Corfe Castle

Corfe Castle

The Corfe Castle, or rather what’s left of it today, sits boldly on top of a 55-meter-high hill surrounded by the bright green of the surrounding countryside. If history, mystery, war, and turmoil capture your interest, a visit to the Corfe Castle ruins will result in an excellent day out. The ruins themselves stand at 21 meters tall, made of gleaming Purbeck Limestone that can be seen from miles around. The first stone of this castle was laid down more than 1,000 years ago and even from the little that is left of it, it is easy to see it was built to be an impressive, imposing building.

This castle is associated with miraculous events and also a murdered king that was later made a Saint. The story of King Edward himself is shrouded in the mists of time and details are not specific. Some say he was murdered when visiting his stepmother Elfryda and half-brother Ethelred at the Castle and some argue the order to kill him was given by his stepmother’s herself. What is certain is that the young Edward and Ethelred had a succession of disputes following the death of their Father. Since Edward was killed and thus unable to fill the role of king, his half-brother Ethelred became king and is nowadays remembered as Ethelred the Unready.

Even though Edward never made it to the throne, he went on to be named a Saint as his remains were disinterred and were said to be miraculous. Today his ruins are found enshrined in the Orthodox Church of St Edward the Martyr in Brookwood, Surrey. King Edward’s feast is celebrated on the 18th of March which marks the anniversary of his brutal death.

Surviving Battles & Sieges

Throughout the centuries, the castle has seen its fair share of battles and sieges. Lady Bankes, one of the castles’ owners during the 17th Century, defended the castle with all her might during the two sieges as the Civil war was raging on throughout the country until she was later betrayed by one of her own soldiers, Coleman Pitman. After around six centuries of fighting and defending its ground, the castle met its end after an Act of Parliament stated the castle was set to be destroyed.

Captain Hughes of Lulworth was given the duty of destroying this majestic castle. Gunpowder was packed into deep holes that had been dug by Hughes’ sappers. This brought the huge towers crashing down and this resulted in the strange and curious gaps and angles we can see today.
The ruined castle was handed back to the Bankes family and it remained in their family for over three and a half centuries. The castle was then given to the National Trust in 1892 which was a very generous act from the Bankes family.

Visiting Corfe Castle

You can discover the mysterious stories that revolve around the castle as you make your way around one of the many walks that can be either an easy stroll or even a full day adventure, depending on the one you chose. There are details and maps of these walks on the National Trusts’ website. Taking a packed lunch along on your stroll can be a great way to enjoy the castle up close or you can choose to stop for lunch at one of the tea rooms at the square of Corfe Castle. The ticket prices to visit the castle differ slightly depending on whether you visit during the peak season. During the off-peak season, adults can purchase a standard ticket for £11, children over five years of age £5.50 whilst children younger than five can go in for free.

On the premises, you can find beautiful tea rooms with luscious gardens where you can enjoy a nice drink as you read up on the long history of the castle and locally made gifts available at a gift shop. If you want to spend more than a couple of hours in this beautiful area, you can easily find accommodation in the Corfe Castle village or you can also camp on the grounds as this is allowed. Dogs are allowed on short leads and the flying of drones is not permitted.

Corfe Castle is a favourite spot for adults and children alike as all ages are intrigued by the captivating castle ruins surrounded by breathtaking views of the surrounding villages and countryside. At Corfe Castle you can really feel history coming to life, but without the flying arrows!

The Village

Corfe Castle Village lies at the base of the castle, both the village and the castle stand over a gap in the Purbeck Hills between Wareham and Swanage. There are burial mounds around the commons of Corfe Castle which date back to the year 6000 BC. There are also records that suggest that the Durotriges tribe that occupied the village co-existed with the Romans and had a trading relationship during the Roman invasion in 50 AD.

The Castle that overlooks the village dates back to the 10th century, it was the site of Edward the Martyrs death in 978, during the English Civil War it was a Royalist stronghold and under siege twice, in 1643, and also in 1646, it is currently owned by the National Trust and has been opened up to the public. In the 2011 consensus, the village around Corfe Castle had 738 dwellings, 612 households and a population of 1355 people. The village had been the residence of the composer Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji, Brendon Flockton, a footballer who scores the goal that won the local team the Dorset Senior League lives in the Corfe Castle Village.

The National Trust runs a shop and tearoom in the village, there is also the Corfe Model Village which is located within the village square and is a 1/20 scale model that shows what the castle and village looked like back in 1646 before the castle was seized.

How to Get to Corfe Castle

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

By Bus:
Wilts & Dorset number 40 Poole to Swanage (passing Wareham train station)

By Train:
Wareham 4½ miles. Corfe Castle (Swanage Steam Railway) a few minutes walk (park and ride from Norden station)

By Road:
Situated on the A351 between Wareham to Swanage.

Parking: Pay and display at foot of the castle, off A351 (Castle View visitor center, BH20 5DR free to National Trust members, 800 yards walk uphill). Purbeck Park (BH20 5DW, all-day parking, train to the village) and West Street in the village (pay and display, BH20 5HH), neither National Trust.

Visiting the Castle

We have outlined the prices within the table below:

Peak Times:
15-23 and 29 of February. 1, 7-8, 14-15, 21-22 and 28-29 of March. 3-19 and 25-26 of April. 2-3,8-10, 16-17 and 23-31 of May. 6-7, 13-14 and 27-28 of June. 4-5 and 11-31 of July. 1-31 of August. 5-6, 12-13 and 19-20 September. 24-31 October. 1 November. 5-6, 12-13 and 19-31 of December.

Off-Peak Times – All other times:

Cultural References

Keith Roberts, an English science fiction writer who lived nearby, set his novel Pavane partly around the castle and similar events in an alternate history.

The children’s author Enid Blyton spent time in the area, and some of her adventure stories like The Famous Five (Kirrin Island) featured castles that were said to be based on Corfe Castle. In 1957 the Children’s Film Foundation (CFF) movie “Five on a Treasure Island” was filmed in and around Corfe Castle, Corfe Castle Village and the Jurassic Coast (Durdle Door and Stairhole at Lulworth Cove).

The castle is a central setting in Ron Dawson’s children’s story, ‘Scary Bones meets the Wacky Witches of Wareham’. One of the ‘Amazing adventures of Scary Bones the Skeleton’ series, the story tells how a wicked wizard has become part of the castle itself.

Corfe was featured in the 1971 film Bedknobs and Broomsticks released by The Walt Disney Company, doubling as the fictional village of Pepperidge Eye.

The Castle itself features prominently in Mike Leigh’s 1976 TV play “Nuts in May”. The two main characters, Keith and Candice-Marie, pay a visit to the castle during their camping holiday. The backside of Corfe Castle plus Oliver’s Bistro in Corfe Castle Village is featured in the German TV thriller “Am Ende des Schweigens” (At the End of the Silence) based on the novel by Charlotte Link.

The juxtaposition of castle and steam train at Corfe Castle is familiar to many television viewers throughout Southern England, as it features in the opening sequences of the BBC’s South Today regional news program along with the official train.

An episode of Mary Queen of Shops centered on Mary Portas revamping the village’s convenience store.

Featured in ‘The Lady of Hay’ by Barbara Erskine.