Carisbrooke has been a central place of power and defence on the Isle of Wight for over 1,000 years. During that time it has been a Saxon fortress and a castle of the Norman conquest, much remodelled during the Middle Ages and under Elizabeth I. Most famously, Charles I was held prisoner here during the Civil War, shortly before his execution. Since then Carisbrooke Castle has remained a symbolic centre for the island, not least as the residence of its governor.
Roman occupation in the area around Carisbrooke has been suggested but never proved. The earliest certain use was for a pagan Anglo-Saxon cemetery of the 6th century. Three graves were discovered during excavations.
In about 1000 this prominent hilltop, dominating the centre of the island, became the site of a rectangular fortification, formed of an earthen bank, later faced with a stone wall, and containing large timber buildings. This was probably an Anglo-Saxon burh (or fortress/fortified settlement), built to provide a refuge against Viking raids.