Who made Carlisle Castle’s carvings?

The mysterious wall carvings of Carlisle Castle’s Keep have always been thought to be the work of prisoners that were held captive there during its turbulent past. Some recent research by English Heritage, however, suggests some very surprising results.

The stonework etchings, which include images of mermaids, horses and stags, could date as far back at the 15th century and were probably made by prison guards on duty. A special technique called ‘photogrammetry’ has been used to three dimensionally capture data, which will soon be analysed to discover what these strange and delicate carvings mean.


Dr Mark Douglas, Properties Curator at English Heritage said: “Our latest research suggests that these intricate and beautiful carvings were more likely to have been made by soldiers on duty at the end of the 15th century.”

Carvings by prisoners are not unusual and can also be seen at places like the Tower of London, Dover Castle and Windsor Castle, but the style and date of the carvings at Carlisle Castle make them unique. Visitors can view the carvings every weekend this winter and discover more about them at the new exhibition that is opening in the spring of 2012.

As well as containing tactile moulds of these carvings, the exhibition will trace the castle’s history from a Norman castle and royal palace, to its prominent role as a border fortress in sieges and rebellions. The exhibition will bring to life its connections to Royal and famous names such as Mary Queen of Scots, Bonnie Prince Charlie and Henry VIII. The Captain’s Tower, one of the best preserved gatehouses in the UK will be re-opening to all castle visitors for the first time in over 20 years.


Richard Polley, Head of Visitor Operations for Hadrian’s Wall at English Heritage, said: “We are extremely excited about our plans for Carlisle Castle which will bring improved facilities and a better experience for our visitors”

Carlisle Castle was first built during the reign of William II in the late-eleventh century. Lying near Hadrian’s Wall, the castle was meant to protect northern England from Scottish invasion. Click here for more information about Carlisle Castle

Source: English Heritage


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