Corfe Castle

Extract from: Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales (1870-72)

Transcribed by Kim Parker


CORFE-CASTLE, a small town, a parish, and a sub-district in Wareham district, Dorset. The town stands adjacent to the central gap of the Isle of Purbeck range of hills, 4 miles SE of Wareham r. station. A famous castle here dates from the Saxon times; and was, for many centuries, one of the strongest fortresses in the kingdom. It belonged to the Crown; was given, in the time of Elizabeth, to Sir Christopher Hatton; passed, in 1635, to Sir John Bankes, attorney-general to Charles I.; and belongs now to the Bankeses of Kingston-Lacy. Edward the Martyr was murdered here by his stepmother; Peter the hermit was incarcerated here; twenty-two noblemen were starved in the dungeons by King John; Edward II. was imprisoned here some time before his murder; lady Bankes, with slight assistance, defended the castle, for Charles I., against a siege of six weeks, in 1643; and Fairfax besieged, captured, and dismantled it in 1646. The ruins crown a steep rocky knoll; are approached by a four-arched bridge across a chasm; present a butting, massive, picturesque appearance; include a keep, a chapel, and several towers; and present features of architecture of almost every date and transition from the time of Edgar till that of Henry VII. The town consists of one long street of picturesque stone cottages; and has a post office‡ under Wareham, a market-cross, a parish church, two dissenting chapels, and charities £70. The church is early English, with a large tower; and excepting the tower, was rebuilt in 1860. The chief trade is connected with the exporting of potter's clay from neighbouring pits; and fairs are held on 12 May and 29 Oct. The town is corporate, but not regulated by the municipal act; and it sent two members to parliament till dis-franchised by the act of 1832. The parish includes also the village of Kingston, and the tythings of Afflington, Blaskenwell, Ower, Rempstone, and Rollington. Acres, 9, 884; of which 1, 075are water. Real property, £13, 174; of which £7, 350 are in mines. Pop., 1, 900. Houses, 337. The property is divided among a few. Nine Barrow Down, extending eastward from the town, is 642 feet high; and commands a very brilliant view. Creech Barrow, extending north-westward, is 369 feet high; and also commands a noble prospect. Potter's clay, to the amount of upwards of 60, 000 tons a year, is dug and exported; and a railway for conveying it, goes from the pits to Wareham harbour. The grey and variegated fine limestone, known as Purbeck marble, also was, till very recently, quarried and exported on a large scale. The living is a rectory in the diocese of Salisbury. Value, £685.* Patron, the Bankes family. There are chapels of ease at Kingston and Bushey. -The sub-district contains likewise Church Knowle parish. Acres, 12, 804. Pop., 2, 411. Houses, 449.


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