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Corfe Castle, Dorset

Corfe Castle near Swanage in Dorset has been a site of royal fortification probably since Roman times. Corfe first figures prominently in history at the end of the tenth century reign of Edgar the Peaceable. Following Edgar the Peaceable's death in 975, his two young sons Edward and Ethelred were competing for the throne. Edward was supported by the clergy, jealously guarding land granted to them by the former king. Ethelred was supported by the anti monastic landowners. Edward won the initial struggle and became king. But Ethelred had not given up. In 978 Ethelred invited Edward to visit Corfe. Then in a pre planned attack, Edward was murdered in front of his brother and step mother as he rode towards the great hall. Ethelred The Unready then went on to a reign which has not been treated kindly by history.


When William the Conqueror invaded in 1066 he soon ordered the building of a bigger castle at Corfe to defend the road leading to Swanage. In the eleventh century this wooden Norman castle was rebuilt in stone, and over the following centuries additions were made, particularly by King John and Henry III in the thirteenth century. In 1572 Elizabeth I sold Corfe Castle to Sir Christopher Hatton. In 1635 Sir John Bankes, the Lord Chief Justice acquired the castle, as a kind of dream second home. It was at Corfe Castle, in 1643, during the Civil War that the royalist Bankes survived a six week siege by parliamentarian forces. Bankes died the following year, and further attempts were made to take the castle. These failed, but in 1645 following treachery from within, Corfe fell to the parliamentarians. Parliamentarian engineers then proceeded in a systematic demolition, digging into foundations and then using explosives to try and bring down the walls. Their work has left the castle as it looks today.



Corfe Castle from the outer bailey


Parking is provided just outside the village of Corfe Castle. There is then an attractive walk around the base of the castle mound to the entrance of the castle. The walk takes five to ten minutes. A National Trust teashop is available at the castle entrance. The village of Corfe Castle, which is beautiful in itself, also has a number of places to eat.

There is a gift shop and activities are arranged for children. A visitors' centre at the car park has a comprehensive display on the history of the castle.

Dogs are permitted on leads.






Opening Times: Opening hours for National Trust properties can be complex. Please use contact details below.

Address: Corfe Castle, The Square, Corfe Castle, Wareham, Dorset BH20 5EZ

Directions: Corfe Castle is on the A351 near Wareham in Dorset. Click here for an interactive road and satellite map centred on Corfe Castle.

Access: The castle is built on a steeply sloping site, with rough, uneven paths. Access for wheelchair users is only possible to the outer bailey. Baby backpack carriers are available at the castle gate.


telephone: 01929 481294


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©2006 InfoBritain (updated 11/12)