|Carisbrooke Castle and Osborne House are two of the finest properties in
the English Heritage portfolio.
Crowning a hilltop south of Newport,
Carisbrooke Castle has held the dominant defensive position on the Isle of
Wight for over 900 years.
With its keep, battlements and working well house,
Carisbrooke Castle is an exciting site for the whole family to explore.
There has been a fortress here since at least Saxon times, but the present
castle was built on this site in c. 1100, when the island was granted to the
de Redvers family.
When the Spanish Armada passed alarmingly close in 1588, Carisbrooke became
enormously significant for the defence of the realm. It was suspected that
the Spanish might attempt to seize the island, and in response the castle
was transformed into an artillery fortress.
Charles 1 was imprisoned here in 1647. He was comfortably accommodated in
the Constable’s Lodging, and a bowling green was constructed for his
Nevertheless he made two attempts to escape: the first was foiled only when
he became wedged in the window bars. Today the Charles 1 room is furnished
as a typical bedroom of the Stuart period.
The well house and tread wheel are still in working order and open to
visitors. Prisoners may have originally worked the wheel, but from the late
17th century donkeys were used. These happy, hard-working animals can now be
found giving demonstrations.
The on-site Carisbrooke Museum (managed by the Carisbrooke Museum Trust)
provides more historical information about the castle, as well as
memorabilia and artefacts relating to Charles 1.
After her marriage to Prince Albert in 1840, Queen Victoria felt the need
for a family residence in the country. To use her words, ‘a place of one’s
own – quiet and retired’.
Queen Victoria knew and liked the Isle of Wight after visiting as a child,
and she and the Prince Consort were both determined to buy a property there.
‘It is impossible to imagine a prettier spot,’ wrote the Queen after a visit
to Osborne House. In 1845 the royal couple purchased the property with an
estate of 342 acres, plus the adjacent Barton Manor to house equerries and
grooms and to serve as the home farm.
Before the deeds had even changed hands, architect Thomas Cubitt had been
approached – firstly to build a new wing and then to demolish the old house
and add further wings. Once all the work was complete, an exquisite pair of
Italianate towers dominated the landscape and looked out over passing ships
in the nearby Solent.
Artistic interiors The interiors of Osborne House abound with opulence in
both architectural design and decoration. Marble sculptures, commissioned by
Victoria and Albert, line the classically designed Grand Corridor of the
house and recall the royal couple’s love of the arts. Portraits and frescos
adorn the walls, serving as a reminder of the family’s links to the crowned
heads of Europe, and of the unrivalled supremacy of the British Empire.
Family photographs on the desks of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert offer a
further insight into the way they lived.
Queen Victoria’s role as Empress of India is celebrated in the richly
decorated Durbar Room. Constructed from 1890-91, the room served as an
elaborate banqueting hall and every surface, from floor to ceiling, is
Most of the gardens are accessible on tarmac and compacted gravel paths.
Horse and carriage rides are also available (extra charge).
Where can I find out more?
For more information including opening times, costs and
directions please see the
English Heritage website