Carlisle

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Carlisle (/kɑrˈlaɪl/, locally /ˈkɑrlaɪl/, from Cumbric: Caer Luel) is the county town of Cumbria, and the major settlement of the wider City of Carlisle in North West England. Carlisle is located at the confluence of the rivers Eden, Caldew and Petteril, 10 miles (16 km) south of the Scottish border.

Carlisle is home to Carlisle Cathedral, and close to the Frontiers of the Roman Empire World Heritage Site.

It is the largest settlement in the county of Cumbria, and serves as the administrative centre for both Carlisle City Council and Cumbria County Council. At the time of the 2001 census, the population of Carlisle was 71,773, with 100,734 living in the wider city.

Historically the county town of Cumberland, the early history of Carlisle is marked by its status as a Roman settlement, established to serve the forts on Hadrian’s Wall. During the Middle Ages, because of its proximity to the Kingdom of Scotland, Carlisle became an important military stronghold; Carlisle Castle, still relatively intact, was built in 1092 by William Rufus, and having once served as a prison for Mary, Queen of Scots. The castle now houses the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment and the Border Regiment Museum. In the early 12th century Henry I allowed the foundation of a priory in Carlisle. The town gained the status of a diocese in 1122, and the priory became Carlisle Cathedral.

The introduction of textile manufacture during the Industrial Revolution began a process of socio-economic transformation in Carlisle, developing into a densely populated mill town. This combined with its strategic position allowed for the development of Carlisle as an important railway town, with seven railway companies sharing Carlisle railway station.

Nicknamed the Border City, Carlisle today is the main cultural, commercial and industrial centre for north Cumbria. It is home to the main campuses of the University of Cumbria and a variety of museums and heritage centres. The former County Borough of Carlisle had held city status until the Local Government Act 1972 was enacted in 1974.

Much of the ancient history of Carlisle is still unknown and what is known is sourced mainly from archaeological evidence and the works of Roman historian Gaius Tacitus. The earliest recorded inhabitants were the Carvetti tribe of Brythonic Celts who made up the main population of ancient Cumbria and North Lancashire. According to early historians Fordum and Boethius Carlisle existed before the arrival of Romans in Britain and was one of the strongest British towns at the time. In the time of the emperor Nero it was said to have burned down. The town was named Luguvalion or Luguwaljon, meaning ‘strength of the god Lugus’. This was later Latinised into Luguvalium and later still was derived to Caer-luel (Caer meaning fort in Brythonic).

By the year 73 CE (AD) the Roman invasion of Britain had reached the River Eden and a fort was built that winter at a strategic point overlooking the confluence of the River Caldew with the Eden, where Carlisle Castle stands today. The created civitas was the only walled-town in the entire north west region of Roman Britain, for this reason it is reasonable to assume that the settlement did exist and served as a tribal centre for the Carvetii before Roman occupancy, following the pattern of other civitates made by the Romans.

In 79AD the two main Roman generals active in north Britain, Gnaeus Julius Agricola and Quintus Petillius Cerialis, advanced through the Solway area as they continued their campaign further north. As a result it is likely greater control was achieved at Carlisle over anti-imperialist groups. Something which is signified by the fact the fort at Carlisle was able to be refurbished in 83AD using oak timbers from further afield rather than the local Alder. At this time the fort was garrisoned by a 500 strong cavalry regiment, the ala Gallorum Sebosiana.

By the early 2nd century Lugavalium had become established as a prominent stronghold and the ‘Stanegate’ frontier, which consisted of itself and several other forts spanning east to Corbridge, was proving to be a far more stable frontier against the Picts than those established deeper into Caledonia. In 122AD the province was visited by the Emperor Hadrian who approved a plan to build a stone wall the length of the frontier. With the wall a new fort was built at Carlisle in the modern day Stanwix area of the city north of the river. The fort, Petriana, was the largest along the length of Hadrian’s Wall and was eventually completed in stone by around 130AD. Like Lugavalium, which lay within sight, Petriana housed a cavalry regiment, Ala Petriana, which at 1000 strong was the sole regiment of this size on the wall.

Until 400AD the Roman occupation of Britain saw many fluctuations in importance and at one time it broke off from Rome when Marcus Carausius assumed power of the territory. He was later assassinated and suffered Damnatio Memoriae, one of the few surviving references to him was uncovered in Carlisle. Coins excavated in the area suggest the Romans remained in Carlisle as late as the rule of Emperor Valentinian II from 375 to 392AD.

The period of late antiquity after Roman rule saw Cumbria become the major area in the Brythonic kingdom of Rheged. While it is not clear, it seems likely that the kingdom took its name from a major stronghold within it and it has been suggested that this was broadly conterminous with the earlier Civitas Carvetiorum, Carlisle. As a major part of this kingdom, Carlisle features strongly in the histories of Urien and his son Owain, two kings of Rheged who are the subject of much Arthurian legend. Rheged was eventually annexed in 655 when Rienmelth ferch Royth married Oswy, King of Northumbria. In the remaining part of the first millennium, Carlisle continued to serve as an important stronghold within several entities who warred over the area including the Brythonic Kingdom of Strathclyde and the Anglian Kingdom of Northumbria.

By the time of the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, Carlisle was part of Scotland and did not feature in the Domesday Book of 1086. This changed in 1092 when William the Conqueror’s son William Rufus invaded Cumberland and reincorporated it into England. Upon doing so, the construction of Carlisle Castle began in 1093 on the site of the Roman fort, south of the river Eden. The castle was built in stone in 1112 together with a Keep and city walls. The walls enclosed the city south of the castle and included three gates to the west, south and east called Irish Gate (or Shaddon Gate), English Gate (or Botcher Gate) and Scottish Gate respectively. The names of the gates still exist in road names present in Carlisle today. Along with the castle Carlisle Cathedral was also built in 1133.

The conquest of Cumberland was the beginning of a long war between Scotland and England which saw the region change hands a number of times and centred around Carlisle, it having become a major stronghold with the construction of the castle. During these wars, the livelihood of the people on the borders was devastated by the contending armies. Even when the countries were not at war, tension remained high, and royal authority in one or the other kingdom was often weak. The uncertainty of existence meant that communities or peoples kindred to each other would seek security through their own strength and cunning, and improve their livelihoods at their nominal enemies’ expense. These peoples were known as the Border Reivers and Carlisle was the major city within their territories.

The reivers became so much of a nuisance to the Scottish and English government that in 1525 the then Archbishop of Glasgow, Gavin Dunbar, put a curse upon all the reivers of the borderlands. The curse was detailed in 1,069 words, beginning: “I curse their head and all the hairs of their head; I curse their face, their brain (innermost thoughts), their mouth, their nose, their tongue, their teeth, their forehead, their shoulders, their breast, their heart, their stomach, their back, their womb, their arms, their leggs, their hands, their feet, and every part of their body, from the top of their head to the soles of their feet, before and behind, within and without.”

(For the millennium celebrations, the local council commissioned a 14-tonne granite artwork inscribed with all 1,069 words of the curse. In 1998 some Christians, among other projects, began campaigning to prevent the city of Carlisle from installing the stone.In the wake of this controversy, superstition about the stone grew and a number of the city’s setbacks were blamed on the curse stone, including an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, a flood, various crimes, rising unemployment statistics and even the fate of Carlisle United, which was relegated out of its league.)

The death of Queen Elizabeth I in 1603 began the end of turbulent relations between the Scots and England. With no English heir, James VI of Scotland also became King James I of England and was determined to bring peace to his ‘United Kingdom’. He applied far stricter penalties than those which preceded against those caught reiving. The borderers were not quick to change their ways however, many were hung and whole families were exiled to Ireland. It was not until 1681 that the problem of the reivers was acknowledged as no longer an issue.

With the kingdoms uniting Carlisle Castle should have become obsolete as a frontier fortress but in 1642 civil war broke out and the castle was garrisoned for the king in 1642, and endured a long siege, Carlisle’s eighth, from October 1644 until June 1645. Eventually the loyalist forces surrendered after the Battle of Naseby. The city was then occupied by a parliamentary garrison, and subsequently by their Scots allies, who destroyed the cathedral’s nave and used the stone to rebuild the castle. Cerlisle continued to remain a barracks thereafter. In 1698 travel writer Celia Fiennes wrote of Carlisle as having most of the trappings of a military town and was rife with alcohol and prostitutes.

In 1707 an act of union was passed between England and Scotland, creating Great Britain, and Carlisle ceased to be a frontier town. This again didn’t end Carlisle’s position as a garrison town. The tenth and most recent siege in the cities history took place after Bonnie Prince Charlie took Carlisle in the Jacobite Rising of 1745. When the Jacobite’s retreated across the border to Scotland they left a garrison of 400 in Carlisle Castle. In ten days the Duke of Cumberland took the castle and executed 31 of the Jacobites on the streets of Carlisle.

While Carlisle continued to garrison soldiers in the city, eventually becoming the headquarters of the Border Regiment, the city’s importance as a military town was finally letting slip as the industrial age took over. In the early 19th century many textile mills, engineering works and food manufacturers building factories in the city. Chiefly in the Denton Holme, Caldewgate and Wapping suburbs which lie in the Caldew Valley area of Carlisle. These included Carr’s of Carlisle, Kangol, Metal Box and Cowans Sheldon.

The expanse of industry brought with it a great increase in population as jobs shifted from rural farms towards the cities. This produced a horrific housing shortage where at one point 25,000 people in the city only had 5,000 houses to live in. People were said to be herded together with animal houses, slaughter houses and communal lavatories all with open drains running between them. Living conditions were so bad that riots were common and some emigrated to the United States. The problem wasn’t solved until the end of the century when mass housing was built west of the city walls.

In 1823 a canal was built to nearby Fisher’s Cross (Port Carlisle) in order to handle goods produced in the city. This enabled other industrial centres such as Liverpool to link with Carlisle via the Solway. This was short-lived however and when the canal operators ran into financial activity the waterway was filled in. A railway was built in place of the canal.

Carlisle eventually became a major railway centre sitting on the West Coast Main Line and connecting to the east of the country. At one time 7 different companies used Carlisle Citadel railway station and prior to the building of the Citadel Station, the city had several different railway stations, including London Road station. Carlisle also used to have the largest railway marshalling yard in Europe at Kingmoor which, although reduced in size, is still very much operational today and is used by several major railfreight companies.

The start of the 20th century saw the city come of age. The population had grown to over 45,000. Transport was improved with a public tram system installed in 1900, which operated until 1931, and the first cinema was built in 1906. In 1912, the boundaries of Carlisle were extended to include Botcherby in the east and Stanwix in the north.

The city was not without its problems however and still suffered with industry in particular. Carlisle did not avoid the decline in the textile industry which was experienced throughout Britain as new machinery made labour unnecessary. In 1916, during World War I, the government took over all the public houses and breweries in Carlisle because of endemic drunkenness among construction and munitions workers from the nearby munitions factory at Gretna. This experiment in nationalised brewing, known first as the ‘Carlisle Board of Control’ then after the war the ‘Carlisle & District State Management Scheme’, lasted until 1971.

In the 1920s and 1930s the first council houses were built in the city, much of it within the newly formed Raffles suburb to the west of the city. For the initial period Raffles was said to be the most sought after housing in the city by council tenants. This did not last however and the suburb soon became Carlisle’s most infamous with high crime rates and poverished living standards. A report from April 1994 which appeared in The Independent on Sunday branded the estate a no-go area. One resident was reported to have said “If you’ve got a problem in Raffles, get a shotgun”. Redevelopment in 2004 saw an effort to clean up the estate by replacing housing.

In the 1980s a feature of the city was renovated. Known as The Lanes, the winding narrow alleyways of housing which cut through the eastern block of the city centre had not changed much at all since medieval times. The renovation saw them transformed into a shopping centre complete with a library which opened in 1986. This was complemented in 1989 when Carlisle city centre was pedestrianised.

On the evening of Friday 7 January 2005, the rivers Eden, Caldew and Petteril burst their banks in Carlisle due to as much as 180 mm rainfall landing up stream that day. 1,700 homes were flooded and 3 people lost their lives. As well as this, the city’s police and fire stations were flooded along with Brunton Park football stadium in the following months the police, fire service and Carlisle United F.C. were relocated, the latter as far as Morecambe. To add to the chaos emergency services had to respond to numerous cases of arson and looting in the city.

Carlisle has a compact historic centre, including a castle, museum, cathedral and semi-intact city walls. The former law courts or citadel towers which now serve as offices for Cumbria County Council were designed by Thomas Telford. The first Citadel building was a Tudor fortification replacing the medieval Englishgate, designed by the Moravian military engineer Stefan von Haschenperg in 1541.

Carlisle has held city status since the Middle Ages and has been a borough constituency or parliamentary borough for centuries at one time returning two MPs. In 1835 it became a municipal borough which was promoted to county borough status in 1914. The city’s boundaries have changed at various times since 1835 the final time being in 1974 when under the Local Government Act 1972 the city and county borough merged with the Border Rural District to become the new enlarged City of Carlisle, a non-metropolitan district of Cumbria.

The borough originally had several civil parishes or parts of parishes within it but these were all merged into a single civil parish of Carlisle in 1904. The present day urban area is now classed as an unparished area except for the fringes which are in Stanwix Rural, Kingmoor and St Cuthbert Without parishes.

Carlisle City Council is based in a 1960s building known as the Civic Centre in Rickergate. An iconic building and tallest in Carlisle, it may soon be demolished and the surrounding area regenerated.

Carlisle is situated on a slight rise, in the Cumberland Ward, at the confluence of the rivers Eden, Caldew, and Petteril.

Carlisle is linked to the rest of England via the M6 motorway towards the South, and to Scotland via the M74/A74 towards Glasgow and the North. As well as these routes, many important trunk roads either begin or terminate in Carlisle, including the A6 to Penrith and eventually leading onto Luton (historically the main road south), the A595 to western Cumbria, the A69 to Newcastle-upon-Tyne and the A7 to Edinburgh. The City of Carlisle thus bears the distinction of being the only city in Great Britain other than London and Edinburgh with more than one single numbered ‘A’ road – A6 and A7 (although at one time the A5 and A6 met in St Albans).

Traffic in the Carlisle area, especially at rush hour, has become a significant problem. A proposed bypass road will take traffic heading to and from west Cumbria off the M6, as opposed to its current path through the centre of Carlisle.

Carlisle is a principal railway station on the West Coast main railway line. Other railway lines go to Newcastle, Leeds, Glasgow via Dumfries, and west Cumbria. Kingmoor Traction Maintenance Depot is a major facility located to the north of Carlisle.

Carlisle became an industrial city in the 19th and early 20th centuries with many textile mills, engineering works and food manufacturers opening up mostly in the Denton Holme, Caldewgate and Wapping areas which lie in the Caldew Valley area of Carlisle. (One such manufacturer located in the Denton Holme area was Ferguson Printers, a large textile printing factory that had stood for many years before its unfortunate closure in the early 1990s). In the early 19th century a canal was dug connecting Caldewgate with the sea at Port Carlisle. The canal was later filled in and became a railway line.

Famous firms that were founded or had factories in Carlisle included Carr’s of Carlisle (now part of United Biscuits), Kangol, Metal Box (now part of Crown Holdings) and Cowans Sheldon. Cowans Sheldon originated in the city in the mid 19th century and became one of the world’s most important railway and marine engineering firms, manufacturing finally ceased in Carlisle in 1987. The Carr’s and Metal Box factories are still going. The construction firm of John Laing and the hauliers Eddie Stobart Ltd. were also founded in Carlisle.

Until 2004, Carlisle’s biggest employer was Cavaghan & Gray, part of Northern Foods which operated from two sites in the Harraby area of Carlisle producing chilled foods for major supermarket chains. As of January 2005, the London Road site was closed with the loss of almost 700 jobs as production was transferred to the nearby Eastern Way site or other factories around the UK.

Carlisle also became a major railway centre with at one time 7 different companies using Carlisle Citadel railway station. Prior to the building of the Citadel Station, Carlisle had several railway stations, including London Road station. Carlisle also used to have the largest railway marshaling yard in Europe at Kingmoor which, although reduced in size, is still very much operational and used by railfreight companies like Freightliner Heavy Haul, DB Schenker Rail UK (formerly EWS) and very occasionally Direct Rail Services.

There are various light industrial estates and business parks located on the fringes of Carlisle and on former industrial sites close to the city centre.

On March 28, 2005, Carlisle was granted Fairtrade City status.

The Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery was opened in 1893 by the Carlisle Corporation. The museum features resident exhibits detailing the history of Roman occupancy of the region and Hadrian’s Wall as well as the Border Reivers. Tullie House, named after the Jacobean mansion it is located in, also houses travelling exhibits and art galleries. The museum has been attributed with many awards and was expanded in 1990, again in 2000.

The city also features the Guildhall museum based in a 14th century house and the Border Regiment Military Museum inside the castle.

The Sands Centre is Carlisle’s main entertainment venue which sometimes hosts touring musicians, theatres and comedians. The Stanwix Arts Theatre also operates it the northern suburb of the city as well as the Green Room, an amateur theatre. Brunton Park stadium has also been known to host live music and hosted Elton John in 2007.

 

As a frontier town for over a millennium and a half, Carlisle can trace its roots as a military city. It is the most besieged place in the British Isles, having been held under siege at least ten times, and has garrisoned troops for the majority of its history. Most recently Cumbria’s County regiment, the Border Regiment made headquarters at Carlisle Castle. The regiment was eventually amalgamated with King’s Own Royal Regiment (Lancaster) to become The King’s Own Royal Border Regiment and subsequently Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment where its lineage is continued today. From 1720 to 1959 the regiment fought in many campaigns including the French and Indian War, the Battle of Culloden, World War I and World War II.

RAF Carlisle also known as 14 MU was located at Kingstown near the present-day Asda. The station closed in 1996 after nearly sixty years in a variety of roles. First established as RAF Kingstown in 1938, it was originally a bomber station, then one of the RAF’s Elementary Flying Training Schools and latterly a post war storage facility.

During the Second World War the air raid warning organisation No 32 Group Carlisle Royal Observer Corps operated from a building in the city centre although it was controlled administratively from RAF Kingstown. The association with Kingstown developed further in 1962 when the ROC ceased its aircraft spotting role for the RAF and took on a new role of plotting nuclear explosions and warning the public of approaching radioactive fallout for the UKWMO. A new administration building and a protected, hardened Nuclear Reporting bunker was built at RAF Carlisle. The nuclear bunker was a standard above-ground structure and both the bunker and Headquarters hutting stood on a separate site at Crindledyke just outside the main gates of RAF Carlisle and roughly opposite the station’s officers mess. The Carlisle group was redesignated no 22 Group ROC.

The ROC also constructed a smaller nuclear reporting post called Kingstown post (OS ref:NY 3837 5920), on the main RAF Carlisle site. The post was also an underground protected bunker but designed for a crew of three observers. The headquarters bunker accommodated an operational crew of around 100 with dormitory and canteen facilities included with the operations room and life support plant.

The Royal Observer Corps and its parent organisation the United Kingdom Warning and Monitoring Organisation were disbanded in December 1995 after the end of the Cold War and as a result of recommendations in the governments Options for Change review of UK defence. The ROC buildings were demolished in 1996 and replaced by a cellphone communications mast. The foundations of the nuclear bunker can still be partially seen outlined in the concreted yard, which also contains the Air Training Corps hut during recent further development of the site.

Following both the Local Government Act 1888 and Local Government Act 1894, local government in England had been administered via a national framework of rural districts, urban districts, municipal boroughs and county boroughs, which (apart from the latter which were independent), shared power with strategic county councils of the administrative counties. The areas that were incorporated into the City of Carlisle in 1974 had formed part of the Border Rural District from the administrative county of Cumberland, and the politically independent County Borough of Carlisle.

After the exploration of reform during the mid-20th century, such as the proposals made by the Redcliffe-Maud Report in the late 1960s, the Local Government Act 1972 restructured local government in England by creating a system of two-tier metropolitan and non-metropolitan counties and districts throughout the country. The act formally established the City of Carlisle as a local government district of the new shire county of Cumbria on 1 April 1974. The new dual local authorities of Carlisle City Council and Cumbria County Council had been running since elections in 1973 however. The leading article in The Times on the day the Local Government Act came into effect noted that the “new arrangement is a compromise which seeks to reconcile familiar geography which commands a certain amount of affection and loyalty, with the scale of operations on which modern planning methods can work effectively”.

The residents of the City of Carlisle are represented in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom by Members of Parliament (MPs) for two parliamentary constituencies. The City of Carlisle is part of the North West England constituency in the European Parliament. North West England elects nine MEPs.

In 1974, Carlisle City Council was created to administer the newly formed non-metropolitan district. The council offices are located in Carlisle, at the Civic Centre.

The coat of arms of Carlisle City Council are those granted to the city council of the County Borough of Carlisle by the College of Arms on 7 July 1924. These arms are derived from more ancient designs of or relating to Carlisle and its governance.

The city council’s coat of arms are emblematic of the city’s history. The arms incorporate a golden shield with a red cross, upon a green mount, surmounted by a mural crown, relating to Carlisle’s history as an ancient walled city. This is supported by two red wyverns—legendary dragons used in heraldry—their wings strewn with golden roses, with reference to the city’s Brythonic history. The motto beneath the arms comes from Thomas Wolsey’s speech to Thomas Cromwell, in Shakespeare’s play, Henry VIII.

As of the 2001 UK census, the City of Carlisle had a total population of 100,739. The population density was 96.9 /km2 (251 /sq mi).

The table below details the population change since 1801, including the percentage change since the last available census data. Although the City of Carlisle has existed as a district since 1974, figures have been generated by combining data from the towns, villages, and civil parishes that would later be constituent parts of the city.

Population growth in City of Carlisle since 1801
Year 1801 1811 1821 1831 1841 1851 1861 1871 1881 1891 1901 1911 1921 1931 1941 1951 1961 1971 1981 1991 2001 2011
Population 32,825 37,176 43,500 49,571 51,972 57,378 61,857 66,336 70,816 71,950 74,989 78,160 80,640 83,200 90,127 97,667 99,124 100,607 99,507 101,948 100,798 107,500
 % change +13.3 +17.0 +14.0 +4.8 +10.4 +7.8 +7.2 +6.8 +1.6 +4.2 +4.2 +3.2 +3.2 +8.3 +8.4 +1.5 +1.5 −1.1 +2.5 -1.2 +6.6
Carlisle compared
2001 UK Census City of Carlisle Cumbria England
Population of working age 73,431 354,183 35,532,091
Full-time employment 39.0% 36.9% 40.8%
Part-time employment 14.6% 13.6% 11.8%
Self employed 8.2% 9.9% 8.3%
Unemployed 3.5% 3.4% 3.3%
Retired 15.8% 16.7% 13.5%

As of the United Kingdom Census 2001, Carlisle had 73,431 residents aged 16 to 74.

Carlisle Lake District Airport, owned by the Stobart Group, serves Carlisle, Cumbria. However, as of 2011, Carlisle Lake District Airport does not provide any commercial passenger flights operated by any airline to any destination. Subject to planning application approval by Carlisle City Council, Aer Arann hope to commence a link from Carlisle Lake District Airport to Stobart Air’s other base at London Southend Airport before the 2012 Summer Olympics begin in London.

Carlisle has formal twinning arrangements with two northern border cities on mainland Europe. They are since 1961 Flensburg in northern Germany and since 1987 Słupsk in northern Poland.

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