Above Corfe village sits the ruin of Corfe Castle. The Castle was constructed during William the Conqueror’s reign as a way to manage travel through the Purbeck Hills. Before the construction of Corfe the area contained a fortress that predates the Normans and likely to have been used by the Romans.
Corfe Castle is located in Wareham, Dorset.
Corfe is the site of some very early royal drama. In 975, it was at Corfe that Edward the Martyr, boy-king of Wessex, was murdered at the direction of his stepmother Aelfrida. She fancied the younger Aethelraed (“the Unready”) should be the one on the throne.
The Saxon castle was replaced in the late 11th century by a small corridor of stone enclosed by a perimeter wall. This wall would eventually become the inner bailey. A rectangular keep was constructed at some point in the reign of Henry I.
King John did a bit of renovation to the castle during his time as Monarch. The King had an outer curtain wall, chapel, great hall and domestic ranges built. He also used the castle to keep political prisoners and to store a portion of his royal treasury as well. It was also at the castle that The King imprisoned his daughter Eleanor and permitted 22 of her French knights to starve to death in the dungeon.
The castle was home to yet another Royal prisoner, Edward II. It was long believed that Edward II was murdered after his transfer from Corfe to Berkeley Castle.
Torture was brutal and gruesome at the castle. A number of different methods have been given, although the preferred one was by the insertion of a red hot poker (which I will leave the rest to your imagination as to where said poker was inserted).
More recently the claims have been disputed and it has even been alleged that he was smuggled out of England and lived out the rest of his life as a monk.
Henry VII gave the castle to his mother but later it passed to Henry VIII. Queen Elizabeth I sold it to her Chancellor, Christopher Hatton, who reinforced it to prepare for the Spanish Armada. The castle was sold to the Bankes familyin 1635. Sir John Bankes was Lord Chief Justice to King Charles I. When the Civil War began, it was left to Lady Bankes to protect the castle in from two sieges one in 1643 and the second in 1645.
Determined to stand her ground, Lady Bankes held on as long as she could. She locked herself in her personal chambers and would hurl hot coals from her window at the invaders. Unfortunately she did surrender. The commander of the Parliamentary forces let her leave the castle with her garrison. She was allowed to keep the keys to the castles which are still at the Bankes family home, Kingston Lacy. The castle was then methodically razed by Parliamentary sappers.
The Corfe Castle Model Museum has a replica of the castle before it was destroyed. In the town hall is the Corfe Museum, outlining the history of the village and castle.
The Corfe Castle Model Museum contains a model of the castle before it was destroyed, constructed with the identical local grey limestone that was used to create the original fortress and that of the cottages in the village.
Until 1982, Corfie Castle stayed in the possession of the Bankes family when it was given to the National Trust Mr.H J R Bankes.
photo credit: pixiepic’s via photopin cc
photo credit: Anguskirk via photopin cc
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