Carlisle is an ancient city with a fascinating history, and much can be learned about life in former times by studying the relics which remain to this day. Carlisle is thought to have existed as a settlement in pre Roman times, possibly under the control of a local tribe known as the Carvetii. Bur when the Roman armies arrived they swept aside all before them, taking over towns and cities to support the expansion of the empire. The Romans, famously, were great civil engineers and transformed Carlisle to the point where it could rightly be referred to as a city. The first timber Roman fort is thought to have been built on what would years later become the site of Carlisle Castle in the year 73. This was due to it being the place where two rivers joined, and controlling the waterways made it easier for the soldiers to defend their cities.
The defence of the city and the empire was at the forefront of the Roman soldiers’ minds. Warlike Caledonian tribes from the north continuously threatened the peace and safety of occupied Britain. To protect their citizens and deter the raiders, Roman civil servants and military engineers chose Carlisle as the starting point for what would become one of the most ambitious and celebrated monuments of the occupation – Hadrian’s Wall. This epic frontier kept the scots at bay for decades and preserved the Pax Romana in this far flung corner of the empire. From this point on, civil engineers could work in safety to transform Carlisle into a modern Roman city, with a road network and water and sewage systems.
Civil engineers were once again employed in Carlisle during the reign of Henry VIII, but his majesty was not impressed with their work. It wasn’t until the dawn of the industrial age in the early nineteenth century that civil works once again become more important than military considerations in what had been a border settlement for so much of its history.
However, Carlisle was ill prepared for the massive influx of ex-farmworkers moving to the city in search of employment. Residents were described as being herded together into houses like animals, with open drains running from building to building. Riots broke out. Civil engineers simply couldn’t keep up with the rapid expansion of Carlisle, and living standards were poor until massive new home building schemes got underway. However, some localities remained among the most deprived and troubled areas nationally, and authorities were seemingly helpless in their struggles to improve matters.
Things started to improve again in the 1980s, with the construction of new buildings and a redesign of the city centre. Facilities are subject to ongoing improvement, while the relics of the city’s history have emerged as unlikely tourist attractions. Modern civil engineers of Carlisle, such as Simpsons Builders of Blackwell, have a proud history to live up to and continue to fly the flag for those working hard to steer this fascinating northern city into the twenty-first century.