Grevel Lindop

Poet, biographer, critic, essayist and writer on just about everything

Help Save Rose Castle for the Nation!

Rose Castle: A Gem of the Northern Lakes

Rose Castle is a gem of northern Cumbria – a beautiful house centring on a pele tower built in the 1340s and once the palace of the Bishops of Carlisle. It belongs to the Church. But there is now a threat that within about one week it will be sold to the highest bidder with no arrangements for public access and little protection for its future. Yet there is a plan to take care of its financial liabilities and allow public access to this beautiful and tranquil place.

Please read the information below and sign the petition at NOW before it is too late.

I first discovered Rose Castle when I was researching my Literary Guide to the Lake District: Coleridge and the Wordsworths went there on their way to Scotland in 1803 and Coleridge wrote in his notebook:

“We are delighted with Rose Castle, the thickset green Fence to the garden, the two walls, the lower making a terrace / the House, the Orchard crowding round it – The Chestnuts – the masses of Ivy over the gateway, from one great root. This stands on the other side of the wall to my left as I face the gateway – Go in, the ivy over the Coach-House, belonging to the same mass – the horns of the dark old mulberry Tree among it – the Swallows & their Shadows on the Castle-House walls – the green shaven Bank, like the roof of a House between the main Building & the Castle, properly so called / the great Nets on this castle, to cover the fruit Trees – all, all perfect – Cottage Comfort & ancestral Dignity!” – Coleridge, Notebooks, 1427.

Here is what my friend Philippa Harrison has written about the house and its peril:

Only one building represents the unique history of the establishment of a Border between Scotland and the North West of England, Rose Castle, created for the Bishopric of Carlisle to administer the “lands which were Scottish”, before Cumbria finally became English a hundred years later than the rest of the country. Also the preeminent English castle in the medieval Scottish wars and reiver skirmishes in the North West, Rose is the only remaining monument to our turbulent border history there. Its retention, with public accessabilty and as an educational resource, is vital for the maintenance of any sort of national historical perspective.

Although today Rose, its land and gardens, have a wonderful, indeed exceptional, sense of serenity and calm, it mirrors the development of national and dynastic struggle, architectural taste and the role of the Church in England since the Norman Conquest. Now the castle mainly reflects the Gothic Revival style, its chapel well recognised as an outstanding example. But there remain the pele towers and the crenellations of the fourteenth century when Rose was burnt three times within twenty-five years only to rise again each time, phoenix-like, to become a symbol of triumph over adversity. Later besieged, taken and burnt in the Civil War, Rose was rebuilt by the Cumbrian people yet again while secular castles were abandoned and left wasted.

In this sense Rose belongs to its people, a people easily ignored by the distant centres of governance. Since Rose was decommissioned as the Bishop’s see-house , it has been made clear to the Church Commissioners that there is a local plan for removing all financial liabilities for the castle from them if they so wish, a plan which will preserve the spiritual, historic and educational value of Rose for future generations. To achieve it, everyone needs to work together. However within ten days the Church Commissioners appear to be intending to recommend that Rose goes under the hammer with no stipulations about public accessibility, educational use, use of the chapel or the great public rooms.

This situation is of paramount importance for the North of England, a travesty of natural justice and a betrayal of eight centuries of care from the bishops of Carlisle and the Cumbrian people.

Only public protest about disposal without any guarantee of the preservation of a unique resource for the public good has any chance of affecting the outcome. A petition at has been hastily set up. Every press comment about the importance of Rose for the national heritage will count.

The Bishop of Carlisle has written that he very much hopes “ that a really worthwhile use for Rose can be found”. Amen.