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Carisbrooke Castle 1859

REF NR: 1664

The venerable Castle of Carisbrooke has been in ruins for a long time. Yet it remains most interesting and picturesque in character; and in all points of view will prove an object of engrossing interest to the visitor. It stands on a sort of circular hill which is both high and steep, thus giving all the greater prominence and effect to the "ruins hoar" by which it is crowned. As is usual with such structures, the ivy has established itself on its towers and battlements and does what "in it lies" to draw its green mantle over the scars and crannies of time and help it make a fair show amid the decrepitude and gathering shadows of age.


The oldest part of this interesting pile is the keep, which stands on a mound at the north-east angle and is elevated considerably above the rest of the buildings. This has been regarded by some as of Saxon origin and to have been built as far back as the sixth century. The ascent to this keep is made by a flight of steps between seventy and eighty in number. Though climbing them is not achieved without some fatigue, the reward is great in the varied and significant prospect which the summit commands.


The original castle occupied a space of about two acres of ground, but has been subsequently enlarged and improved, especially in the time of Queen Elizabeth, its outer walls embrace an area of twenty acres, the whole of which is surrounded by a moat, long since drained. From the road, the entrance is by Queen Elizabeth Gate; but the most important entrance is by Woodville Gateway on the other side of the bridge. This is a very imposing, indeed the most imposing remaining part of the old castle. Here a portcullis and machicolations give added strength to the gateway, while the round towers, by which it is flanked, contribute vastly to the grandeur of the structure as a whole. On your left hand, on passing through it, attention is directed by the cicerone to the prison of Charles I, when he was held in durance here. The very window is shown from which he attempted to escape, with awkward results. On the opposite side is the castle chapel, in which the Newport municipal authorities, its mayor and its constables, receive the oath of office from the governor of the island.


One unfailing object of interest and amusement to visitors is a well, some 300 feet deep within the grounds of the castle, valuable both for the quality and quantity of the water it produces.


If one was to use the well, while endeavoring to make themselves acquainted with its rather peculiar appearance, a lamp would be lighted and lowered to the surface of the water til its contact with it is announced by a sharp report from the cavernous hollows, and a humbling depth is revealed to the eye. The venerable "drawer of water" is then introduced, in the form of a sedate, patriarchal-looking donkey, which walking into the huge tread-wheel and causing it to revolve, conducts the whole process of lowering the bucket and bringing it up full. This important office has been in the "donkey" family for many long years, and the members who have filled the role seem to have thrived in it. One of them continued in the position upwards of thirty years, while his predecessor reached the half-century mark and might have even added another ten to the fifty, but for the fact that, in a moment of rash despondency, he grew weary of his rather limited life and threw himself from the ramparts.


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