Hervey Fitzmaurice once owned the Manor of Dalston just south of Carlisle and with it, Rose Castle at Raughton Head, these days the location of several pleasant walks.
In 1186 Fitzmaurice managed to irritate Henry II who removed both items and kept them for himself. Eventually the Crown granted the property to the Bishop of Carlisle, Walter Mauclerk who also happened to be the Lord Treasurer, in 1230. He possible wanted to move from the previous official residence of the bishops at Linstock Castle on account of it being a bit too close for comfort to the action of the Scottish Wars of Independence. Of course it wasn’t long for Rose Castle also become a target – its history and its medieval architecture reflect the uncertain nature of border dwelling. Sixty-three bishops of Carlisle have used Rose Castle as their residence until the decision to relocate in 2009.
During the early stages of the castle’s development there was a motte and bailey but over time its appearance changed though it was probably still wooden when Edward I and his lady wife (Margaret of France) stayed there in 1300. Edward Bruce stayed there as well for three days – though not necessarily at the invitation of either the monarch or the bishop. Things must have been quite lively in 1314, the year of Bannockburn, because the Scots burned the place to the ground. They returned the following year to lay siege to Carlisle but were repulsed by Sir Andrew de Harcla.
In 1336 Bishop Kirkby received his licence to crenellate- ie to fortify the building. Bishop Welton received a similar licence in 1335. It is thought that he built Pottinger’s Tower in the southwest corner of the range. It’s known as Pottinger’s Tower on account of the fact that someone called Pottinger hanged themselves in it rather than on account of the builder. It contained three rooms as well as the vaulted chamber at the bottom of the tower. Ultimately it would also house a wash house and a diary according to the nineteenth century history of Cumberland by William Hutchinson.
Another tower was built, or rebuilt, between 1400 and 1419 by Bishop Strickland – which is the building to the right of the picture. Strickland also got to grips with Penrith Castle Not to be outdone Bishop Bell built a further tower in 1488 and a fifth tower was built on the site by Bishop Kite in Tudor times (1522) and it also bore the name of its builder- it was next door to Pottinger’s tower and added an additional two living rooms to the complex. Evidently the bishops of Carlisle were keen on towers! By this time readers are probably thinking that either the bishops were a particularly warlike bunch or scaredy-cats cowering behind a variety of red stone towers whilst the parishioners of their diocese got on with the business of reiving and being reived. In actual fact it is thought that the bishops wanted to improve the amenities of their des res and have a little bit of privacy.
As is the way of these things events took a turn for the worse with the English Civil War. The Parliamentarians occupied it twice and did rather a lot of damage. The medieval castle which by then was an irregular quadrangle bounded by a ditch needed a face lift. The parliamentarians ordered a survey which was carried out by 1650 at the latest. It was noted that the castle was in “great decay.” During this time the bishop wasn’t in residence it was only upon the Restoration that Bishop Rainbow set about this by knocking down the south and east ranges of the tower and by renovating the west and north aspects of the castle – he had a bit of a job on his hands as records state the La Rose as the castle is sometimes known was uninhabitable..
And that was pretty much it until the Victorians got hold of it.