Thursday, July 12, 2012

Walk 303 -- An historical day in Carlisle

Ages:  Colin was 70 years and 62 days.  Rosemary was 67 years and 205 days.
Weather:  Mostly fine.
Location:  An historical day in Carlisle.
Distance:  0 miles.
Total distance:  3067 miles.
Terrain:  Pavements, footbridges and underpasses.
Tide:  Out.
Rivers:  None.
Ferries:  None.
Piers:  None.
Kissing gates:  None.
Pubs:  The King’s Head, one of the oldest buildings in Carlisle.  We drank Yates ‘Golden Ale’, ‘Cumbrian Ale’ and had a nice snack lunch.
‘English Heritage’ properties:  No.45, Carlisle Castle.  We also visited the cathedral.
Ferris wheels:  None.
Diversions:  None.
How we got there and back:  We were staying in our caravan near Carlisle.  I was nursing a very sore foot because I had a blister which had gone septic.  So we packed up walking the coastline for a few days and spent our time gently strolling around places of interest in the locality.  We drove into Carlisle and parked near the castle.
At the end drove back to the caravan.
We actually did our historical tour of Carlisle slightly out of order because I was waiting for a blister on my heel (which had gone septic) to heal before tackling the last two Walks leading to this first city back in England.  (I had to put the wrong date on the blog so that it would slip into the right slot.)
The settlement of Carlisle was first established during the Roman era — it was built to serve the forts on Hadrian’s Wall which runs through the city.  But the present city was built by William Rufus at the end of the 11th century.  It does not appear in the Domesday Book because, at that time, it was in Scotland.
Of course, the most important building as far as Colin is concerned is the King’s Head pub, one of his CAMRA pubs!  However, it is said to be one of the oldest inns in the city.  The present building dates from the 17th century, but there has been an inn on this site since the 10th century.  We enjoyed some good ale and a nice snack lunch there.

Carlisle became a city in 1133 when Henry I founded the See of Carlisle.  That is when the church of St Mary was upgraded to cathedral status, so it was to Carlisle Cathedral we went next.
The building was begun in 1122, founded as an Augustinian Priory, the remains of which are still to be seen in the cathedral grounds.  At the Reformation the monastery was dissolved, but the cathedral survived because it was taken over by a secular chapter.
During the Civil War of the 17th century, some of the nave was demolished by the Scottish Presbyterian Army so they could use the stone to reinforce Carlisle Castle.  This damage was restored in the 19th century.
I was particularly struck by the main entrance to this red sandstone building — I thought it was beautiful.  We are both interested in gargoyles, intrigued by the possibility that some of them are based on real animals or people.  And we love looking at misericords, a kind of “video” of medieval life carved in wood.  They are fascinating!

And so we moved on to Carlisle Castle.  There was probably a Roman fort on the site because it is built on the route of Hadrian’s Wall.  The castle was first built in the 11th century, during the reign of William II.  This was probably a timber and earth construction.  It was Henry I who, in the 12th century, ordered a stone castle to be built.  There followed many centuries of turbulence as it was taken over by the Scots, then retaken by the English, etc.  Henry VIII converted the castle for artillery.  In the 17th century it was besieged by Parliamentary forces, and in the 18th century it featured in the Jacobite risings against George II.  The buildings were partially demolished in the 19th century so that the stone could be used elsewhere.  What remained became the regimental depot of the Border Regiment until 1959.  The Territorial Army still uses the premises.
Normally we love exploring ancient castles, but we didn’t find Carlisle Castle to be very interesting.  It is small, and more like a barracks than a castle because so little of the original buildings remain.  It houses a military museum, and that is a subject which only brings on the yawns with us — sorry!  The present-day castle overlooks a very busy dual carriageway and a lot of ugly modern architecture.  We tried, but failed to get enthused.

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