Jollie's Cumberland Guide & Directory 1811


ANTIQUARIANS and historians seem to disagree in fixing the derivation of the name of Carlisle. It was called by the Romans and Britons Luguvallum, and Luguballium, or Luguballia: the Saxons termed it Luel; and the Saxon word Caer (meaning a city) being joined thereto, Caer Luel has probably, by an easy corruption, been changed to its present name Carlisle.

Carlisle is allowed by all writers to be of great antiquity; but its origin and ancient history are lost in the mazes of uncertainty. It seems to have been a place of importance in the time of the Roman; not so much, however, a station of defence, as of rest during intervals of tranquillity. After the retreat of the Romans, it is supposed this place was evacuated by the Britons, and soon laid waste by the destructive eruption of the northern marauders. It is pretty certain that King Egfrid caused Carlisle to be rebuilt, and fortified it with a wall: and, from the reign of that king to the coming of the Danes, it is presumed to have been much augmented in importance and power. - These ravagers, however, after spreading devastation through Northumberland, proceeded to Carlisle, and are said to have burned the town, thrown down the walls, and killed man, woman, and child. In that state the city was left for near 200 years, without an inhabitant, except a few Irish who lodged themselves among the ruins; so that large oaks grew in the desolate streets and among the ruins of houses.

Thus did this city lie in ashes till the coming of William the Conqueror; when Walter, a Norman priest, one of William's followers, began to rebuild it. William Rufuscastlekeep.jpg (28679 bytes) afterwards, seeing the importance of this place as a western frontier, directed Walter to complete its rebuilding and fortification; which he performed, erecting many public edifices, and defending the whole by a perfect circumvallation and strong fortress. A colony of Flemings (probably the artificers who raised the fortifications) were then placed here. But shortly after, these were removed to North Wales, and the Isle of Anglesley1; and the king replaced them with a colony of South Britons; men used to husbandry and the culture of lands, for the purpose of cultivating the Forest of Inglewood, hitherto in its original state, and to teach the natives the art of profiting from the natural fertility of the soil. To this colony all the records agree in attributing the first regular tillage that was known in the fertile plains of Carlisle2. But notwithstanding these agricultural efforts, we find, 70 years afterwards, that the vicinity of this town was not cleared of wood.

About the beginning of the reign of King Stephen, Carlisle was seized by David King of Scotland; which, together with the whole county, Stephen afterwards ceded to him, with a view of procuring his aid against Henry II. In 1138, King David made this city the place of his retreat, after his dreadful overthrow at the battle of Standard. And here he received Alberic the Pope's legate; by whose influence all the women captives were brought to Carlisle and set at liberty. He also obtained from the Scotch leaders a solemn promise, that, in future incursions, they would spare the church and withhold their swords from the aged, from women, and infants: an injunction which humanity dictated, but which the savage customs of the contending nations had not admitted into the modes of warfare.

In 1157, Henry II. and the Scotch King had an interview at Carlisle, relative to the restitution of Cumberland to the former. This meeting did not terminate pleasantly; but it appears, that soon afterwards the English obtained and held quiet possession of this city, till a fruitless assault was made upon it in 1173 by William, successor to Malcolm on the throne of Scotland. But returning the next year with an army of 80,000 men, he commenced a regular siege; the garrison, under the command of Robert de Vaux, was reduced to the greatest distress; and the town would probably soon have been in the hands of the Scots, had not William's being made prisoner at Alnwick concurred with other disastrous events for Scotland to put an end to the horrors of the war. During this reign great part of this city suffered by fire, and the records and charters were destroyed.

Alexander, King of Scotland, besieged and took Carlisle in the reign of King John*; but could not reduce the castle, which held out, and continued in the hands of the English.

In 1292, great part of the city and cathedral, with the records, were destroyed by an accidental fire: and, in 1296, the Scots, after laying waste the country, approached Carlisle, burnt the suburbs, and attempted to take the city by storm; but the bravery of the inhabitants obliged them to abandon their enterprize, and retreat to their own country. During the attack the women shewed astonishing valour; they poured boiling water over the walls upon the heads of their assailants and performed other intrepid actions.

On the 4th June, in the 32nd Edward I. half the city, as far as Rickergate, was burnt down; and three years after that time King Edward I. resided here for about five months, when he proceeded on his last expedition towards Scotland and died at Burgh-on-Sands.

In the 9th of Edward II. the King of Scotland besieged Carlisle in regular form for ten days; but was obliged to make a precipitate retreat, and was pursued by the English with good effect.

In the 11th of Edward III. the Scots laid siege to Carlisle, and burnt the suburbs, but the city held out.

In 1345, the Scots burnt this place, but were afterwards repulsed by the English.

Carlisle, during Aske's rebellion, in the 29th of Henry VIII. was besieged by an army of 8000 men. The garrison, however, found means to discomfit their designs; and they were afterwards intercepted by the Duke of Norfolk, who ordered the leaders, with about seventy others, for immediate execution, and hung them on the city walls.

In the 40th and 41st of Elizabeth a dreadful plague visited this place; to which 1196 persons fell victims. These were computed to be about one third of the inhabitants.

In 1644, Carlisle was surrendered to the Parliament forces under Lesley; after a siege and blockade of nearly eight months; in which time, the distress of the garrison was so great, that they eat dogs, horses, rats, &c.

The last hostile acts of which Carlisle was the scene, were those in the Scotch rebellion in 1745; when it was taken possession of by the rebel army; and afterwards retaken by the king's forces, under the Duke of Cumberland. The result of this transaction is too well known to need a repetition here.

* This reign is remarkable for the Pope's anathema on the cultivated lands in England. Its inhabitants, however, found out a means of evading its effects without disobeying the Pope: they cultivated the waste lands, thus saving their consciences. Many marks of this fact occur.


Jollie's Cumberland Guide & Directory 1811




1. Anglesey, off the north-west coast of Wales.
2. Not so, the area was heavily farmed in Roman times.

Photo Steve Bulman.

19 June 2015

Steve Bulman