The village of Corfe Castle stands in a narrow gap where the road from Wareham to Swanage passes through the Purbeck Hills. It is dominated by the ruins of the mediaeval castle, after which it is named.
It was here on the 15 April 975 that a dark and devious plot to assassinate the 17 year old King Edward came to its dreadful conclusion, the Saxon King, Later to be known as Edward the Martyr, was stabbed to death on the orders of his step-mother.
Because of its relative inaccessibility, the Castle became the ideal location to stash treasure, regalia and political prisoners. Even as early as 1106 the site was a great fortress and state prison, 'with massively thick walls and steep approaches from all sides - one of the most impregnable in the Kingdom.'
By 1212 Corfe had become a fortified depot for holding the Kings treasures. King John liked staying in Corfe and hunting in Purbeck, it was here that the King stored 50000 marks prior to his French campaign. Here he starved twenty-two Frenchmen to death, and kept his niece Eleanor for most of her life.
Through out this period, and for two hundred years subsequent, the fortress was improved with many additions. In the late 14th century, Edward II was kept here until he was moved to Berkeley Castle, where he was murdered. By this time the Castle was largely in the state that it was in when it was destroyed.
On mayday 1643 a troop of republican horsemen entered Corfe to find the Castle barred. Corfe was held under siege for three years, finally falling on 27 February 1646. In March 1646 Parliament ordered its total destruction. The demolition which took several months bears witness to the castles incredible strength. It is this strength that has preserved the grand ruin to this day.
If you wish to see how Corfe Castle once appeared, you can see all its former glory at Corfe Castle Model Village. Constructed from the same local stone, the model faithfully replicates how the Castle looked before it was blown up by the Parliamentarians.
The village is separated from the castle by a large moat which is largely natural. Most of the village, and all of the castle, is constructed of the local grey limestone and, unusually, many of the village's cottages also have stone roofs.
Much of the present day village was built in the 1700's to a consistently high standard of craftsmanship. There followed a decline in prosperity when the centre of the Purbeck Stone trade moved from Corfe Castle to Swanage. House building stopped before the pattern of building had changed. The Town Hall which dates from 1774 contains the Corfe Museum.
As a result, the village has retained a remarkable unity and a picturesque quality which makes it unique, and the setting for several historical feature films.