Learning by Being There: Corfe Castle & the English Civil War

Updated: Sep 21, 2021

Corfe Castle sits proudly overlooking the pretty hamlet of Corfe in Dorset, standing proud after being partially blown up from the inside. Now, the castle ruins are taken care of by the Nation Trust.

The castle is a fun day out for all the family, with the National Trust putting on lots of free activities for the children to enjoy.

As well as playing tug of war with mom and dad, or designing your own chalkboard coat of arms, there's a lot to learn too, over 1,000 years of history in fact. If you're teaching your children about the roundheads and the cavaliers, this is a great place to come.

Corfe Castle hasn't always been just a castle. In its long history, it has been a treasury, military garrison, family home, and royal residence. That's a lot of history! It hasn't all been happy family times here either, far from it. The walls of Corfe Castle have borne the brunt of battles and murder to name a few atrocities.

It is really strange seeing a castle that's been blown up because you really do get a sense of the devastation it caused. Parts of the ruins are completely split in half whilst some walls look as though you could push them back up to standing position, which my children took great pleasure in attempting.

At the top of the castle, you will get a breathtaking view of the Purbecks in any direction that you look. Take a packed lunch and enjoy the views whilst the children explore the maze of ruins.

It is up here you will find the Keep, an area of the castle that must have heard its fair share of screams and howls over the years. The keep was built in the early 12th century for King Henry I, William the Conqueror’s son. It stood an impressive 21m tall and on the top of a 55m high hill, this tower of Purbeck limestone could be seen from miles around.

It's sad to think that in the 17th century, as war raged on, this castle stood stoically, a symbol of strength, blissfully ignorant to the fate that would befall it. It belonged to the Bankes family who was avid supporters of King Charles I and therefore, stood with the Cavaliers against their enemies, Oliver Cromwell, and the Roundheads. After Lady Bankes defended the castle from two sieges, she was eventually betrayed by her own soldiers.

The castle that had once been home to the crown jewels, seen a woman murder her step-son so her natural son could take the throne, and saw the tears of Edward II as he was held prisoner in the Keep, was eventually ordered to be destroyed by parliament.

Gunpowder was packed deep into the ground and the castle was destroyed from the inside, which is why you see the weird angles and split walls that you see today.

Eventually, the Banks Family reclaimed the castle and held onto it for three and a half centuries before it was given to the National Trust. There are lots of information boards around the castle and even an entire timeline to look at before you enter the castle. As well as a great family day out, this is a fantastic educational experience. Afterward, explore the pretty hamlet of Corfe and stop for a drink at the Fox Inn.

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