What is Corfe Castle?
Situated strategically between two Purbeck Hills and surrounded by rich farmland and game-packed forests Corfe Castle was a royal home for over 600 years. Castle construction began in 1066 at the command of William the Conqueror.
At the end of the 12th century Corfe was home to King John who not only extended defences and facilities considerably but also added dungeons and an execution chamber where many bad boys – such as poachers in the King’s forest – met their end.
Around the 15th century Corfe fell out of favour as a royal fortress residence, probably being too small, uncomfortable and out of the way.
In 1572 the now dilapidated castle was sold by Elizabeth I to her Lord Chancellor, Christopher Hatton. 60 years later it was sold to Sir John Bankes, a name that will be recognised by any tourist spending time in the area. The Bankes Arms pub is still a popular drinking den in Studland.
In 1643, during the Civil War, John Bankes was killed by opposition forces and his wife, Lady May Bankes had to defend the castle against their siege, which she did successfully. Unfortunately three years later under siege again she was betrayed by a member of her garrison and the castle was captured. The inhabitants were released but the castle was demolished and much of the stone went downhill to build new homes in the village.