Carisbrooke Castle is sited on a hill near Newport, in the middle of the Isle of Wight. Sometime around 1000 AD the Anglo Saxons built a wall around the hill to defend themselves against Viking raids. Soon after the Norman invasion of England in 1066, the new lord of Wight, William Fitz Osbern, chose to build a castle within the existing defences.
In 1100 Carisbrooke was granted to Richard de Redvers, and over the next two hundred years his descendants turned Carisbrooke into a mighty castle. A motte-and-bailey castle with substantial earthworks later gained stone walls, towers and a keep. The last Redvers resident was Countess Isabella de Fortibus, who carried out an extensive building programme at the castle. Shortly before she died in 1293 she agreed to sell the castle to King Edward I, and the castle remained a crown property for many years.
Later development of the castle was largely influenced by the threat of invasion from France and Spain. In 1601 George Carey completed the construction of a circuit of artillery defences around the castle. These defences were never put to the test, and rather than keep invaders out, the castle was used to keep people captive. The most famous prisoner was King Charles I who arrived at Carisbrooke in November 1647. He twice tried to escape, but his attempts failed and he remained at the castle until September 1648, just five months before his execution in Whitehall.
The castle remained the official residence of the governor of the Isle of Wight until the death of the last resident governor, Princess Beatrice, in 1944. Since then it has been managed as an ancient monument. It is home to the Carisbrooke Castle Museum and, rather unusually, a team of donkeys that are used to demonstrate the treadwheel in the 16th century wellhouse.
- Located 1.25 miles SW of Newport, on the Isle of Wight
- Carisbrooke Castle, Newport, Isle of Wight, PO30 1XY
- English Heritage. Open to the public. Admission fee.
- For further information visit www.english-heritage.org.uk
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