"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour."

From "Auguries of Innocence"

by William Blake

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

DORSET - Part 3 - 30th June: Corfe Castle

We went to Corfe Castle village on Monday - another dry, sunny day. We were really lucky with the weather especially considering the forecast before we left home which suggested there would be heavy showers every day! In the morning we looked round the castle and spent the afternoon looking round the village and visiting a model village, church and museum. I've decided to split the post into 2 parts - too many photos. I really do apologise for the large amount of pictures but I do tend to treat my blog as a personal record of holidays and days out.

When we arrived in the car park there were lots of Marbled Whites and Ringlets on flowers. I couldn't get very close to them unfortunately as they were half up an overgrown bank so the photos were taken with the 70-300 lens and are cropped.

Marbled White

Ringlet - a shame about the grass stems but at least I managed to get a photo!!

The National Trust has created a wildlife walk into Corfe passing through meadows and woodland which is a lovely way to approach the village away from the main road.

Brief History of Corfe Castle

Pre Saxon - probably a fortified site

Saxon - Evidence of a Saxon hall has been found in the West Bailey of the Castle where the Old Hall was subsequently built. Possibly the scene of the murder of an English king.

1086 - William the Conqueror, a few years after the Battle of Hastings, swapped a Gillingham church for the chalk mound in Corfe and began to build the castle.

Middle Ages - The castle was used by medieval kings as a palace, hunting lodge, garrison and fortress, treasury and prison. In 1106 Henry I held his older brother Robert of Normandy prisoner in the keep following a battle. Between 1199 and 1214 King John kept his French niece, Princess Eleanor of Brittany prisoner here. She survived but 22 of her knights were killed. Henry III and Edward I made many improvements to the castle.

1572 -1642 In 1572 Queen Elizabeth I sold the castle to one of her favourites - Sir Christopher Hatton who used the castle as a country house. In 1635 the castle was sold to Sir John Bankes.

Civil War 1643 - 1646 Dame Mary Bankes, whose husband remained loyal to King Charles, withstood 2 long sieges in 1643 and 1645 by Parliamentary Forces. The castle was only taken due to treachery of one of her staff. In 1646 the castle was demolished by order of Parliament. Later Lady Bankes' son Ralph attempted to recover what he could and built a new house at Kingston Lacy.

Since 1646 the castle ruins have been occupied from time to time, gardened and farmed. Over the centuries interest grew in the castle ruins as a place of history.

1982 - The Bankes family gave the castle to the National Trust.

The Outer Gate House constructed around 1280 -85 guards the entrance to the castle. It was original two storeys high and would have had a drawbridge, portcullis and doors.

I love this tilted tower - I assume it was damaged during the parliamentary forces assault. In the background you can see the parish church of St. Edward

The Keep

Arrow loops in the third tower - these were used by archers to defend the castle.

The South-West Gatehouse built around 1250. The left hand tower of this gatehouse has fallen around four metres. It is thought that parliamentary soldiers during the civil war lit gunpowder beneath this tower and failed to get away in time and the tower slid down the hill on top of them.

Great Ditch - deepened by King John in 1207 in order to strengthen defences.

Views from the castle just got better and better the higher you climbed.

Even though there were a lot of people milling around there was a real "atmosphere" about the castle and history just seemed to ooze from every brick and ruin.

The Keep constructed around 1105 for Henry I. A great deal was destroyed during the Civil War but it originally had three floors and included a Great Hall, King's Chambers and Chapel. It was designed to look impressive and stands 21 metres tall on top of the 55 metre mound.

The Views from the Keep were just wonderful

There were wildflowers growing in every nook and cranny. I haven't had chance to identify many of them yet apart from Valerian, Lady's and Hedge Bedstraw, clover, marjoram or thyme and various members of the pea family. To be honest I daren't stop with wildflower guide in hand to try and id at the time as the family are always hundreds of yards ahead and every time I stop to take a photo they just get further and further away. If anyone can identify any of them (especially the blue flowers) please feel free to leave a comment. I still have flowers to id from our trip to the Isle of Portland last year!!! Never enough hours in the day!!

The Gloriette built between 1203 and 1204 as a King's palace to replace the previous living quarters in the keep. The living quarters were used by King John who spent a lot of time at the castle. Recent conservation work has uncovered traces of red, black and white paint.

The Well

Thomas Bond who wrote a history of the castle in 1882 mentions that this was a "great deepe welle and half way down the mound below the Gloriette there was a spring called St Edward's fountain". This suggests the well was about 100 feet deep. The water seeps through the chalk rock of the mound so it couldn't have been poisoned and was safe to drink. The water was used for buildings in the Inner Bailey, the Keep, the Kitchens and the Gloriette. There is a rumour that when Lady Bankes was defending the castle from Parliamentarians she threw her jewels down the well for safety! They've never been found.

More views

If you enlarge this photo you should be able to make out Poole Harbour in the distance.

Descending from the Keep towards the Old Hall.

Old Hall - the oldest part of the castle built around 1080 probably on the site of a Saxon hall (see below). The herringbone stone work is Saxon.

The Isle of Purbeck during Saxon times was already an area set aside as a royal hunting forest. Legend tells that on 18th March 978 the teenage King Edward was hunting in the area and called for refreshment at the castle where his half brother Ethelred and step-mother Elfryda were in residence. Edward was set upon and stabbed possibly on the orders of Elfryda so that her son could succeed to the throne which he duly did becoming known as Ethelred the Unready. It is said that King Edward's body was buried in St Mary's Church, Wareham. Stories spread of miracles occurring and in 1001 Edward was recognised as a saint "Edward, King and Martyr".

For fans past and present of Enid Blyton Corfe Castle was the inspiration for Kirrin Castle in the Famous Five series of books. Enid Blyton came by steam train from Swanage in 1941 to visit the castle.

I would totally agree with D who said after the visit it was the best castle we had ever visited. In fact, I think it was my favourite day of the holiday pushing even Arne and Brownsea Island into second and third places!!

Reference: National Trust Guide, Leaflet and Information Boards on Corfe Castle

Apologies for any typing areas have finished typing in a bit of a rush so can set up moth trap and iron a shirt before the Netherlands World Cup game!!!


Countryside Tales said...

I have yet to visit the castle, but now we are members we shall go this summer. Great to have your tour and all the info before hand. It always looks such am impressive place whenever we drive past it :-)

Ragged Robin said...

Countryside Tales - Many thanks. Yes, its very impressive and atmospheric and well worth a visit. I'd go again tomorrow if I could! :)

Pete Duxon said...

nice post RR. Corfe dominates the area doesn't it! Hope you got to the Banks families other property in the area.

Ragged Robin said...

Pete Duxon - Many thanks Pete :) No we didn't make it to Kingston Lacy or Badbury Rings :( Ran out of time though we rather "wasted" the Thursday so could have gone then! D and E not keen on houses and gardens - especially now they have to pay to get in!!! :( There was so much we didn't have time to do that I am hoping we can return sooner rather than later!