Carlisle Castle in north Cumbria has changed colour, according to research by historians.
Investigations into the Keep indicate that it was originally light grey and not the red colour seen now.
Historians think that along with Carlisle’s other major landmark, the cathedral, the Keep was originally built out of Kirklinton stone, but when it was later re-surfaced, supplies of the light grey stone had diminished, so the distinctive red St Bees stone was used instead.
Residence for the King
Steven Brindle, an English Heritage Historian is leading the project to find out more about the building prior to the opening of a new exhibition.
“When it was first built in the 12th Century, the Keep was intended as a residence – for the King or his senior representative there.” he said.
During last years’ research, which was the first of its kind carried out on Carlisle Castle, the team dated the changes in appearance back to the mid-16th Century, when major work to modernize the building was carried out.
Carlisle Castle resurfaced
Ordered by King Henry VIII the works included the re-surfacing of the stonework and reducing the size of the building.
Mr Brindle added: “We know that the mid-16th Century was a period of great change for Carlisle Castle. King Henry VIII ordered his surveyor, Stefan von Haschenperg, from Moravia, to reduce the size of the building for reasons that included mounting a longer range canon on the roof, in order to prepare the Castle for the threat of a Franco-Scottish invasion.”
For 500 years, until the 1603 Act of Union, Carlisle Castle was the principal fortress of England’s ‘Western March’ against Scotland.
Held to siege ten times in its history, Carlisle Castle is the most besieged place in the British Isles.
Castle gatehouse re-opens
The Captain’s Tower, which is one of the best preserved gatehouses in the UK, will be re-opening to all castle visitors for the first time in 20 years.
The new exhibition at Carlisle Castle will open to the public on March 31.
Steven Brindle MA DPhil FSA is an English Heritage historian and author of best-selling books on Brunel and on Paddington Station.
He has written numerous guidebooks for English Heritage, including the recently published ‘Whitby Abbey‘.