Ancient History of the City 1

  > Although the origin of the "ancient and famous city of Carlisle," is lost in the uncertainties of antiquity, historians are agreed that it was a place of importance in the time of the Romans. Its ancient British name is supposed to have been Llugyda-gwal, which meant the Army by the Wall; the Romans called it Luguvallum, and in Bede's life of St. Cuthbert, it is called Luguballa. Whitaker says that Lugu-vall-ium signifies forts on the water. The Roman name Luguvallum was afterwards abbreviated by the Saxons to "Luell," which, added to the Saxon word Caer, (city) became Caer-Luell, whence is derived its present name.

Two of the Scottish historians, Fordum and Boethius, inform us that Carlisle, one of the strongest British towns, was burned by the Scots during the absence of the Romans, in the reign of the emperor Nero. "It must have been after this event, and probably in the time of Agricola, that Carlisle was fortified by the Romans, as a strong frontier town, against the invasions of the Picts and Scots." So durable was their structure, that notwithstanding the recorded desolation of this city by the Danes, and the many subsequent repairs of the walls, after its sundry sieges, much Roman masonry remained in different parts of it2, till of late years, especially on its eastern side. During the residence of the Romans in Britain, Cumberland was preserved from the hostile assaults of the Picts, but as soon as they relinquished their possessions, and retired, the Britons became a prey to these relentless persecutors, who soon laid desolate the city of Carlisle; and, so complete was the destruction, that there was scarcely left one stone upon another3, excepting some parts of the fortifications. It remained in this state till the seventh century, when king Egdrid4 caused it to be rebuilt, and defended by a wall; and he is said to have founded a college of secular priests. In 686, when St. Cuthbert visited this city, the inhabitants took him to see their fortifications, and a deep well in the castle yard, of curious Roman workmanship.

In or about 876, Carlisle was destroyed by the Danes, and from that time till the Norman conquest, a period of nearly two centuries, it lay in a state of desolation, without an inhabitant, except a few Irish, who lodged themselves amongst the ruins. Matthew, of Westminster, says that Ranulph de Meschines began to restore Carlisle as soon as he had received the grant of Cumberland from the Conqueror, and that William himself, on his return from Scotland, in 1072, ordered it to be fortified. But little was done till William Rufus, on his return from Scotland, in 1092, noticing its beautiful situation, and perceiving its great importance as a frontier town, resolved on having the city rebuilt. A colony of Flemings, who had been here about this time, were soon afterwards replaced by a colony of South Britons, who cultivated the wild Forest of Inglewood, and taught the natives the art of profiting by the natural fertility of the soil; and all records agree in attributing to this colony the first regular tillage5 known in the fertile plains around Carlisle. In castlekeep.jpg (18235 bytes)1122, Henry I, being then at Carlisle, disbursed money for the building of the walls and castle, which are supposed to have been finished by David, king of Scotland, who took Carlisle in 1135, either by stratagem or coup de main, and occasionally resided in this city. In 1138, David retreated to Carlisle, after his dreadful overthrow at the Battle of the Standard, and he there received Alberic, the pope's legate, by whose influence all the women captives were taken to Carlisle, and there set at liberty. The Scotch leaders also promised that in their future incursions they would spare the church, and withhold the sword from the aged, and from women and infants. In 1150, David, prince Henry, son to the empress Matilda, (afterwards Henry II) and Ralph, earl of Chester, assembled at Carlisle, where they entered into a league against Stephen, and Henry received the honour of knighthood from David. In 1152, David met John, another of the pope's legates, at Carlisle; and here, on the 24th of May, David was found dead in a posture of devotion. He was succeeded by his grandson, Malcolm IV.

In 1173, William the Lion, who had succeeded Malcolm, besieged Carlisle, but it was successfully defended, under Robert de Vaux, the governor. In the following year, however, he invested the city with an army of eight thousand men, when, the garrison reduced to great distress, after several months siege, would have surrendered, had not the Scottish king been made prisoner at Alnwick.

In 1186, Carlisle was again the abode of royalty, when Henry II attended by a large army, met William the Lion and his brother David in the city. In 1216, Alexander, successor to William the Lion, took Carlisle, after a protracted siege, but it was surrendered to the English in the following year, when Walter de Grey, archbishop of York, was made governor of the castle. In 1292 the priory, and the church and convent of the Grey Friars, with some valuable records, were destroyed by the fire of an incendiary, who was executed for the crime. In 1296, it was besieged by the earls of Buchan, Monteith, and other Scottish nobles, but was so bravely defended by the inhabitants, that, after three days the assailants were compelled to abandon the enterprise. During this attack, the women are said to have displayed great valour, and to have very much annoyed the enemy by pouring boiling water over the walls on their heads. After the battle of Falkirk, in 1298, the victorious Edward I marched his army to Carlisle, where he is said to have held a parliament on the 15th of September. In 1300 the same monarch again visited Carlisle, on his route to Scotland, attended by his nobles and the army, preparatory to their marching against Robert Bruce, who, in the same year had got himself crowned king of Scotland, contrary to his sworn allegiance to Edward. The king was accompanied by his queen, and son, prince Edward, and here were also assembled at the same time the archbishop of York, nineteen bishops, between fifty and sixty mitred abbots, and a great number of the most powerful barons of the land, together with cardinal D'Espagnal, the pope's legate. The parliament met here again on the 20th of January 1307, and on the 7th of July, in the same year, Edward having celebrated his last birthday in the city, ended his life and glorious reign at Burgh-upon-Sands, where there is a monument6, commemorative of his death. "Merry Carlisle" appears to have been a favourite place with Edward, having so often honoured it, either as a temporary residence, or as a seat of his court and parliament. No doubt he often sought here a relaxation from the cares of royalty, to enjoy the sports of hunting in Inglewood Forest, where "during a few days , he is said to have killed two hundred bucks."

In 1307, Robert Bruce besieged the city for ten days, when his men trod down the corn then growing in its vicinity, and did great damage to all the neighbourhood, but it was gallantly and successfully defended under its governor, Andrew de Harcla, afterwards earl of Carlisle, who in 1322, was arrested and executed for high treason7. In the latter year, Edward Baliol, the fugitive king of Scotland, was hospitably received at Carlisle, by lord Dacre, the governor; and Edward III arrived there with his army in 1335. During the autumn of 1345, the Scots again, with Sir William Douglas , governor of Lochmaben, at their head, besieged Carlisle, but were repulsed. Sir William Douglas was taken prisoner, and for some time confined in irons in the castle. In 1380, a party of borderers set fire to one of the streets, by shooting burning arrows over the walls, but on hearing that an English army was approaching, they raised the siege, and made a quick retreat. In 1385, the Scots made another unsuccessful attack upon this city; and the earls of Douglas and Fife made an ineffectual attempt in 1387, when Sir William Douglas performed prodigies of valour; he encountered three armed citizens on a drawbridge in the outworks, one of whom he killed, and overcame the others.

In 1390, "though a second pestilence had in the mean time occurred, Carlisle appears to have been even more populous than it now is (1816); for it is on record, that by a fire which had then recently happened, fifteen hundred houses were consumed in three of the principal streets, Castle-gate, Richard-gate, and Botchard-gate.8" In 1461, during the civil wars between the houses of York and Lancaster, the Scots made an ineffectual attempt to take Carlisle for Henry VI. The city was miserably harassed during these wars, in the reigns of Henry IV, V, and VI, the suburbs burnt, and all the adjacent parts, even to the gates of the city, destroyed.

In 1522, the duke of Albany approached with a large army, within four miles of the city, intending to besiege it, but, on learning that it was defended by forty-five pieces of brass artillery, one thousand arquebusses, and a good supply of hand guns, he made overtures to lord Dacre for a truce, and withdrew his army. In 1537, the bishops of Durham and Orkney met at Carlisle, as commissioners for a treaty of peace between England and Scotland. In the same year, during Aske's rebellion, ("the Pilgrimage of Grace,") an army of eight thousand men, headed by Nicholas Musgrave, and others, besieged Carlisle, but were repulsed, and in their retreat intercepted by the duke of Norfolk, who took all their leaders prisoners, except Musgrave, who effected his escape. He ordered seventy-four of their officers to be executed and hung on the city walls.

After the battle of Langside9, the beautiful, the accomplished, the unfortunate Mary, queen of Scots, sought Carlisle as an asylum from her merciless enemies; but it proved the first scene of that tedious captivity which only terminated in her death. In 1568, after her escape from Lochleven, the persecuted Mary, with lord Herries, and eighteen or twenty attendants, arrived in a fishing boat at Workington, and were escorted by the neighbouring gentlemen to Cockermouth, where they were met by Mr. afterwards Sir Richard Lowther, the deputy governor, and other inhabitants of Carlisle, who conducted them to that city, where the earl of Northumberland made an unsuccessful attempt to seize the queen's person. Elizabeth, hearing that Mary was at Carlisle, sent an express to the deputy, requiring him to treat her with all honour and favour, and commanded lord Scrope, with other gentlemen, speedily to repair to Carlisle and attend her. Lord Scrope and Sir Francis Knolls were at the same time ordered to watch the motions of Mary, and report her conduct.

"In a letter to his royal mistress, dated the 29th of May, Sir Frances gives an account of the first interview which he and lord Scrope, the lord Warden, had with Mary: he describes her chagrin at not being admitted into the queen's presence, and recommends to her majesty's consideration whether it would not be more honourable in sight of her own subjects and of foreign princes, to suffer Mary to return to her own country, if such was her choice. In the event of its being determined to detain her, he observes, 'She cannot be kept so rigorously as a prysoner with your hyghness honor (in my opynyon) but that with devyces of towels or toys at hyr chamber wyndow or elsewhere in the hyght, a bodye of hyr agylyty and spyryte may escape soon being so near the border.' It having been determined to make Mary a prisoner, Sir Francis, though much against his inclination obliged to be her keeper, appears to have executed his trust with great fidelity. In a letter dated June 15, he recommends Naworth Castle as a much safer place for her detention than Carlisle; he assures the queen that every precaution should be taken to prevent her escape, which was possible, considering the small number of guards he had, to look to every place, and that semblance of liberty which it was thought advisable to allow her. It was for the purpose of giving such a semblance, as appears by this letter, that she was allowed to attend divine service at the cathedral church. It does not appear, however, that she had much indulgence with respect to air or exercise. 'Yesterday,' says Sir Francis, in his letter of June 15, 'hyr grace went owte at a posterne to walke on a playing greene towards Skotland, and we, with 24 halberders of Master Read's band with divers gentlemen and other servants wayted on hyr. Where about twenty of her retinue played at footeball before hyr the space of two houres very strongly, nymblye, and skilfullye, without any foul play offer'd, the smallness of theyr balls occasyonyng their fayre play. And before yesterday since our comyng she went but twyse owte of the towne, once to the lyke playe at footeball, in the same place, and once owte a hunting the hare, she gallopyng so fast uppon every occasyon, and hyr hoole retinue beyng so well horsyd, that we uppon experyence thereoff, dowtyng that uppon a set cowrse some of hyr frendes owte of Skotland, myght invade and assaulte us uppon the sodayne to reskue and take hyr from us, we mean hereafter yff any sotche rydyng pastymes be reqwyred that waye, so motche to feare the indangeryng of hyr person by some sodayne invasyon of her enemyes, that she must hold us excused in that behalf.'"

The tower10 in which Mary was confined in Carlisle, was situate at the south-east corner of the castle, and was by order of the ordnance surveyors taken down a few years ago. The continued unwillingness of Elizabeth to afford her a special interview must have rendered the unhappy captive miserable in the extreme - "The iron entered into her soul." After a residence of nearly two months in the castle of Carlisle, she was compelled to remove to Bolton Castle, in Yorkshire, the seat of lord Scrope.

Her keeper, in another letter, says "Surely, if I shold declare the difficulties we have passed before we cowld get hyr to remove, instede of a letter I shold wryte a storye, and that somewhat tragicall." Mary was removed from Bolton, in 1569, to the castle of Tutbury, in Staffordshire, and in the following year, to Sheffield Castle, where she was subject to more rigorous confinement than before. She was next removed to Sheffield Manor, where she was kept under such cruel restrictions, that, "unless she could transforme herself to a fly or a mouse, it was impossible that she should 'scape." In 1584, she was taken to Winfield, and from thence to her old prison at Tutbury, whence she was removed in 1586 to Chartley, and thence to Fotheringay, where she was beheaded on the 8th of February, 1587, evincing in her last moments all the fortitude and resignation of a martyr. Thus perished the unfortunate Mary, after a painful captivity of nearly eighteen years.

William Armstrong, a noted borderer, celebrated in ballads by the name of "Kinmont Willie,"11 was taken prisoner during a time of truce, in 1596, and borne away to Carlisle Castle. William Scott, the lord of Buccleugh, demanded the instant release of his follower, who had been seized and imprisoned contrary to the express agreement of the truce. The demand not being complied with, he took with him two hundred armed horsemen, and entered Cumberland, on the 13th of April, two hours before day break, well provided with ladders to scale the walls, and "instruments of iron for breaking the walls and forcing the gaites, if need had beine." They made a breach in the walls, and before the garrison could prepare for resistance, the lord of Buccleugh and his men had left the castle, and crossed the Eden again, carrying away Armstrong in triumph; and Sir Walter Scott says, "a cottage on the road side, between Longtown and Langholm, is still pointed out as the residence of the smith who was employed to knock off Kinmont Willie's irons, after his escape." About 1598, Carlisle was visited by a dreadful plague, when it was computed that 1196 persons, or one third of its population, were carried away by that awful calamity. On the 4th of August, 1617, James I visited Carlisle, when the mayor and recorder presented him with a "cup of golde valued at 30 and a purse of sylke, with forty jacobuses of the same." In consequence of the commotions in Scotland, a garrison of 500 Irish soldiers were sent to Carlisle, in 1639, and was not removed till 1641.

During the civil wars in 1644, Carlisle being then occupied by the royalists, and the marquis of Montrose having retreated thither, was unsuccessfully attacked by the earl of Calender. In the following month, Sir Thomas Glenham, commander-in-chief for his majesty in the north, threw himself with his forces into Carlisle, where he was besieged by general Leslie, after the capture of Newcastle, with a detachment of the Scottish army. The garrison defended the city with great courage, industry, and patience, till the inhabitants were obliged to subsist on the "flesh of horses, dogs, and other animals." The city was surrendered to general Leslie and the parliamentary army, on the most honourable terms, on the 25th of June, 1645; the loyal garrison having held out from the preceding October. A coinage of shilling and three shilling pieces took place, toward the latter end of this eight months' siege, specimens of which are preserved in the cabinets of collectors.

In 1648, Sir Philip Musgrave, a zealous royalist, took possession of Carlisle by surprise, and gave it up, two months afterwards to the duke of Hamilton, who garrisoned it with Scots, and appointed Sir William Levington the governor. It was surrendered to Cromwell on the first of October, pursuant to a treaty made some time previously between the marquis of Argyll and general Munroe. It appears that a large garrison was kept in the city three years, for we find that in 1651, major general Harrison sent a detachment of 2000 horse in pursuit of a party of Scots. After the restoration of king Charles, Sir Philip Musgrave, who had been so severely persecuted by the parliament for his loyalty, was made governor of Carlisle. The following notice of Charles about this period is from an old MSS belonging to the corporation:-

"The year 1641, Mr. Langhorne being Maior noe accounts were made; in the year 1642, Mr. Stanwix maior; the king made warr agt his P'liament, for this cittie was garrisoned by the king's P'tie, Sir Thomas Glenham being governor, to whom was given as an aide and helpe to maintaine the Cittie agt the Scotch who laid siege against it for one whole yeare, all the citizens plate and money: and in the yeare 1644 the necessities of the soldiers and inhabitants were such, that they ate horse-flesh and linseed bread frequently; upon which ye Cittie was yielded to the Scotch, and in the yeare 1645 the visitation begun and continued one whole yeare. In the yeare 1646, the Parlment of England and Scotland agreed for that the cittie should noe more be garrisoned, but p'fidiously the Scotch in the yeare 1648 did enter ye nation and garrisin the cittie, but the same yeare was beate fourth with disgrace and this cittie peacably surrendered to the parlt forces Mr. Robt. Collyer being placed maior; upon his entrie the cittie had no money in Common chist nor any plaite or other things necessary to be used in the cittie."

Carlisle could not boast much of its private buildings in those days, for the houses were mostly built of wood and clay, seldom exceeding one story in height, and generally covered with thatch. Hutchinson says that about his time, 1794 -

"The lanes and avenues, even the church road, were not paved: and in many places entirely covered with weeds and underwood. The streets, not often trod upon, were, in many parts of them, green with grass... Houses were not then painted either within or without; this being only a modern improvement. The streets, though spacious, were paved with large stones, and the centre part or causeway rose to a considerable height. The fronts from the houses were paved in the same manner, the consequence of which was that the kennels or gutters were deep trenches, and stone bridges were placed in many different parts, for the convenience of passing from one side of the street to the other. These gutters were the reservoirs of all kinds of filth, which, when a sudden heavy rain happened, by stopping the conduit of the bridges, inundated the streets so as to render them impassable on foot."

We trust the chronological system we have adopted in our arrangement will not be displeasing to our readers; it would be as easy for us to give our notices in narrative form, but we think it must be obvious that by giving the express dates, the knowledge of a place within a given period or reign, is more easily attainable. Were we to occupy too much space with mere description, and exclude solid information for flippant narrative, we might interest and obtain the praise of a certain class of readers, but their praise, after all, would be only superficial - the praise, as of the rivulet, which in its best features is only admired for its sparkling shallowness.

We come now to that memorable Rebellion of 1745, when the chevalier, Charles Edward Stuart, "the young pretender", attempted to possess himself of the English crown. Prince Charles Edward Stuart, eldest son of the pretender, crossed the channel in a frigate of 16 guns, under the convoy of a French ship of the line of 60 guns, and on the 25th of July, landed at Boradale, in Scotland. The first account of his landing was scarcely credited; and, when the news had become fully established, all Europe was astonished at the daring enterprise. Early in November, he marched southward, and entered Cumberland with the duke of Perth, and an army, amounting to eight or nine thousand men, and on the 9th, laid siege to Carlisle, which was but feebly defended by a garrison of militia, a few volunteers, and two small companies of invalids, under the command of colonel Durand and captain Gilpin. The population of the city at that period is said to be only 4000. The rebels approached in three divisions; the duke of Perth approaching from Stanwix, the marquis of Tullibardine, towards Caldewgate, and Prince Charles Edward, and the earl of Kilmarnock, advanced through the fields near Englishgate. On the 10th, the mayor received the following written communication from the chevalier:-

CHARLES, Prince of Wales, Regent of the Kingdoms of England, Scotland, France, and Ireland, and the dominions thereto belonging :

Being come to recover the king our father's just rights, for which we are arrived with all his authority, we are sorry to find that you should prepare to obstruct our passage; We, therefore, to avoid the effusion of English blood, hereby require you to open your gates, and let us enter, as we desire, in a peaceable manner; which, if you do, we shall take care to preserve you from any insult, and set an example to all England of the exactness with which we intend to fulfil the king our father's declaration and our own; But if you shall refuse us entrance, we are fully resolved to force it by such means as Providence has put into our hands, and then it will not perhaps be in our power to prevent the dreadful consequences which usually attend a town's being taken by assault. Consider seriously of this, and let me have your answer within the space of two hours, for we shall take any further delay as a peremptory refusal , and take our measures accordingly.


November 10, 1745, Two in the afternoon.

For the Mayor of Carlisle.


The prince slept this night at Blackhall12, and next day arrived at Brampton, from whence he dispatched an express, commanding the duke of Perth, the generalissimo of the army, to repair immediately to that town, whither an express was soon after sent to the prince from Carlisle, offering to surrender the city; and on the morning of the 15th, the gates were thrown open to the rebel army. townhall.jpg (16217 bytes)The pretender was now proclaimed king of England, at the Cross, in the Market-place, round which Charles Edward was carried amid the acclamations of his army; the corporation attended the ceremony in their robes, with the mace and sword before them, and on their knees presented the keys of the city to the prince. From Carlisle, the rebel army marched southward, by Lancaster and Preston, to Manchester, and after invading England as far as Warwickshire, returned into Cumberland, and arrived at Carlisle on the morning of the 19th of December, in great confusion, the duke of Cumberland's horse pressing upon the rear. Next day, the prince moved northward, leaving 400 men in the garrison of Carlisle, under the command of John Hamilton. The duke reached Carlisle on the 21st, at the head of his army, and commenced the siege. The rebel garrison, animated with great courage and fidelity to their prince, made a gallant but unavailing defence. The strength of their besiegers being augmented by the Liverpool Blues and other regiments, the white flag was suspended from the citadel by order of the governor, on the 30th of December, intimating the wish of the garrison to capitulate on terms. To this intimation the duke of Cumberland replied - "That the only conditions he could grant to rebels were that they should not be put to the sword, but be reserved for the king's pleasure." The conditions were hard, yet the garrison had no alternative but to accept them, and in the course of the day, Carlisle was surrendered to the king's troops.

Of the Manchester regiment who surrendered themselves prisoners, there were colonel Townley, five captains, six lieutenants, seven ensigns, one adjutant, and ninety-three non-commissioned officers; and in addition to the governor and surgeon, there were sixteen officers, and 256 non-commissioned officers and private men of the Scotch, making a total number of 396 prisoners, including Coppock13, commonly called the "Mock Bishop." Many of the officers, including Townley, governor of the city, and Hamilton, governor of the castle, were executed in London, with all the revolting and disgusting details observed in cases of high treason. Of the seventeen prisoners tried on this occasion, ten suffered death on Kensington Common, on the 30th of July, 1746. The heads of Francis Townley and Captain Fletcher were revoltingly exhibited on Temple Bar; and the heads of all the others were preserved in spirits and sent into the country to be exhibited in public situations in Carlisle and Manchester. The heads of Hamilton and Coppock were placed on the Scotch gate. Many others who were concerned afterwards died on the block, together with the earl of Derwentwater. Of those executed in the country, nine were hanged at Carlisle, six at Brampton, and eleven at York. Fifty were executed as deserters in different parts of Scotland; and eighty-one suffered as traitors, after the decisive battle of Culloden14, which sealed the fate of prince Charles Edward, who now became a fugitive, and at length escaped to France, after the failure of the second attempt of the expelled house of Stuart to restore themselves to the throne of their ancestors.

A full and authentic account of this romantic enterprise has recently been published by G.G. Mounsey, Esq. from which we give the following extract :-

"Ever after the retreat from Derby his fortunes ebbed, as the retiring tide after it has reached its limits :-

"There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries."15

"The history of his enterprise is a commentary on the text of the immortal bard. There was a tide so strongly in his favour as to excite the astonishment of all observers. He missed it; and achieved not fortune, but irretrievable ruin."

Mannix & Whellan, History, Gazetteer and Directory of Cumberland, 1847




1. Much of this early history is rather speculative (or wrong !). For a modern treatment, see e.g. Carlisle, by Sydney Towill, 1991, ISBN 0 85033 742 9
2. The only fragments of Roman masonry still in situ are the foundations of a shrine in the gardens of Tullie House Museum, and a little masonry from the fort of Petriana (Stanwix) in the car park behind the Cumbria Park Hotel.
3. The scale of destruction following the withdrawal of the Romans is probably greatly exaggerated.
4. King Egdrid is King Ecgfrith of Northumbria (670-685), who gave Carlisle and lands about to St. Cuthbert.
5. Far from being un-tilled before the Normans arrived, the area around Carlisle, indeed the whole Solway Plain, was heavily farmed in Roman times.
6. For Edward's monument, see Burgh parish description.
7. Andrew de Harcla's treason was to conclude a peace treaty with Robert Bruce, without the knowledge of his king.
8. Castle-gate is now Castle Street, Richard-gate is Rickergate, and Botchard-gate is Botchergate.
9. The battle of Langside took place on May the 13th, 1568, near Glasgow.
10. The tower in which Mary was kept prisoner was demolished in 1834.
11. Two versions of the rescue of Kinmont Willie are available in the ballads section.
12. Blackhall, where the prince slept, is Blackwell (pron. Bleckell), just south of Carlisle.
13. Thomas Coppock had been installed as bishop of Carlisle by the prince.
14. The battle of Culloden, which signalled the end of the rebellion, took place on 16 April, 1746. The Duke of Cumberland, who led the army, became known as Butcher Cumberland. The rebels were selected for trial at random by lot; 1 in 20 were tried, the other 19 were transported, presumably to Australia.
15. The quotation from Shakespeare (There is a tide….) is from Julius Caesar, Act 4.

Photos Steve Bulman.

19 June 2015


Steve Bulman