Personal histories

1st Bishop

Bishop Athelwold & King Henry I

The creation of the diocese and Cathedral of Carlisle by King Henry I in 1133 was a significant political and ecclesiastical act. Politically Cumberland had not been added to Norman England until 1092, seven years after the Domesday Book survey.
The establishment of the new diocese created the significant new post of bishop in the rapidly developing city of Carlisle. The person selected by King Henry I to fill this important post was Athelwold (1133-1157), his trusted confessor, whom he had already appointed in 1122 to be the first prior of his new Augustinian Priory. Interestingly his name shows Athelwold to be an Angle by birth and not one of the Norman elite.

2nd Bishop

Archbishop Bernard & King John

Archbishop Bernard (1204-1214) was appointed the second bishop of Carlisle by King John in 1204, after Pope Innocent III had been hoping Bernard would return to Ragusa, the present day Dubrovnik, where he had been consecrated archbishop back in 1189.
Berrnard had fled the city in 1194 and managed to get caught up with the return of King Richard I from the Third Crusade, arriving in England by 1198 as a refugee archbishop. In 1200 he was taken under the wing of King John, who found a refugee archbishop useful for his purposes, assigning him to the paltry revenues of the see of Carlisle.

3rd Bishop

Bishop Beaulieu & Pope Innocent III

Hugh de Beaulieu (1219-1223) was chosen by King John as the third bishop of Carlisle for his proved administrative abilities. He was a Burgundian Cistercian monk who in 1203 had been transferred to King John's new foundation at Farringdon in Berkshire and in the following year was appointed the first abbot of of the king's new abbey at Beaulieu in Hampshire.
Over next ten years the king used Abbot Hugh's diplomatic skills in negotiations with Pope Innocent III and the Roman curia. However, complaints were made against him at the general chapter of the Cistercian Order in 1215, at which he was accused of living too grand a life and scandalously neglecting Cistercian Rule, and in consequence was deposed as abbot. He retained the king's favour and in 1218 was nominated on the pope's orders to the see of Carlisle. Hugh was consecrated in York Minster on 24 February 1219.

The Bishops of Carlisle first started using the place we know as Rose Castle in


over 750 years ago

4th Bishop

Walter Mauclerk & King Henry III

Walter Mauclerk (died 1248) was the fourth bishop of Carlisle from 1223 to 1246, and the first to occupy the Rose Castle site, having been granted the lordship of the manor of Dalston by King Henry III in 1230. The bishopric was a reward for his service as treasurer of the king’s exchequer. His appointment as a bishop conferred upon him a seat in the house of lords with a rank equivalent to a baron and an income from the assets of the diocese. As bishop he remained in the service of the king, serving on the regency council during the king’s absence abroad and engaged in peace negotiations with Scotland. It is not known what buildings, if any, were on the Rose Castle site when the land was granted to him. He will have set about building a residence suitable for his needs, probably in the form of a motte and bailey castle, consisting of a stone building on a mound, with a cluster of other buildings within a protective palisade.

8th Bishop

Ralph of Irton & King Edward I

Ralph of Irton (died 1292) was the eighth bishop of Carlisle from 1280 to 1292. When he was elected as bishop without the king’s consent, the pope quashed the election. Not accepting this, Ralph travelled to Rome to plead his case. Having succeeded in this he was, most unusually, consecrated bishop of Carlisle in Rome. With a reputation as an effective administrator and financier, he is credited with completing the newly extended choir of Carlisle Cathedral in Early English style. In 1290 he was sent by King Edward I to negotiate the marriage of the future King Edward II to Margaret, heir to the Scottish throne. Two years later he was appointed to supervise in Scotland the collection of the tax levied to finance a crusade.

9th Bishop

Bishop Halton & Robert Bruce, King of Scotland

John Halton (died 1324), ninth bishop of Carlisle from 1292 to 1324, was an Oxford graduate and an Augustinian canon of Carlisle Cathedral priory. He was much engaged in the king’s business in Scotland and was principal collector there of the tax imposed by Pope Nicholas IV on all the churches in Britain for the launch of a crusade. For this purpose, he spent long periods in Scotland, based at Kelso and Jedburgh until hostilities between England and Scotland broke out in 1296 with William Wallace emerging as the Sottish leader. King Edward I appointed Bishop Halton as keeper of Carlisle Castle where he carried out important defensive works. After the death of King Edward in 1307, and the coronation of Robert Bruce as king of Scotland, Scottish raids increased. After King Robert had beaten King Edward II at the battle of Bannockburn in 1314, he briefly occupied Rose Castle, and returned in 1322 to burn it. The bishop, having vacated Rose Castle, withdrew to his manor at Horncastle in Lincolnshire where he stayed for two years. He returned to Rose Castle and died there in 1324.

11th Bishop

Bishop Kirby & Carlisle Castle

John Kirkby (died 1352), eleventh bishop of Carlisle from 1332 to 1352, was the archetypal medieval warrior bishop. He was a local man and had been prior of Carlisle Cathedral Augustinian Priory when elected bishop. In recognition of his military skills he was appointed keeper of Carlisle Castle and was implicated in a riot in the city. In 1335 and 1337 Rose Castle was burnt by the Scots, and to resolve this problem the bishop was granted a licence to crenellate Rose Castle in 1336 to make it more defensive. However, given the fact that a second licence was granted to his successor in 1355, it seems that the work was not undertaken, or not completed, in his episcopate. In 1346 he was appointed warden of the Western Marches, responsible for defending the boundary with Scotland. It was in this context that he was described as riding fully armed at the head of his retinue of forty men-at-arms.

12th Bishop

Bishop Welton & Western Marches

Gilbert Welton (died 1362), twelfth bishop of Carlisle from 1353 to 1362, had been an Oxford graduate and a doctor of civil law. His appointment coincided with the end of twenty years of devastating attacks by the Scots in the context of Border warfare. However, he was granted a second royal licence to fortify Rose Castle in 1355, which suggests that the first license granted to his predecessor in 1336 had not been effective. Under Bishop Welton’s supervision, plans went ahead to develop Rose Castle from a modest defensive building vulnerable to Scottish attacks into a substantial border fortress. In this new type of castle there was no central keep, but rather two circuits of outer curtain walls and inner mantle walls built round a central courtyard. Parts of this have survived in spite of a number of subsequent alterations. Significantly, in 1359 the bishop was appointed warden of the Western Marches and was involved in a survey of all castles and forts in Cumberland and Westmorland to ensure that they were strongly garrisoned and well provisioned.

15th Bishop

Bishop Merk & King Richard II

Thomas Merk (died 1409/10), fifteenth bishop of Carlisle from 1397 to 1399, had been a Benedictine monk of Westminster Abbey of which King Richard II was a patron. It was in this context he became a friend of the king and accompanied him in visits to Ireland in 1395 and 1399. He was sent by the king to Cologne and also Paris to seal the king’s second marriage. On the second occasion of the king’s visit to Ireland, he was taken prisoner by Henry Bolingbroke, and made to relinquish the crown in favour of King Henry IV. Bishop Merk, as a friend of Richard II, was among those tried for treason. Involved in a plot to restore Richard II to the throne, Merk was deprived of his bishopric, tried, found guilty and condemned to death. However, he was pardoned in 1400 and allowed to retire to Oxford and also act as an assistant bishop. He then went to Italy where he attended the Council of Pisa in 1409. It is uncertain where he died. Merk’s particular claim to fame is not so much the events in which he was involved, but rather that he features prominently in William Shakespeare’s play Richard II.

16th Bishop

Bishop Strickland & Peace Commissioner

William Strickland (died 1419), sixteenth bishop of Carlisle from, 1400 to 1419, was unusual in that he had been married, had a daughter and been widowed, before his ordination. His daughter married first Sir John Derwentwater and secondly Sir Robert Lowther. Educated at Oxford University, he was described as a clerk in 1362 and was probably in minor orders when he married. He had been a lawyer by profession, was a member of the wealthy local Strickland family and had close links with the influential Percy and Clifford families. In 1401 he was appointed a commissioner to treat for peace with the Scots. He undertook a number of significant building projects, including a defensive tower in Penrith, and at Carlisle Cathedral he rebuilt the tower that had fallen in 1380 and the north transept that had been damaged by its fall. At Rose Castle his name is associated with Strickland Tower, presumably in recognition of some work done upon it by him. To him also has been attributed the rebuilding of the small castle at his manor of Bewley, near Appleby.

19th Bishop

Bishop Lumley & Treasurer of England

Marmaluke Lumley (c1390-1450), nineteenth bishop of Carlisle from 1429 to 1450, was from an aristocratic family. His father was the first Baron Lumley and his mother was related to the earls of Westmorland. He studied law at Cambridge University where he became chancellor. Appointed bishop of Carlisle, he was a commissioner responsible for regulating the truce with Scotland and was also appointed warden of Carlisle and the Western Marches. Because of Scottish raids, the income of the diocese was seriously depleted which reduced the effectiveness of his work. He was appointed a member of the king’s council in 1446 and treasurer of England in the following year. War with France at this time had damaging effects upon the national and royal finances. In 1450 he was appointed to the more lucrative bishopric of Lincoln.

25th Bishop

Richard Bell & King Richard III

Richard Bell (c1410-c1495), twenty-fifth bishop of Carlisle from 1478 to 1495, had been a Benedictine monk and prior of the Benedictine monastery of Durham Cathedral, which he is reputed to have helped to bring back to its former prosperity. Supported by Richard duke of Gloucester, the future Richard III, he was appointed bishop of Carlisle. He spent substantial sums of money at Rose Castle in work which included the building of Bell’s Tower in 1488 and the creation of the adjacent new chapel at first floor level. After his death a magnificent brass was placed over his tomb in the centre of the choir of the cathedral, where it is the only surviving medieval brass, all the others having been destroyed in the Commonwealth period. It is supposed that Bishop Bell was probably instrumental in the use of a Durham manuscript to provide the images of the series of paintings of the life of St. Cuthbert in the cathedral’s north choir aisle.

29th Bishop

Bishop Kite & King Henry VIII

John Kite (died 1537), twenty-ninth bishop of Carlisle from 1521 to 1537, enjoyed the benefits of royal favour at the court of King Henry VIII. He was appointed a royal chaplain in 1509, took part in the funeral of King Henry VII and the coronation of King Henry VIII. In 1509 he was appointed sub-dean of the Chapel Royal. His friendship with Cardinal Wolsey secured for him his appointment as archbishop of Armagh in 1513. He was present when Wolsey received his cardinal’s hat and attended the baptism of Princess Mary in 1516. He was involved in an embassy to Charles I of Castile in 1518 and was present with King Henry VIII in 1520 on the Field of the Cloth of God. In 1521 he exchanged his archbishopric of Armagh for the more modest bishopric of Carlisle, to which was added the titular archbishopric of Thebes so that he should not lose that status. At Rose Castle he undertook substantial building work to turn his formidable border fortress into an episcopal palace worthy of his position. Kite’s Tower provided a grander entrance than the medieval Portcullis Tower and the opening up of larger Tudor-style windows, to replace narrow medieval slit windows, shed new light into the building. However, friendship carried responsibilities, and Wolsey sent him to help keep order on the Scottish border in support of Baron Dacre, warden of the Western Marches.

31st Bishop

Bishop Oglethorpe & Queen Elizabeth I

Owen Oglethorpe (c1503-1559), the thirty-first bishop of Carlisle from 1557-59, had the unique privilege of crowning Queen Elizabeth I. It was a sign of the times that he had to resign his presidency of Magdalen College, Oxford, in 1552 because his Catholic views were unacceptable in the reign of King Edward VI. He resumed the post when Catholic Queen Mary came to the throne in 1553 after the early death of Edward VI. Under Queen Mary he was appointed dean of St. George’s Windsor and Bishop of Carlisle. It was in this capacity that it fell to him to crown Queen Elizabeth in 1558, because the archbishopric of Canterbury was vacant and the archbishop of York and bishop of Durham claimed to be too old. The following year Bishop Oglethorpe was deprived of his see by Queen Elizabeth because of his catholic sympathies and put under house arrest, but died six months later, a victim of the turbulent times.

42nd Bishop

Bishop Sterne & Tower of London

Richard Sterne (1595/6-1683), forty-second bishop of Carlisle from 1660 to 1664, was the first bishop of Carlisle to be appointed after the long Civil War and Commonwealth when the country was torn apart by political and religious conflicts. During that time, he had been imprisoned in the Tower of London and attended Archbishop Laud at his execution in 1645. Appointed to the Carlisle bishopric, he found Rose Castle in a very dilapidated state, reduced to less than half its original size. Only the purchase and use of the property by one of the parliamentarians, William Heveningham, had saved it from total destruction. Bishop Sterne seemed content to undertake very few repairs and additions to the castle in the four years he occupied it. In 1664 he was appointed Archbishop of York.

43rd Bishop

Bishop Rainbow & Cambridge University

Edward Rainbow (1608-1684), who was the forty-third bishop of Carlisle from 1664 to 1684, had been appointed dean of Peterborough and vice-chancellor of Cambridge University after the restoration of the monarchy and Church of England in 1660. Appointed to the bishopric of Carlisle, he tried unsuccessfully to extract money for the restoration of the castle from his predecessor, Archbishop Sterne, from whom he received only minimum compensation. The one good thing that emerged from this attempt was the drawing of a plan of Rose Castle by Thomas Machell in 1671. This showed most usefully both those parts of the castle that had been destroyed and the parts that had survived. Having to accept that it would not be possible to rebuild what had been lost, Bishop Rainbow set about repairing and improving what remained of the castle, including the creation of a new chapel on the first floor. His architectural additions and alterations in the classical style of the late seventeenth century were to be swept away by Bishop Hugh Percy who substituted regency gothic in the period 1829 to 1831.

44th Bishop

Bishop Smith & Oxford University

Thomas Smith (1614-1702), forty-fourth bishop of Carlisle from 1684 to 1702, had been born in Westmorland but spent thirteen years as a fellow and tutor at Queen’s College, Oxford. He only left when the pressures of university life under the Commonwealth regime drove him back to the north, where he served as a domestic chaplain to a royalist Fletcher family until the Restoration of the monarchy and the Church in 1660. He was briefly appointed to a canonry at Carlisle Cathedral, but promptly moved to a similar post at Durham. In 1672 he was appointed Dean and then Bishop of Carlisle in 1684. His restoration work at the cathedral was then transferred to the surviving parts of the castle, continuing the rebuilding in classical style started by his predecessor Bishop Edward Rainbow. Bishop Smith’s main rebuilding project was the north-west corner tower of the castle where there been the medieval portcullis tower. This became Smith’s Tower. He made substantial interior improvements, rebuilt the dove-cote that bears the date 1700, and repaired the stables and boundary walls. He is, however, most remembered for his donation of his substantial library to the cathedral under the terms of his will. Reflecting the scholarship of the age, he collected printed items on all subjects, from multi-volume tomes, to tracts and proclamations. He lived to the age of 87 years through the most tumultuous years of English history.

45th Bishop

Bishop Nicolson & Archbishop of Cashel

William Nicolson (1655-1727), forty-fifth bishop of Carlisle from 1702 to 1718, was an energetic and multi-talented man. He was a scholar, author, bibliographer, linguist, diarist and botanist, who eventually left Carlisle diocese to become bishop of Derry and then Archbishop of Cashel in Ireland. After a scholarly start, including an interest in Anglo-Saxon, he was ordained and served as an effective archdeacon to Bishop Thomas Smith. His bibliographical interests are reflected in three volumes on English, Scottish and Irish libraries which were published in his lifetime. His manuscript diaries and botanical book were only published in the twentieth century. A biography of him was published in the USA in 1956.

51st Bishop

Bishop Law & Cambridge University

Edmund Law (1703-1787), fifty-first bishop of Carlisle from 1768 to 1787, stands out from others appointed to the diocese as the most significant theologian. He was successively master of Peterhouse, Cambridge, librarian to the university and Knightbridge professor of moral theology. He was liberal in his views and much of his writing was in the form of the assessment of the writings of others, in the cut and thrust of university debate. His printed works are largely the publication of his university lectures. His most influential work was titled Considerations on the State of the World with Regard to the Theory of Religion. At Rose Castle he made a number of significant changes to the castle’s gardens and grounds. A record of his removing a mound on the west side of the castle has been taken to refer to the motte and bailey that is thought to have been on the castle site before the building of the fourteenth century fortress.

52nd Bishop

Bishop Douglas & Captain James Cook

John Douglas (1721-1807), the fifty-second bishop of Carlisle from 1787 to 1791, was a Scot, born at Pittenweem in Fife. After schooling at Dunbar, he completed his studies at St. Mary’s Hall and Balliol College, Oxford. After ordination he served as an army chaplain in the 3rd Foot Guards in 1744 and was an aide-de-camp at the battle of Fontenoy in Belgium in 1745, in which a French army beat the English commanded by the Duke of Cumberland. Back in England, Douglas became chaplain and secretary to Lord Bath and in London built up a literary reputation as an industrious writer, critic and editor, becoming a friend of the philosopher and historian David Hume and of the writer Samuel Johnson. He helped the explorer Captain James Cook to edit the journals of his famous voyages and he subsequently published an important introduction to the journals. Douglas was appointed a canon of Windsor in 1762 and of St. Paul’s in 1776. His election as a fellow of the Royal Society and appointment as a trustee of the British Museum were measures of his prominence in public life. He was appointed bishop of Carlisle in 1787 and also Dean of Windsor the following year. He undertook considerable work at Rose Castle, most of which did not survive later restorations, before he was appointed bishop of Salisbury in 1791. He died in 1807 and was buried at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor.

53rd Bishop

Bishop Venables-Vernon & Queen Victoria

Edward Venables-Vernon, later Harcourt, (1757-1847), was the fifty-third bishop of Carlisle from 1791 to 1807. Benefitting from his aristocratic birth, his father was the first Baron Vernon and his mother a daughter of the first Viscount Harcourt, he strengthened his social position by marrying a daughter of the Earl Gower, later marquess of Stafford. After canonries at Christ Church, Oxford, and at Gloucester Cathedral, he was appointed bishop of Carlisle in 1791 aged 34. In spite of this aristocratic background, it is recorded that he and his wife Lady Anne lived at Rose Castle a life of true simplicity, making the castle a real family home and not just a summer residence. Ten of their sixteen children were born there. In 1807 the bishop was appointed archbishop of York, confirming his reputation for scrupulously attending to his duties and for his generosity in the establishing of new churches. In 1830 he inherited extensive family estates from a cousin and took the name Harcourt, making Nuneham Courtenay his main family home where he entertained Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. He died at Bishopthorpe, the archbishop’s residence, in 1847 aged ninety.

54th Bishop

Bishop Goodenough & Westminster Abbey

Samuel Goodenough (1743-1827) was the fifty-fourth bishop of Carlisle from 1807 to 1827. Educated at Westminster School and Christ Church, Oxford, he returned to his school as an under-master. In 1772 he set up a very successful private school in Ealing for the sons of noblemen and prominent gentlemen which gained the approval of King George III and third Duke of Portland, whose patronage gained him appointments as dean of Rochester in 1802 and bishop of Carlisle in 1807. He married Elizabeth Ford whose father was physician to the Middlesex Hospital and to Queen Charlotte. In addition to his educational work and church appointments, Samuel Goodenough gained a reputation as an eminent botanist specialising in plants of water and uncultivated land. Relating to his botanical interests, he complained that at Rose Castle ‘no one here knows the difference between a thistle and a sunflower’. Suffering from poor health, he complained about the distance of Carlisle from London and about the weather, so spent the winters in London. He is recorded as being the last bishop of Carlisle to wear a wig, having three for different types of occasion. He died in 1827, aged 85, and had the distinction of being buried in the north cloister of Westminster Abbey.

55th Bishop

Bishop Percy & Architect Thomas Rickman

Hugh Percy (1784-1856), fifty-fifth bishop of Carlisle from 1827 to 1856, was a grandson of the first Duke of Northumberland and son of the first earl of Beverley. He was well connected, wealthy and very interested in architecture. Having married Mary, eldest daughter of Charles Manners Sutton, Archbishop of Canterbury, significant appointments quickly followed, including dean of Canterbury and bishop of Rochester. Following his appointment as bishop of Carlisle in 1827, he undertook at Rose Castle a substantial building and rebuilding programme, which involved new addition and a radical removal of the late seventeenth classical style alterations and the imposition of the regency gothic style that he preferred, using the architect Thomas Rickman. His new additions to the castle were not erected on the site of the destroyed buildings on the east and south sides of the original courtyard, but were instead added to the existing west side. The first-floor chapel in particular reveals his taste, as do the main staircase and fireplaces in the major room. The work lasted from 1829 to 1831. At a belated final stage, Strickland Tower, which had been at the north-east corner of the castle, was restored by the architect Anthony Salvin in 1852.

58th Bishop

Bishop Goodwin & Church House, Westminster

Harvey Goodwin (1818-91), fifty-eighth bishop of Carlisle from 1869-91, had the reputation of being a man of ability. After a distinguished academic career at Cambridge, where he demonstrated exceptional mathematical ability, he was ordained and in due course was appointed dean of Ely and served on two royal commissions. Appointed bishop of Carlisle in 1869 he was notable for his wide-ranging interests and influence, especially in the relation of science and religion. He was appointed chairman of the Royal Commission Enquiring into the Condition of Cathedrals in England and Wales, which continued from 1879 to 1885. It was largely due to his efforts that Church House, Westminster, was founded. At Rose Castle it was on his initiative that stained- glass windows by Clayton and Bell were put into the chapel. His biography was written by Canon H.D. Rawnsley.

67th Bishop

Bishop Newcome & House of Lords

Bishop James Newcome (born 1953), sixty-seventh bishop of Carlisle from 2009, was educated at Marlborough College, and read modern history at Trinity College, Oxford, and theology at Selwyn College, Cambridge. After training for ordination at Ridley Hall, Cambridge, he was ordained deacon in 1978 and priest in 1979. Following several years of parochial ministry, he returned to Ridley Hall as a tutor. He was appointed a residentiary canon at Chester Cathedral in 1994. While there he served as Diocesan Director of Ordinands and of Ministry. In 2002 he was appointed suffragan bishop of Penrith in the diocese of Carlisle and then diocesan bishop of Carlisle in 2009. The decision was taken in consultation with the Church Commissioners and the diocese, that the bishop and his family would not to take up residence at Rose Castle, but instead use the former vicarage of St. John’s Church, Keswick, as the new Bishop’s House. Bishop Newcome, in addition to his pastoral role as bishop of Carlisle, became the Church of England’s lead bishop on health, social care and medical ethics from 2010, a member of the House of Lords in 2013 and also in that year a Deputy Lieutenant of Cumbria. In 2014 he received the royal appointment of Clerk of the Closet. He also serves as national chaplain of the Royal British Legion. A happy outcome was that Rose Castle was bought in 2016 by the Rose Castle Company for the use of the Rose Castle Foundation which is committed to reconciliation and conflict resolution.