Tuesday, 01 December 2015

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New man in charge at Carlisle Castle

For 500 years, Carlisle Castle fought to keep the Scots out.

John Bonner photo
John Bonner

But now the ancient fortress is being managed by a man from north of the Border – for what’s thought to be the first time ever.

John Bonner, of Annan, is site manager at the castle and it’s his job to attract tourists of all nationalities.

The 51-year-old said: “It’s a bit of a joke among the 12 staff here that I’m a Scotsman running the castle. The standing joke is that Robert the Bruce was the first Scotsman in charge here.”

Until the English and Scottish crowns were united in 1603, Carlisle Castle, which has a grassed moat at the front, was the principal fortress of England’s ‘Western March’ against Scotland.

Built by William Rufus (William the Conqueror’s son), the castle has witnessed many attacks over its 900 years of history. In 1306, a parliament was held there by Edward I during his Scottish campaign.

In 1567 it became a temporary prison for Mary, Queen of Scots, and in 1745 it was a place of incarceration for rebel soldiers loyal to Bonnie Prince Charlie during the Jacobite Rebellion.

Today, the castle is in the safe hands of English Heritage and, given its turbulent history over the centuries, is well preserved.

Mr Bonner, who has recently taken up the job as site manager, said: “King David I of Scotland ruled from the castle and died here in 1153 and Mary, Queen of Scots was under house arrest here so there are lots of links.

“My job now is to tell tourists about the 900-year history of the castle. We have an excellent team here. We give guided tours and talks.

“There are lots of unique features in the castle. Jacobite prisoners were kept in captivity here and many of them were executed in Carlisle. Legend has it that they used to lick the damp dungeon walls in their cell during their incarceration – the licking stones.”


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