orfe Castle is a ruin now, but this castle has had an important role to play in Medieval times. The date of its rise as a castle is unknown, and the Domesday may be making reference to it when it details Wareham castle near by. In 1139, Baldwin de Redvers took the castle for Matilda, and King Stephen tried unsuccessfully to besiege it. Over the years many kings have spent time and money on the castle's upkeep, including King John around the year 1200 who considered it his favourite residence. Henry III added more walls and towers and whitewashed the exterior. In darker times, Edward II was held prisoner in the castle after his abdication and before being moved to Berkeley and his murder.


Corfe Castle Key Facts
CountyDorset (7 castles)
CategoriesStone / Norman Square Keep
Although damaged to prevent reuse after the English Civil War large sections of wall remain to be explored. Located on top of a large hill.
OwnershipRoyal castle
A favourite residence of King John.
RemainsNot complete but much survives
Access to siteOnly open at certain times
TimeRef Rating
TimeRef Comments
This is a fantastic castle to visit and explore. Be prepared to walk up quite a steep slope to the keep. Uneven ground around the keep at the top. Great views of the steam trains that run regularly to the nearby station.


YearMonthEvent
1139   Corfe Castle siege
 In 1139 Baldwin de Redvers took the castle for Matilda. King Stephen besieged the castle but was unable to take it back.[1]

Episode: Civil War Stephen and Matilda  
1216 Jun  Prince Louis advances across England
 Prince Louis advanced on Winchester and captured the city and its castle. Elsewhere, Windsor Castle and Dover Castle were besieged by the rebel barons. Both castles were defended and held out against the sieges. King John used Corfe Castle in the south-west as his base of operations while he planned his campaign against the rebel barons and Prince Louis.

Episode: The First Barons' War  
Early Modern Period (1500-1800)
1643 Aug  Corfe Castle rescued
 Corfe Castle was being besieged by Parliamentary forces. Inside the castle Lady Mary Banks with a small number of defenders had managed to hold the castle against much larger number of men outside. Lady Mary's husband, Sir John Banks, was elsewhere with King Charles at the time. Prince Maurice attacked and drove off the Parliamentary besiegers.[2] 

Norman Square Keeps

White Tower, London

More about Norman square keeps

One of the most important types of building in the time of William the Conqueror and William Rufus were the Norman keeps. Although many were rebuilt in the following century there are many good examples still remaining. The White Tower in London (pictured left), Dover and Rochester in the south east, Newcastle, Appleby, Carlisle, Brough, Richmond in the north are all examples of this type of castle. Other examples include Portchester, Guilford, Goodrich, Norwich, Castle Rising, Hedingham and Colchester. The castles are all built from a roughly uniform plan. A massive square tower with a square turret at each of the corners that project slightly. Each of the main faces of the castle has a flat buttress running up the centre of the wall for extra strength. The only parts that have decoration are usually the main doorway at the entrance and the chapel. At the centre of the keep are large halls. Some keeps have a dividing wall down the middle. Access to different levels and sections of the castle are by passages and spiral staircases built into the thick walls.

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