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Carisbrooke, Isle of Wight

Historical Description

Carisbrooke, a village and a parish in the Isle of Wight. The village stands on an affluent of the river Medina, 1 mile SW of Newport, was formerly the capital of the island and a market town. A Roman station seems to have been here, and previously perhaps a British city. The presence of the Romans here, or even anywhere in the island, which had been doubted, was fully proved in 1859 by the discovery of a Roman villa of about 120 feet by 50 with two large halls, tessellated pavements, a semicircular bath, a hypocaust, some coins, and a few small articles. An early fortress crowned an adjacent hill, 239 feet high, and was taken in 530 by Cerdic the Saxon. A castle on the site of this was built by William Fitz-Osborne, the first Norman lord of Wight, rebuilt in the time of Henry I. by Richard de Redvers, Earl of Devon, enlarged in 1262-1293 by Isabella de Fortibus, repaired and outwardly strengthened by Elizabeth, used as a state prison by Cromwell, and made then the prison of Charles I. and his children, long occupied by the governor and the garrison of the Isle of Wight, allowed eventually to go greatly to decay, and subjected to considerable restoration. The site is very fine, the appearance of the castle is picturesque, and a walk of about a mile goes round it, commanding delightful views. The encompassing bastions, faced with stone, are of the time of Elizabeth; the entrance, by archway stone bridge, and machicolated gatehouse with flanking circular towers, is partly of the time of Edward IV., partly of the time of Elizabeth; the range of building containing Charles I.'s prison rooms, on the left past the gatehouse, belongs to the later years of the 15th century; the polygonal keep, on a moated mound, in the north-east corner of the inner court, was probably the work of Richard de Redvers; the great hall, now divided into two storeys and otherwise modernised, is Early English, and was probably the work of Isabella de Fortibus; and the chapel, at right angles with the hall, seems to have been constructed along with it, and was long desecrated and afterwards restored. The castle well is a regular excavation through solid rock, and famous for its depth, reputed to be 300 feet, though really no more than 145, and is covered by a structure of the 15th century which has been restored. Sir William Davenant, the poet, was confined in the castle. It is the property of the Crown, and the public are admitted on payment of a small fee.

The parish includes also the hamlets of Bowcombe, Billingham, and part of Chillerton, Parkhurst Forest, with part of Parkhurst Prison, and the Albany Barracks. It has a post, money order, and telegraph office under Newport (Isle of Wight). Acreage, 8823; population, 9115. A priory was founded near the church by Fitz-Osborne, attached to the Benedictine abbey of Lire, and given by Henry V. to his new establishment at Sheen. The living is a vicarage with the chapelry of Northwood annexed in the diocese of Winchester; value, £847, in the gift of Queen's College, Oxford. The church was built by Fitz-Osborne, deprived of its chancel and north aisle in the time of Elizabeth, has a fine tower with pinnacles and an octagonal turret, and contains two interesting monuments of Lady Wadham and William Keeling. The perpetual curacy of St John and that of St Nicholas-in-the-Castle are separate charges. There is an Congregational chapel. A Dominican priory for 18 nuns was built in 1867 at a cost of £12,000, defrayed by the Countess of Clare. The workhouse for the whole of the island is situated in this parish.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5


The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.

Ancient CountyHampshire 
Ecclesiastical parishCarisbrooke St. Mary 
LibertyWest Medina 

Any dates in this table should be used as a guide only.

Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for Carisbrooke from the following:


Online maps of Carisbrooke are available from a number of sites:

Visitations Heraldic

The Visitations of Hampshire, 1530, 1575, & 1622-34 is available to view on the Heraldry page.

CountyIsle of Wight
RegionSouth East
Postal districtPO30
Post TownNewport