Written by Lianne Kolirin, CNN
Restorers working on a castle in north-west England have managed to salvage some unusual medieval stone carvings that were in danger of being destroyed by the elements.
Carlisle Castle was built by William II in 1092 and was historically the most heavily besieged castle in England, according to the conservation organization English Heritage.
Carlisle Castle’s conservation project is complete. Credit: English heritage
In 1315 the Scottish King Robert the Bruce attempted to take it and in 1568 Mary, Queen of Scots was imprisoned in one of its towers. It figured prominently in the English Civil War and was fought over by Jacobite troops under Bonnie Prince Charlie in the 18th century.
The most striking feature of the castle is the keep – or great tower – with a series of mysterious carvings on the second floor.
These carvings feature both real and mythical creatures including dolphins, horses, wild boar, salmon, mermaids, a leopard and St. George and the dragon, as well as religious symbols and more.
Certain details, including the white rose of the House of York and Richard III’s boar badge, date it to sometime in the 1480s.
English Heritage historians believe that the carvings were the work of amateurs rather than professional craftsmen, using sharp instruments such as knives.
It was originally believed that the images were carved into the tower by prisoners, but recent research suggests they may have been created by members of the garrison or household, the organization said.
Carlisle Castle was built by William II in 1092 and was the most heavily besieged castle in England. Credit: English heritage
The restoration not only preserved the carvings for posterity, but also revealed previously unseen features, including a stag hunting scene and a knight’s profile.
English Heritage began the restoration project earlier this year as heavy rains in recent years have caused water damage to the castle and carving has accelerated.
The team of specialized restorers removed centuries-old sediment and water damage from the carvings by hand and without the use of chemicals. One of their main tasks was to remove white salt crusts using stencils, brushes and scalpels.
Juliet Fellows-Smith, property manager at English Heritage at Carlisle Castle, said in a press statement: “This marks 900 years since the keep was built in stone and thanks to the hard work of our specialist teams the historic substance has been preserved and the fascinating images carved into the walls in the 15th century are protected for years to come.”