Carisbrooke has been a central place of power and defence on the Isle of Wight for over 1,000 years. During that time it has been a Saxon fortress and a castle of the Norman conquest, much remodelled during the Middle Ages and under Elizabeth I. Most famously, Charles I was held prisoner here during the Civil War, shortly before his execution. Since then Carisbrooke Castle has remained a symbolic centre for the island, not least as the residence of its governor.
Following the Norman Conquest the Isle of Wight was granted to William FitzOsbern, a cousin of the new King. He built a castle within the boundary of the former Saxon burh sectioning off the North East corner with a deep ditch and wooden palisade. When William died his heir rebelled against the King in 1075 forfeiting his ownership of Carisbrooke. The castle was then held by the Crown until 1100 when it was granted by Henry I to Richard de Redvers who re-built the it, still within the Saxon enclosure, as a motte-and-bailey. It was either he or his son, Baldwin, who replaced the original timber defences with stone. . . . Carisbrooke Castle continued to be owned by descendants of the Redvers family through the remainder of the twelfth and the vast bulk of the thirteenth centuries. In 1260 the last of the line, Countess Isabella de Redvers, inherited the castle and during her tenure extensive upgrades were made at the site which she made her primary residence. When she died in 1293 she sold the castle, on her deathbed, to Edward I and it remained in Royal ownership thereafter with various upgrades being made. The distinctive drum towers were added to the Gatehouse in 1335.
Castles Forts Battles
Carisbrooke is the Island’s only medieval castle. It was begun soon after the Norman Conquest, by William FitzOsbern, the Island’s first Norman lord. Its central location reflects its original purpose: to control the potentially hostile local population. The typical Norman motte and bailey layout, established 900 years ago, is still clear today. The steep banks, high walls and remains of towers and loopholes are reminders that it was designed to withstand medieval siege weapons. When the development of artillery made the old motte and bailey obsolete, the Castle’s military relevance was extended in the 1590s by the addition of new defences. The new fortification surrounds the out-of-date medieval ramparts and was designed to withstand an artillery attack. It made Carisbrooke one of the most up-to-date fortifications in the country.
Carisbrooke Castle Museum
“The castles of England, their story and structure, vol 1”, James Dixon Mackenzie, 1896 p.200
The Norman keep of Richard de Redvers stands on the ancient English mound at the N.E. angle of the inner ward, surrounded by its moat ; it is an irregular polygon in shape, a shell keep 60 feet across, with walls of great strength and thickness, the access to which is by a long flight of stairs, the postern being protected by double gates and a portcullis. One room only remains, in which is a deep well, the others are destroyed, but there remains a small staircase to the top, whence a very fine view is obtained ; at the foot was a sally-port defended by a bastion, which has disappeared. The entrance is on the W. by a fine machicolated gate-way, flanked by two round embattled towers, through a high pointed archway with portcullis grooves ; all this was built by Anthony, Lord Scales, who had the lordship in 1474, and whose arms are on the gatehouse, as they are on Middleton Tower near Lynn, with the Rose of York. Inside are the older gates, with latticed ironwork, and on the right the ruins of the guardhouse, and the chapel of St. Nicholas, built in 1738 on the site of the ancient chapel. On the N. are the ruins of the buildings occupied by King Charles, a small room being shown as his bedroom. The governor’s quarters, barracks and other buildings are all of different periods. In the centre of the S. wall are remains of a mural tower, and there are the ruins of the Mountjoy, a Norman tower in the S.E. Corner, the walls here being 18 feet thick : E. are two other towers.
“The castles of England, their story and structure, vol 1”, James Dixon Mackenzie, 1896 p.201