure
Monument Period Name : Post Medieval
Display Date : Civil War
Monument End Date : 1648
Monument Start Date : 1647
Monument Type : Prison
Evidence : Documentary Evidence
Monument Period Name : Post Medieval
Display Date : 19th century
Monument End Date : 1900
Monument Start Date : 1801
Monument Type : Castle
Evidence : Building

Components and Objects:
Related Records from other datasets:
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (County No.)
External Cross Reference Number : IW 46
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Scheduled Monument Legacy (National No.)
External Cross Reference Number : 22021
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : SMR Number (Isle of Wight)
External Cross Reference Number : 46
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Listed Building List Entry Legacy Uid
External Cross Reference Number : 309434
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : EH Property Number
External Cross Reference Number : 179
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : ViewFinder
External Cross Reference Number : AA092244
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : ViewFinder
External Cross Reference Number : K970665
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : ViewFinder
External Cross Reference Number : K970667
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : ViewFinder
External Cross Reference Number : NMR 23246/19
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : ViewFinder
External Cross Reference Number : DP068785
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : ViewFinder
External Cross Reference Number : DP068788
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : Unified Designation System UID
External Cross Reference Number : 1013870
External Cross Reference Notes :
External Cross Reference Source : National Monuments Record Number
External Cross Reference Number : SZ 48 NE 1
External Cross Reference Notes :

Related Warden Records :
Associated Monuments : 1531648
Relationship type :
Associated Monuments : 1531668
Relationship type :
Associated Monuments : 1531696
Relationship type :
Associated Monuments : 1531714
Relationship type :
Associated Monuments : 1531807
Relationship type :
Associated Monuments : 1532525
Relationship type :
Associated Monuments : 1532553
Relationship type :

Related Activities :
Associated Activities : Primary, CARISBROOKE CASTLE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1891-01-01
End Date : 1895-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, CARISBROOKE CASTLE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1921-01-01
End Date : 1921-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, CARISBROOKE CASTLE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1924-01-01
End Date : 1926-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, FIELD OBSERVATION ON SZ 48 NE 1
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1956-10-19
End Date : 1956-10-19
Associated Activities : Primary, CARISBROOKE CASTLE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1961-01-01
End Date : 1968-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, FIELD OBSERVATION ON SZ 48 NE 1
Activity type : FIELD OBSERVATION (VISUAL ASSESSMENT)
Start Date : 1967-10-23
End Date : 1967-10-23
Associated Activities : Primary, CARISBROOKE CASTLE
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1976-01-01
End Date : 1981-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, CARISBROOKE CASTLE
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 1983-01-01
End Date : 1983-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, CARISBROOKE CASTLE
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 1984-01-01
End Date : 1984-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, CARISBROOKE CASTLE
Activity type : EVALUATION
Start Date : 1991-01-01
End Date : 1991-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, CARISBROOKE CASTLE
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 1995-01-01
End Date : 1995-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, CARISBROOKE CASTLE
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 1995-01-01
End Date : 1995-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, CARISBROOKE CASTLE (STABLE YARD & EQUERRY'S YARD)
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 1997-01-01
End Date : 1998-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, CARISBROOKE CASTLE (PRIVY GARDEN)
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 2006-01-01
End Date : 2008-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, CARISBROOKE CASTLE: PRIVY GARDEN
Activity type : GEOPHYSICAL SURVEY
Start Date : 2006-01-01
End Date : 2006-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, CARISBROOKE CASTLE: ADMISSIONS BUILDING
Activity type : EXCAVATION
Start Date : 2007-01-01
End Date : 2008-12-31
Associated Activities : Primary, PRINCESS BEATRICE GARDEN, CARISBROOKE CASTLE
Activity type : WATCHING BRIEF
Start Date : 2009-01-01
End Date : 2009-12-31