Treachery, murder and a phantom on the battlements

Corfe Castle, Dorset, is full of ghostly stories and tales of murder

This dramatic ruined fortress in southern Dorset is associated with stories of murder, war and ghosts.

One of the more grisly legends is that of the murder of an 18-year old Anglo-Saxon heir to the throne, Edward the Martyr.

Killed by his stepmother

The poor soul was slain in the grounds of the castle at the orders of his stepmother Queen Elfrida. She wanted to bring about the succession of her own son, Ethelred, later known as ‘The Unready’.

In the thirteenth century King John imprisoned 22 captured Frenchmen in the Corfe dungeons  – and left them to starve to death. While in 1327, Edward II was imprisoned at Corfe Castle prior to being murdered.

During the Civil War, Corfe Castle was the home of the Royalist Bankes family, who managed to repel repeated attempts to take the castle by Cromwell’s roundheads.

Treachery in the Civil War

But an act of betrayal in 1645 allowed the Roundheads to smuggle in their own soldiers inside the walls. They then attacked from within and without at the same time and finally seized control.

Later that year they blew up parts of the castle to stop it becoming an opposition stronghold again.  

A woman in white

Ever since, the ghostly figure of a headless woman in white – said to be the woman who betrayed the Bankes – has been seen stalking the walls and battlements.