Friday, 20 January 2012

Corfe Castle

Once again, I've had to work during the latter part of this week, which in itself has brought one or two garden related problems. Alongside this, I had decided that the time had come to make some sort of decision regarding Facebook, and am also having certain faith based issues at the moment. All rather personal, but more about all of those things in the next post though, as they are probably somewhat depressing. For now, a little adventure that we took at the beginning of the week to Corfe Castle, as Amanda had been itching to take some shots of the place for a couple of weeks now.

About a twenty minute drive around Poole Harbour takes you there, via the very old town of Wareham (the place where our favourite old world cinema is!). To park, we drive through Corfe and into the car park on the southernmost part of the village, and are immediately met with this view on getting out of the van.
The small cemetary is some distance from the church, on a piece of sanctifed ground with fabulous views and very peaceful indeed, even in the height of the summer when the tourist trade kicks off.

On looking at the stones, one becomes aware of how very ancient some of them are, and how brand new others are. We read of a baby less than a month when she died, and on another how a wife had been finally buried with her husband nearly fifty years after his death in his mid twenties. Too many thoughts went through my head about this, and I still feel so unsettled about it.

The castle ruins stand high up on the top of a hill created by two streams cutting their way through the purbeck hills. Once a majestic and strong fortress, it was however ordered by parliament in 1646 to be blown up. The original first stages of the castle were built by William the Conqueror.

The framework is still there, and when walking around, one can't help but wonder who walked here before.
We started this visit as everyone does, by going through the main gate in the bailey wall, and coming face to face with this!!

This was looking back at the village from the same spot.

The outer bailey is now covered in grass, but during the castles construction, and subsequent work by future nobility, this whole area would have been massed with tents, small buildings, stables, soldiers practicing their skills, stonemasons, blacksmiths, people selling food and ale, fires, horse and carts throughout the day and night and so on, very much the hub of life at the castle.

Looking back at the outer bailey wall, the damage from the demolition is obvious, with whole chunks of the wall blasted into contorted and tilted angles. I am never quite sure why people in power decide to do this sort of thing, rather than just keep it for themselves.

Looking down across the outer bailey to the main gate.

A bridge takes us across the moat and through the first keep gate, also having suffered from the blasting. Notice how the left side has dropped so low, that the archers cross shaped window is almost down out of view! The blasting that took place was extremely dangerous work, as gunpowder had to be packed in large quantities into holes dug under the stone, and there are apparently the remains of two bodies (probably only a rib or two after all this time I would think) under the left tower.

The keep itself is quite high, and being on top of a hill makes it feel even higher. In a later picture, you will see the lower left hand window with me sat in it, taken from the inside the keep.......very unsettling to lean back I can tell you!

There are images and information giving a hint at what life was like, and from the picture below, one can get a good idea of how, what is now a ruin, was once the scene of opulence and power. I could tell so much about the history of this extraordinary place, but firstly you may want to come and find out for yourself, or secondly, you could look it up on the internet and read at your leisure. I would recommend either, although if you came to visit, then I could perhaps enjoy a little of your company whilst walking around with you?

 This was part of the north wall, and more precisely the North Tower, in the west bailey. It was around here that if you were unlucky, then you would be thrown down into the Oubliette.

Nothing complicated, just a stone hole, no doors or windows, and a long drop, down which you would be left to starve, go mad and rot. Over time, the bodies, both just alive and long dead, would build up, making things unbearable.

 An Oubliette 'hatch'

 Once again, it was a bitterly cold day, but as in days gone by, the castle walls brought peace and refuge, even to two lonesome visitors. The western bailey was a lovely sun trap, and Amanda couldn't resist doing a bit of January sunbathing!

Walking past the main keep for now, and we come to what remains of the gloriette. Once a large and lavish building, where kings and noblemen would entertain and carry out business, it was added by King John after the main keep was built.

 The gloriette

Me looking through a window on the eastern side of the gloriette.

From the gloriette, one enters the main keep up a small flight of stone steps, and takes in the view on the way.

The tall, square tower of the keep was built by Henry I, after he was crowned in 1100, and as with the gloriette later, was used by the king during his visits, to conduct business, hold meetings, provide lavish dinners and entertainment, and address any matters of law arising. Royalty rarely came to castles such as these, and so at other times, noblemen would be appointed by the king of the time, to carry out the same duties. Quite a nice, if responsible job!

The steps up into the lower level of the keep.

I mentioned at the beginning that Amanda took a picture of me sitting in the window way up high in the it is!

Below is what remains of the covered stairway that once allowed people to travel between the keep and the gatehouse. You can see how it would have looked in the diagram further back.

This was just one of the 'arty' shots that I took, looking up at the keep wall.

We eventually came out of the castle after more than two hours, and took the path that goes around the base of the hill. It's from down here that it's possible to see some of what were known as 'death hatches'. Large square and sloping openings high up in the wall, through which were thrown hot ashes, boiling water, arrows, rocks, toilet waste and rotting animals onto any attacker. To try to fend off this, along with archers arrows and other weaponry must have been pretty awful eh?

It was lovely and quiet, with just the gurgling of the small stream.

And reaching the other side there was of course the obligatory road.........and sheep!

It's no secret here that I love cats, and Amanda laughs and wonders at the strange connection that I seem to have with them. This ginger one was busy catching the late afternoon sun, until I made a selection of the appropriate noises, a little like Dr.Doolittle I like to think.

We shared a moment of love together, before he decided that it was time to go back into his castle and attend to more important matters!

We had a cup of tea and a beer before drawing the day to a close, and had a quick look in the church before going back to the van. Corfe is a wonderful place, full of history and stories, and I could make this post go on and on,as I have only just scratched the surface. If you would like to know just a little more, you can click here: CORFE

I hope you enjoyed going here with me, and now I think it's time to check out some of your posts before going to bed. Good night.


  1. Gary,

    After the workweek I have had I can not express how splendid it was to jump this magic carpet of a post and be whisked away. Corfe Castle looks to be such an imposing structure in ruin; I can only imagine what it would have looked like in its glory. I know that life was hard back in the day but when viewing ruins as grand as this it’s easy to romanticize as to life lived with in the walls. – gary

  2. Great series of photos. Looks like a very lovely and reflective day around the grounds. Those are the best kind of trips. Cats rule anywhere they live that's why having 5 of them living with us can be a little overwhelming at times:) Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

  3. What a fantastic trip. I had heard of Corfe but have never visited. We have so much to offer in Wales by way of ruined castles that we seem blasé about them I suppose. Must add this to my list though.
    Great post Gary - Thanks for sharing your day out!

  4. Hi Gary,
    It sounds as though you have had a tough week, hope the weekend is a time of rest for you at Fox Paw!
    Corfe does indeed spark thoughts of how hard life must have been.

  5. Hi Rohrerbot,
    Cats eh? Always affectionate, when they feel like it. We have two, Hobie and Misty. Hobie sleeps, and Misty eats!

  6. Hi Di,
    Thanks for dropping by, and thaks for the cup and saucer, they are the start of Amandas collection in our new reconditioned cabinet.
    I have only been to a few welsh castles etc, Tintern Abbey last year was amazing!

  7. My hubby and I would love to see this. Such an amazing place. It was obviously well built to have withstood all that blasting and still have this much there after all this time as well. Old cemeteries are interesting. Here, we're amazed when we find headstones 150 years old. Such an amazing place but I'm glad that type of ruling is not in place now! Seems people spent/spend way too much effort on being cruel to those unlike themselves. Thanks for sharing your day trip.

  8. Very brave to go all through a ruins that had such bad memories/karma/lives lost in it. Believe between that and the bitter cold I would have followed the sheep and the kitty to church. The church looked so charming, good pics of you and Amanda. Stay warm,Gina

  9. Wow Gary, what an incredibly interesting place! I love wandering through ruins like that and imagining the people who lived there in the day. Thanks for the tour!

  10. Hi Sherlock,
    It did have a rather violent history. As for none of that cruelty happening now, I'm not so sure humand have changed that much.

  11. Hi Gina,
    Although it's past, last a lot of castles, had violence at times, it is strangely peaceful and calming now. A good legacy.

  12. Hi Jean,
    We are very lucky to live in such an area where, amongst wonderful and diverse countryside, there are about 5 or 6 castles within half an hour from us. If you ever come to the UK, give us a call.

    1. We obviously don't have the monopoly on amazing castles in Scotland! I'd love to visit Corfe - will definitly get in touch if we're lucky enough to be in your area.
      Oh, thanks for your letter to the SNP, by the way. They haven't replied yet. Too busy working on their propaganda I suppose.

  13. Hi Linda,
    Shout when you are down. SNP....busy people at the mo!

  14. Beautiful photos, Gary. You and Amanda have such lovely outings! Thanks for sharing them through your posts and pictures!

  15. Great blog entry! I'm a bit late in finding it, but a happy accident brought me here. I'm looking for any images, regarding what Corfe Castle must have looked like in it's heyday.

    What is the source of that "cutaway" image of the castle, and are there more images available there?

    Thanks for a great blog post! I miss this castle very much.

    1. Hi there, nice to see you. The cut away image was on an information board with the castle ruins themselves. I thought it very interesting to get a picture of what would have been surrounding me. It sounds as though you have been there, where are you from?

  16. Unspoilt silence with sunshine,

    Castles, steam trains and my

    beautiful family...Back to the

    noise I see silence in my rear

    view mirror disappearing, see

    you again soon one hopes!

  17. Through the silence,
    Across the breeze,
    Into the trees.
    Pure vision hazed,
    Rivers run for fall,
    Shadows dance
    With the silence.

    Steep hills view,
    Walls fallen years,
    White with sun.
    Kings command
    Destruction remains,
    The greens once streams
    Of blood red.

    Climb with danger,
    Dance with death,
    Look with penetrating sight,
    Vast space still silent,
    Reminds me of past,
    Where we were,
    Going has gone.

    Children now play,
    Memories last.
    Blackbirds fly in formation
    Over the walls
    Thickened weight moves
    Pillars of time
    Corfe Castle.

    Steve Biddle

    Love your web site. My poetry

    1. Good morning Steve,
      A very nice piece of poetry. I enjoyed reading it very much, and it does so speak of the feelings one gets, and sights one sees when in Corfe Castle.