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 Castles of England - Corfe Castle

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Corfe Castle, Dorset, England

Corfe Castle is situated in the village of Corfe between Swanage and Wareham 4 miles away. The castle occupies a strategic position on a chalk mound in the Purbeck hills inland from the Dorset coastline.

The castle and estate, including the village of Corfe covers around 8,000 acres including coastline and the Isle of Purbeck although the castle itself is now in a totally ruinous state.

Visitors can still see the defenses, the outer and south west gatehouses with their murder holes, and parts of the battlements including two round towers and an impressive solitary wall and a defensive ditch.

Open to the public all year round from 10am the site offers a tearoom and shop and an interactive exhibition covering the treason and treachery that took place within the castle walls throughout the ages.

A self catering cottage sleeping four is also available within the grounds offering views of the surrounding hillside and the castle.

There has been a castle on the site since 900AD but the oldest surviving parts of the current structure date back the 11th century when a stone hall and inner bailey wall were built by William the Conqueror just after 1066.

Prior to the 13th century other halls, towers and walls were added and the castle was used as a home to King John as well as a prison and a royal treasure store. He was also responsible for the castle's refortification and the addition of a west bailey which was similar to one built by Richard the Lionheart at Chateau Gailard. The castle remained in royal hands until the 16th century when Elizabeth I sold it to Sir Christopher Hatton her lord Chancellor and he in turn sold it in 1635 to Sir John Bankes.

Sir John Bankes, Attorney General to Charles I, was away attending to the King when the castle came under siege twice by parliamentary forces so his wife, Lady Mary Bankes, was responsible for defending the castle. The first siege in 1643 lasted six weeks and the second, two years later, lasted over two months. It was during this siege that the castle was betrayed by one of the garrison, captured and destroyed by explosives. Following the fall of the castle the Bankes family chose not to rebuild it but instead built a new house at their other estate in Kingston Lacy leaving the castle abandoned. The locals took advantage of the unwanted masonry, windows, doors and other items to build houses of their own.

During the 1980's the entire Bankes family estate was handed over to the National Trust including the village of Corfe and the castle. During 2006 the National Trust were forced to close the castle for safety reasons and an extensive restoration project began taking three years to complete.

Other Castles in the Area
  Lulworth Castle, Dorset
  Portland Castle, Dorset

Portland Castle
Corfe Castle. Image taken from the nearby Swanage Railway

Photograph by Steve Cook. Some rights reserved.  (view image details)

Portland Castle
Corfe Castle. Taken from the south-west

Photograph by Ron Strutt. Some rights reserved.  (view image details)

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