A History of Carlisle

Carlisle may be an unassuming little city positioned on the Northern edge of England, just 8 miles from the Scottish border,  with claims to fame such as the most promiscuous city in Europe (perhaps Carlisle men just aren’t that good at counting) and also Britain’s happiest city (are the two related?)

When is comes to the city I was born and brought up in, I prefer some of the more juicy titbits, such as the Roman connections. The city existed even before the Romans came to Britiain, and was in fact one of the strongest cities in the country. During Nero’s reign, Carlisle is believed to have burnt down, and was rebuilt using the name Luguvalion, which means “strength of the god, Lugus” – Lugus was a local deity. Forts were built which established Carlisle as a stronghold, including Petriana, which is actually on the site of my old primary school (as a result, we did a lot of Roman history when I was at school). I loved visiting the local forts, and discovering secrets of the Romans when I was at school – it always seemed so exciting. By boys really enjoying spending time at the local museum, Tullie House, and no matter how often we go they always have a great time in the Roman exhibition, answering the questions to find out which Roman they would have been (although B isn’t too happy when he gets Matron). 

carlisle cursing stoneCarlisle seems to have been a much sought-after city. After the Romans left, the Picts took over the city, and then the Vikings , followed by the Scots! It’s the only city in England not to feature in the Domesday Book, due to the fact that it was in Scotland at the time of the Norman Conquest, athough in 1092 William Rufus took control from the Scots, and added it to the Normal territory, bringing it back into England. Not to be deterred, the Scots waged war with England, and over the following years Carlisle changed hands several times, and became the most besieged city in Britain, before finally being taken by the English, where it has remained since 1745, when Bonnie Prince Charlie retreated following the Jacobite Rising. The Border Reivers consisted of both Scottish and English families who, having had their livelihoods devastated by the warring nations, elected to carry out their own raids with the intention of improving their own existences, mainly at the expense of their enemies. Eventually they became the subject of a curse by the Archbishop of Glasgow, which is still in effect today, and is thought to have played some part in the misfortunes that have befallen the people of Carlisle, such as the Foot and Mouth crisis and the extensive floods that have taken place.

So, you see, this quaint little city, home to suppliers of Chanel fabric, prison to Mary Queen of Scots, and birthplace of William Woodrow’s mother, has a somewhat chequered past. Add in its proximity to the Lake District, Glasgow and Newcastle, and it makes a fabulous place to visit and spend some time uncovering some of the other secrets of the area.

What do you love about where you live? Does your hometown hold any secrets from its dim and distant past?


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