Name: Carlisle Castle (Inner bailey keep)
Locality: Dacre Road, Carlisle, Cumbria, CA3 8UR
Built: Early 12th century
Owner: English Heritage
One sunny day we happened to stumble upon Carlisle castle for the first time, the place was crawling with workmen and riggers setting the scenery up for a TV show. Feeling like I was getting in the way I continued forward into its dark interior. Wizzy our spaniel was allowed in too.
I knew the castle was a notorious paranormal hotspot, but I hadn’t read about it in any great detail. I don’t have an iphone or internet while I am away so can’t look it up. Nor do I buy the expensive books that English heritage try and get me to buy on the way in. As a skeptic I generally believe that people minds run riot in such places. I have spent 10 years visiting allegedly haunted places and I have never witnessed anything. (well only on one occasion)
The night after I got back, I had a terrible dream that I was being strangled and I was going to die because I couldn’t breath.
According to a newspaper article by Sarah Newstead that appeared in the News & Star on 28 September 2011 entitled ‘Is Cumbria The Most Haunted?’ Although the “ghosts” at the castle are said to be pretty friendly, Frederick Graham, of Dalegarth Avenue, Harraby, had a different tale to tell. He says: “As a serving soldier of the Border Regiment I was sleeping alone on the ground floor of the Arroyo Billet, Christmas 1954.“During the night I was attacked by a ghost which was intent on strangling me, and it very nearly did.“It was the most horrific night of my life and I remember it to this day.”
Strange breathing echoes around the stone stairs 😉
We wandered through the castle, frantic laboured breathing was echoing off the dark dank walls, Wizzy was excited, considering his sense of smell is 100,000 times greater than mine, the smell of the place would be amazing to him, the wood, the red sandstone, it smelled gorgeously old, if that makes sense. I did take many photos, I just wished I could record the smells.
No spirits here, just creepy old corridors and underlit rooms.
The following account was contributed to Medieval-Castle.com based on the author’s own real life experience …
An Eventful History
Dominating the city of Carlisle for 900 years, Carlisle Castle was continually reworked and remodelled as a fortress until well within living memory. Its brooding presence reflects its long and eventful history. The site was an important Roman fortress. Today, the castle still plays a prominent role in Cumbria as one of its best unknown landmarks.
The squat, frowning keep, begun during the 12th century by King Henry I of England and completed by King David I of Scotland, is both the oldest part of the castle and a reminder that Carlisle was a disputed frontier fortress, long commanding the especially turbulent western end of the Anglo-Scottish border. The keep houses displays about the castle’s history, from medieval assaults and the exploits of Elizabethan Border Reivers, to the Civil War siege and Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Jacobite Rising of 1745-6.
Carlisle was then the very last English fortress ever to suffer a siege: overwhelmed by Cumberland’s Hanoverian army in December 1745.
Equally famous are the strange and fantastic carvings on the keep’s second floor, cut in about 1480.
The Warden’s Apartments in D’Ireby’s Tower, the outer gatehouse has also been furnished as it would have been in the 13th century.
King Richard III, then the Duke of Gloucester became the Warden of the West Marches in 1470 aged just 18 years and by the time of his death at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485, he was the Duke of Cumberland. During the 15 or so years that he was the Warden he alternated between The Tile Tower, situated in the city wall on the castle orchard, and Penrith Castle; he seemed to have spent his life accumulating titles and offices.
By the time Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned in Carlisle Castle in 1567-8 by Elizabeth I, Henry, Lord Scrope was then Warden of the West Marches. Henry VIII’s rebuilding of the castle for heavy artillery had left its mark on Carlisle, including the keep’s rounded ‘shot-deflecting’ battlements and the Half Moon Battery defending the Captain’s Tower gateway. The castle’s military history did not end after the Jacobite Rising: Fear of a radical revolution made it a permanently occupied garrison from the 1820s, when the barrack blocks lining the outer ward were begun. Indeed the castle remained the headquarters of the Border Regiment until 1959, and the 300-year history of Cumbria’s famous infantry regiment is vividly told in Cumbria’s Military Museum (Tel 01228 532774) which is housed within the castle grounds. Note: the castle admission charge includes free entry to the museum.
Strange Happenings During the castle’s long and eventful life, things have happened that are bound to leave a mark … now the spooky bit! There are many old stories, some of which are true, some of which have some truth in them and of course some of which have grown with the castle. To the author’s knowledge there are the following:
The apparitions of two medieval soldiers on the top floor of the keep; they keep themselves to themselves but they will sometimes show themselves.
The ghost of King Stephen which leans against the wall in the upper keep next to the model of the City of Carlisle; strangely if you look from the front of the model you can see his front and if you walk around the model to the rear you can see his back.
The spirit of the old caretaker (there is a picture of him in life sitting at Queen Mary’s Table in the keep) which sits in a chair near the old bell. He will present himself as whatever you wish to see. A black shadowy figure seen by almost anyone who has worked at the castle wanders around in the inner keep and there is also a different shadow on the half moon battery.
A yeoman of an indeterminate era which walks up and down the pathway running in front of the cell block towards the old Regimental Headquarters. A caretaker doing his rounds once met a lost soldier on the stairs in Ypres block and when he told the soldier which way to go he realised he was wearing the wrong uniform for the period.
A sentry which sits on guard just inside the archway of the inner keep. Always there, the eternal sentinel.
Another old story is of the sentry, who saw the lady dressed in white and bayoneted her only to watch her disappear; he subsequently dropped dead later that night from fright.
Once when locking Ypres block for the night, a Territorial Army Sergeant Major noticed that a light had been left on in the top floor classroom. A Corporal ran back upstairs and opened the classroom door to find it in darkness. Opening a window he shouted down to the Sergeant Major that the light was off, only to be told that it wasn’t; the Corporal was back downstairs in record time. I can confirm this story, I was the Corporal.
In Cumbria’s Military Museum within the castle grounds, several unexplained ‘happenings’ have occurred …
The one about the alarm being set off three nights in a row stopped when an engineer replaced a faulty sensor.
Footsteps can be heard upstairs when the place is empty and on the back stairs a playful ghost pretends to push you down the stairs or pull you back without any malice just having a laugh.
In the lower gallery there seems to be almost constant movement near the Arnhem display; nothing concrete but out of the corner of your eye it’s always ‘What was that?
There are numerous things wandering about Carlisle Castle which makes it well worth a visit but perhaps the best – and one of the best I have seen – is the Cherry Blossom tree outside what is known as Alma Block. When the nights wear on and the dusk comes earlier and earlier at certain times of the year something will play peep-eye around the tree!
None of the above is designed to frighten anyone – these are benign ghosts simply getting on with the jobs they had in life. However, it is fascinating to get a glimpse of a previous age.