1,000 years of history

Corfe Castle in the mist

The first stone of Corfe Castle was laid more than 1,000 years ago. Since then it’s seen its fair share of battles, mysteries and plots. It’s been a treasury, military garrison, royal residence and family home.

The keep was built in the early 12th century for King Henry I, William the Conqueror’s son. It was designed to be impressive – and it certainly was. Standing 21m tall and on the top of a 55m high hill, this gleaming tower of Purbeck limestone could be seen from miles around.

King Henry I, son of William the Conqueror, was the castle's first royal owner
King Henry I


In the 17th century, as the Civil War raged around it, the castle stood firm. The Bankes family supported King Charles I (Cavaliers) against Oliver Cromwell (Roundheads). Lady Bankes defended it bravely during not just one, but two sieges, until finally she was betrayed by one of her own soldiers.

Remembering the English Civil War - one of the key events in the history of Corfe Castle
A Civil War re-enactment at Corfe Castle


After six centuries of keeping enemies at bay, an Act of Parliament was passed at Wareham to destroy the castle. Captain Hughes of Lulworth was given the job of demolishing it. His sappers dug deep holes packed with gunpowder to bring the towers and ramparts crashing down, resulting in the yawning gaps and crazy angles we see today.


After a brief period of confiscation, the castle was handed back to the Bankes family and remained in their ownership for three and a half centuries.
In 1982 Ralph Bankes gave it to the National Trust along with the family's extensive holdings in Purbeck, their mansion at Kingston Lacy near Wimborne and its adjoining land. The Bankes estate was one of the most generous gifts in the Trust's history.