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Carisbrooke Castle, Carisbrooke, Isle of Wight

(50°41′12″N, 1°18′53″W)
Carisbrooke Castle
SZ 485 877
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Hampshire
now Isle of Wight
  • John Margham
3 June 2016

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Feature Sets

Carisbrooke Castle occupies an elevated site near, the centre of the island adjoining the Medina gap in the lateral chalk ridge, and overlooks the village of Carisbrooke. It is a medieval castle site which originated as a castle between 1066 and 1086, with several phases of development culminating in the provision of the surrounding artillery fortifications in the late 16thc. The later medieval castle consisted of the curtain wall, the motte surmounted by a shell keep, an elaborate gate house and various internal buildings including the chapel of St Nicholas. The chapel was rebuilt between 1905 to 1906 on its medieval foundations. The core of the gatehouse originated in the 13thc and its existing form dates from 1335 to 1356. The outer artillery fortifications were the work of Gianibelli and were commissioned in 1597 (Lloyd and Pevsner 2006, 107-12).

The only surviving Romanesque sculpture is a capital now displayed in the museum.


The defensive role of the site may have commenced with an Iron Age promontory fort. The ‘Lower Enclosure’, just outside and below the medieval curtain walls, very probably originated as a late Roman structure. The castle site was the location of the Wihtgarasbyrg of two Anglo-Saxon Chronicle entries for the 6thc. The Lower Enclosure would appear to have been an Alfredian burh which was not itemised in the Burghal Hidage. It was reused as a burh in the time of Æthelred II (Margham 2015, 20-5). The castle originated in the time of William fitzOsbern (d. 1071) and was recorded as being within the manor of Alvington in Domesday Book. The castle chapel of St Nicholas was certainly present by 1086 as St Nicholas was recorded as holding the one hide of Shalcombe (Williams and Erskine 1989, 52v). FitzOsbern’s castle consisted of ringworks enclosing the NE quarter of the Lower Enclosure. The motte would appear to have been constructed in the early 12thc (Young 2000, 194). The castle was described as being built of stone in 1136, implying that the keep and the curtain walls were built by this date (Lloyd and Pevsner 2006, 106). The Undercroft of the Great Hall would appear to have originated in the 12thc (Young 2000, 46).


Loose Sculpture


According to the label in the museum the capital is from the Great Hall and was found during repair work in 1888. The capital is of a later 12thc form. The solid, unadorned nature of the back of the capital suggests that it formed the top of a respond with the rim of the capital’s bell perhaps reflecting the profile of an engaged column formerly supporting the capital. Stone (1891, 97) suggested that it supported one of the timbers of the original roof. The Shell keep has a blocked, unadorned round headed doorway which formerly gave access to the interior.


D.W. Lloyd and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Isle of Wight, London and New Haven 2006.

J. Margham, ‘Burhs and Beacons: the defence of Wihtlande in the Viking Age’, Proceedings of the Isle of Wight Natural History and Archaeological Society, 2 (2015), 16-47.

P.G. Stone, The Architectural Antiquities of the Isle of Wight, vol. 2, The West Medine, privately published, 1891.

A. Williams and R.W.H. Erskine, eds., The Hampshire Domesday, London 1989.

C.J. Young, Excavations at Carisbrooke Castle, Isle of Wight, 1921-1996, Wessex Archaeology Report no. 18, Salisbury 2000.