The site of Carisbrooke Castle may have been occupied in pre-Roman times. The existence of a ruined wall suggests that there was a building there in late Roman times. 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.
The castle remained in the possession of Richard de Redvers family until 1293, when Countess Isabella de Fortibus sold it to Edward I, after which the government was entrusted to wardens as representatives of the crown.
In the reign of Richard II it was unsuccessfully attacked by the French (1377). Anthony de Wydville, 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.
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 an elaborate pentagonal fortification by Sir George Carey.
Charles I was imprisoned here for fourteen months before his execution in 1649. Afterwards his two youngest children were confined in the castle, and the Princess Elizabeth died there. Most recently it was the home of The Princess Beatrice, daughter of Queen Victoria, as Governor of the Isle of Wight, 1896-1944. It is now under control of English Heritage.
There are traces of a Roman fort underneath the later buildings. Seventy-one steps lead up to the keep; the reward is a fine view. In the centre of the castle enclosure are the domestic buildings; these are mostly of the 13th century, with upper parts of the 16th. 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, but on the whole it is the fireplaces and other features of the rooms themselves which are most interesting.
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 name of the castle is echoed in a very different structure on the other side of the world. A visit to the castle by James Macandrew, one of the founders of the New Zealand city of Dunedin, led to him naming his estate "Carisbrook". The name of the estate was later used for Dunedin's main sporting venue.
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 well is also famous as the hiding place of the Mohune diamond, in the 1898 adventure novel Moonfleet, by J. Meade Falkner. Wyndham Lewis, who lived on the Isle of Wight as a child, cites the donkey wheel at Carisbrooke as an image for the way machines impose a way of life on human beings ('Inferior Religions', published 1917).
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 Beatrices large collection of stag and antelope heads. This room was used as the castle's education center 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 Queen Elizabeth I.
King for a Day ; with Its Keep, Ramparts and Great Hall, Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight Is the Real Thing - and Now You Can Be Part of Its History, Says Juliet Rix
Jul 14, 2007; Our kitchen window looks out on the grassy motte - a steep man- made mound built in 1100 - topped by the thick stone walls of the...