Corfe Castle stands on a small mound in a strategic gap in the Purbeck Hills. In addition to the castle, there is a small attractive village and steam trains sometimes pass by on the Swanage steam railway.
There has been a castle on this site since at least Saxon times, and probably even earlier. The most infamous event in the castle’s history occurred in 978, when the young King Edward (now known as Edward the Martyr) was murdered at the entrance to the castle when visiting his half brother Ethelred. Although Ethelred was only a child at the time and was unlikely to have been involved, this clouded the start of his reign, ultimately resulting in the fall of England to the Danes. Ethelred’s son Edward the Confessor, recovered the English throne, but his death without an heir sparked off the Norman Conquest. History might have been quite different if Edward had not been killed on that night in 978.
Nothing remains of the Saxon castle, but the importance of the site was recognised by the Normans and new castle buildings were started by William the Conqueror. Further buildings were added by William’s son Henry I, King John and Edward I. The castle remained largely intact up to the Civil War in the 1640’s, when it was held by Lady Mary Bankes for the Royalist cause. It withstood a number of sieges until finally falling in 1646, after which Parliament sappers reduced the castle using gunpowder, resulting in the ruin as it is today.
Given the castle’s location on a small hill standing in a gap in the Purbeck Hills, the castle makes a romantic site for photographers – especially in early morning misty conditions. Unfortunately we had no such conditions when we visited.
Location and Parking
Postcode: BH20 5EZ
There is a National Trust car park on the A351 just north of the village of Corfe Castle. From the car park, cross the road and follow a winding path through woodland that circles the castle before reaching the castle entrance. Alternatively it may be possible to park in the village, though spaces are limited.