Corfe castle

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Corfe castle (Dorset) stands on an isolated hill along the spine of the Isle of Purbeck, between Wareham and Swanage, guarding the routeways into Purbeck. Corfe was perhaps the site of an Anglo-Saxon royal residence and the place at which King Edward, later known as ‘the Martyr’, was murdered by his stepmother Ælfthryth in 978. The castle was one of the first ordered to be built by William I after the battle of Hastings and remained in royal hands until it was sold by Elizabeth I in 1572. Corfe, in the royal forest and warren of Purbeck, was a favourite residence of both King John and Henry III who spent large sums of money on the defences and on extensive domestic accommodation, the remains of which are known as the ‘Gloriette’. During the Civil War the castle was held for the king, although most of Dorset was controlled by Parliament, and successfully withstood a siege in 1643, the defence being directed by Lady Bankes, wife of the owner. A second siege in 1646 ended when the attackers were secretly admitted to the castle. In recognition of her bravery Lady Bankes was allowed to retain the keys and seals of the castle, although the defences were systematically slighted.

Lynda Rollason