Corfe Cas­tle

Now in ru­ins, the cas­tle once stood as a sym­bol of me­dieval might

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In the Purbeck District of Dorset sits the re­mains of a cas­tle built for roy­alty. Over 1,000 years ago, a wooden skele­ton of the fu­ture stone cas­tle stood at the top of the hill next to the vil­lage of Corfe. Built by the Sax­ons, it is be­lieved this ear­lier ver­sion of the cas­tle was the lo­ca­tion of the sin­is­ter mur­der of the boy-king Ed­ward the Mar­tyr by or­ders of his step­mother in 978 CE.

It wasn’t un­til the 11th cen­tury that the cas­tle would get a rock make over, re­built by Wil­liam the Con­querer. King Henry I com­mis­sioned the con­struc­tion of the cas­tle’s in­ner bailey and keep, which took be­tween eight and nine years to com­plete. Made from grey Purbeck lime­stone, it is one of the ear­li­est ex­am­ples of an en­closed cas­tle, with the ma­jor­ity of ex­am­ples con­structed dur­ing the 13th and 14th cen­turies.

The keep was sur­rounded by de­fence walls, which sep­a­rated the in­ner and outer bailey by the 13th cen­tury dur­ing the reign of King Ed­ward I. Roy­alty oc­cu­pied this for­ti­fied base for around 500 years be­fore it was sold by Queen El­iz­a­beth I to Sir Christo­pher Hat­ton, her Lord Chan­cel­lor, in 1572. After passing hands again to the Lord Chief Jus­tice, Sir John Bankes in 1635, the cas­tle faced its fi­nal siege.

Dur­ing the English Civil War, Oliver Cromwell or­dered Par­lia­men­tar­i­ans to take con­trol of the cas­tle from a de­fi­ant Lady Bankes, who with­stood a 48 day siege in 1645. Once in con­trol, Cromwell’s sol­diers dug holes packed with gun­pow­der, bring­ing the cas­tle to its knees in an act of or­gan­ised de­mo­li­tion.

“corfe is one of the ear­li­est ex­am­ples of an en­closed cas­tle”

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