Carlisle Castle and the Wars of the Roses

William Rufus captured the city of Carlisle in 1092 and built a castle at the northern edge of the settlement. This structure was later rebuilt in stone by order of his successor, Henry I, thirty years later, who initiated work on the keep. Carlisle was acquired by David I, king of Scots, in 1135, but was subsequently regained by Henry II in 1157. The latter was responsible for further building work including the construction of the inner gatehouse. Further works were periodically carried out, such as in the late fourteenth century, when the outer gatehouse was rebuilt. Carlisle’s border location meant that it was besieged on multiple occasions by the Scots, notably in 1315, when the defenders withstood a determined siege. It was for this reason that a permanent garrison was maintained in the castle, which served as the headquarters of the wardens of the west marches with Scotland.

Richard Neville, earl of Salisbury, was appointed as warden of the west march in 1420. He therefore played a leading role in the defence of the Anglo-Scottish border. He resigned the office in 1435 in protest at the late payment of his arrears, but later resumed his post in 1443. From that date onwards he received an annual peacetime wage of £1,000 for the wardenship, with the office was exercised on his behalf by lieutenants, namely Thomas, Lord Dacre, from 1450, and then by Salisbury’s son, Sir Thomas Neville, from 1457. The latter receiving a salary of £333 6s. 8d. per year to meet his expenses. Salisbury’s wardenship gave him significant financial and military resources, which he utilised in the campaigns of the 1450s. He was killed at the Battle of Wakefield in 1460 but after the Yorkist victory at Towton in the following year, his eldest son, Richard Neville, earl of Warwick, was appointed as warden by Edward IV.

In the summer of 1461, a Lancastrian-Scottish army laid siege to Carlisle. The defence of the city and castle was led by Richard Salkeld, esquire, who had recently seized control of it from the Lancastrians. Considerable damage was said to have been inflicted on the suburbs and surrounding area by the besiegers. However, the siege was soon broken by a Yorkist army led by John Neville, Lord Montagu, with many of the attackers killed. By 24 June, Warwick reached the city to oversee its defence, where he retained a gunner called John Faucon. Nine years later, following Warwick’s rebellion and flight, Edward issued verbal instructions to Edward Story, bishop of Carlisle, for the inhabitants of Carlisle to seize control of the castle there. They eventually captured it after a siege, with Salkeld later receiving a royal pardon. The king then appointed his youngest brother, Richard, duke of Gloucester, as warden of the west march in 1470, with Sir William Parr serving as his lieutenant. Edward was briefly deposed from power a short time later, with Warwick resuming the wardenship during the readeption of Henry VI, with Salkeld acting as his deputy. However, Edward regained power in the following year. Salkeld returned to his allegiance and later received £73 for his expenses in garrisoning Carlisle from 6 July to 15 August 1471. Later in 1482, the king created a palatinate for Gloucester, which comprised Westmorland and Cumberland, including Carlisle. Richard III subsequently appointed Humphrey, Lord Dacre, as his lieutenant in 1484. Following the Battle of Bosworth, a year later, the same office was conferred on his son, Thomas, Lord Dacre, by Henry VII. Responsibility for the castle and city was meanwhile entrusted to Richard Salkeld who received wages for a garrison of twenty mounted men.

I hope you enjoyed reading this post. If you want to find out more about Carlisle and other castles during the Wars of the Roses, then consider checking out my book

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