A recent visit to Carlisle enabled me to visit the castle for the first time.
There has been a military establishment on the site since Roman times as part of the Hadrian’s Wall establishment, providing support to the troops along the wall when the town was named Luguvalium. By the second century it was one of the most important bases in Roman Britian.
The origins of the castle on the site date from the late 11th century. Between the 12th and 15th centuries the Scots besieged Carlisle several times, including one notable occasion in 1315, after the Battle of Bannockburn (in 1314). The Scots failed and retreated with the loss of only two English lives.
The siege in 1461 was notable for being part of the War of the Roses, when the Lancastrians combined forces with the Scots to take the castle from the House of York.
More of the history is provided on the English Heritage web site.
The current castle is an amalgam of the medieval construction, Victoria building and 20th Century garrison. After the castle fell into disrepair in the 18th century, it was redeveloped in the 19th using stonework recovered from older parts of the building. This included the building of barrack blocks Arroyo and Gallipoli in 1829. This was followed by a hospital block in 1832, which latterly became another barrack, Arnhem
As the army continued to extend and develop the castle buildings well into the 20th century, the magazine and militia store were built in the inner ward, and Alma and Burma blocks and the headquarters of the Border Regiment in the outer ward.
These years of active military use saw many important historic features destroyed or altered beyond recognition. The original chamber block was turned into the building housing (until 2014) the military museum, and Queen Mary’s Tower was demolished in 1835. In 1959 the regimental depot moved out of the castle, though most of the outer ward buildings remained in military occupation.
Since 2000 most of the remaining military functions have left the castle, but English Heritage still shares the site with a number of organisations, notably Cumbria’s Museum of Military Life.