Phil Bowen on Carisbrooke Castle


Tuesday Group meetings continued with a trip to the Millenium Centre to see "Fat Friends. Thanks must go to Betty for organising the tickets and transport. Our final meeting was a talk by Phil Bowen on Carisbrooke Castle. Phil has spoken to the group on previous occasions and so we knew that it would an entertaining talk. In his introduction Phil explained that his daughter had died from lung cancer and that the proceeds from his talks go to the Roy Castle Lung Foundation who support research into lung cancer.

Carisbrooke Castle on the Isle of Wight is a Norman castle which was altered in subsequent periods. The first castle was built by William FitzOsbern to secure the Isle of Wight for the Normans. It was then seized by Henry I when the motte-and —bailey castle was built. The castles position 210ft above sea level means that it can be protected and the surrounding land made safe from any hostile folk. It is also in a good position to watch over the entrance to Southampton.

With the aid of photographs Phil was able to explain why the castle was difficult to attack as it was protected by a dry moat which had spikes and flints and other protective features were arrow slits at strategic points to repel invaders. The Bailey was where everyone lived. The Bayeaux Tapestry depicts the building of a motte and bailey castle and this has helped the understanding of this type of fortification.

Isabella de Fortibus was the first lady to rule the Isle of Wight and she transformed the castle into a home worthy of her prestige and wealth. She added a chapel and a chamber at the end of the Great Hall. This chamber had a window overlooking the island and reflecting her status it was glazed.

Isabella controlled the castle for some 30 years and when she died power struggles ensued. This led to the demise of the independent Isle of Wight and the estate passed to the Crown.

Elizabeth I makes her cousin George Carey captain of the Isle of Wight and he builds a 13- room mansion within the castle. This became a social centre with banquets held regularly. Jesters from the mainland attended these feasts and swapped news.

Charles I was imprisoned at the Castle during the Civil War and although he tried to escape both attempts were unsuccessful and he was eventually taken to London where he was executed.

The castle then fell into disuse until Princess Beatrice, Queen Victoria's youngest daughter modernises the castle and makes it her residence.

The castle is now maintained by English Heritage and having seen how Phil can make the various features of the castle come alive with his wealth of anecdotes I am sure it will be on the to do list of any member visiting the Isle of Wight.

The final event of the year is our annual dinner which is being held at the Blue Anchor.