Corfe - A Ruined Castle

To trace Corfe Castle back in time requires going back a long way. Although the castle as you can see it today dates back only to Norman times there was earlier habitation dating back to the Celts. The location is perhaps the key to all this. Lying as it does in the gap along the Purbeck range it is a key strategic point for protecting the whole region.

Civil War fun at Corfe CastleOne of the first events to happen here which is remembered in the history books was the murder of King Edward in 978. Whilst stag hunting to the north in Wareham Forest he was invited to Corfe by his stepmother Elfthryth. He went alone and soon after his arrival was attacked. He was stabbed in the back as tradition would have it by his stepmother who wanted the throne for her son ‘Ethelred the Unready’. but there is no historical evidence of her being directly involved. Fatally wounded he managed to break through the guard at the gate but, probably due to loss of blood, he fell from his horse with his foot caught in the stirrup and was dragged towards Wareham. He was found dead later severely disfigured.

Amateur Dramatics at Corfe CastleIn the 12th Century the Normans made of Corfe what was to become the strongest fortress in the country. It was particularly popular with King John. He used it for various reasons eg imprisoning his wife and hiding his crown jewels. His son Henry spent a considerable amount of money modernising Corfe Castle and used it for entertaining in style.

When the English Civil War started Corfe Castle was owned by Sir John Bankes who was an ardent Royalist. He went to war for the King and left his wife, Lady Bankes, defending the castle. She is now perhaps the best known name to be associated with Corfe Castle and she did her job of defending it with skill. She survived two sieges in 1643 and 1646. However, as the war drew to a close, the inevitable happened and one of her followers let the parliamentarians in and they took the castle. In some ways this was a better ending than allowing for the possibility of a war of attrition against such a stronghold. But it was Corfe Castle’s very strength which then led Parliament to decide in favour of its destruction. Engineers were brought in to do the deed and succeeded in damaging it enough for it no longer to be a threat. They left it much as it was in 1981 when it finally was released by the Bankes family and bequeathed to the National Trust who own it today.

The Steam Train
The Water Mill
The Castle
The Oldest Pub