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Carlisle Castle is thought to have been first built in 1092 and originally taken the form of wooden buildings surrounded by a stockade upon a ringwork of earth. From 1122, the castle began to be rebuilt in stone and in 1154 a new outer gatehouse was constructed. Following his visit to the castle in 1186, Henry II built part of the 'palace' and a chapel, while between 1199 and 1216 further building works took place.

Over the course of the 13th century the castle fell into disrepair, however between 1296 and 1307 the stone tower later known as Queen Mary's Tower was built. In the 1370s and 1380s, the castle's outer gatehouse was rebuilt and and in 1483 the Tile Tower was constructed.

Between 1541 and 1543 the castle's defences were modernised with the building of bulwarks outside the east curtain, the construction of a half-moon battery in the outer ward and the strengthening of the inner ward's wall walk. Mary queen of Scots was imprisoned here for several weeks in 1567, held in what was then called the Warden's Tower.

By 1617 it had again fallen into disrepair, however following a siege of the castle in 1644-5 repairs were carried out.

Following the Jacobite rebellion of 1745, the castle was used as a military store and from the 1820s onwards alterations were carried out the convert the castle to a barracks. The upper levels of the half moon battery were demolished in 1835 and the following year a new barracks block was erected. In 1859 the castle was reported to have housed an army hospital and it also became a military training depot and recruiting centre after 1872-3.

Army recruits were trained at the castle during the First World War and in 1932 a new regimental institute opened. The regimental depot closed in 1959 however it remained as a base for both the territorial army and army cadet forces, and as the regimental headquarters of the Duke of Lancaster's Regiment.

The castle is opened to the public by English Heritage.

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