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Corfe Castle, Dorset

Historical Description

Corfe Castle, a small town and a parish in Dorsetshire. The town stands adjacent to the central gap of the Isle of Purbeck range of hills, with a station on the L. & S.W.R., 126 miles from London. 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 in it by his stepmother, Peter the Hermit was incarcerated here, twenty-two noblemen were starved in the dungeons by King John, and Edward II. was imprisoned in it sometime before his murder; while Lady Bankes, with slight assistance, defended it 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 two long streets of picturesque stone cottages, and has a post, money order, and telegraph office under Wareham, a market-cross, a parish church, two dissenting chapels, a museum, and a good hotel. The church is Early English, with a large tower, and excepting the towel-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, which is no longer corporate, sent two members to Parliament till disfranchised by the Act of 1832. Acreage of parish, 8932 of land, and 1570 of foreshore; population, 1708. 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, £680. There is a chapel of ease at Kingston and licensed schoolrooms at Norden and Bushey.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5


The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.

Ancient CountyDorsetshire 
DioceseBristol1542 - 1836
DioceseSalisbury1836 -
Ecclesiastical parishCorfe-Castle St. Edward the Martyr 
HundredCorfe Castle 
Poor Law unionWareham and Purbeck1836 -
Registration districtWareham 
Registration sub-districtCorfe Castle 

Any dates in this table should be used as a guide only.


A copy of the Charter of the Borough of Corfe Castle, in the Isle of Purbeck, co. Dorset, 31 Car. II.

Church Records

The parish register of baptisms, marriages and burials begins in 1653. The original register books are now deposited with the Dorset Archives Service, but have been digitised by and made available on their site (subscription required).


Church of England

St. Edward the Martyr (parish church)

The parish church of St. Edward the Martyr, rebuilt, with the exception of the tower, in 1859-1860, from designs by Wyatt, is of stone, in the Early English and Perpendicular styles, and consists of chancel with aisles, nave, aisles, north porch and an ancient embattled western tower with pinnacles containing a clock and 6 bells: the stained east window is a memorial to Lady Charlotte Bankes, and there are eight other memorial windows, including one to Captain Sir George Biddlecombe: the fine reredos, designed by the late G.E. Street R.A. was the gift of the Earl of Eldon: the ancient font is of Purbeck marble: the church has 600 sittings.

Civil Registration

For general information about Civil Registration (births, marriages and deaths) see the Civil Registration page.

Corfe Castle was in Wareham Registration District from 1837 to 1937 and Poole Registration District from 1937 to 1974

Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for Corfe Castle from the following:

Land and Property

The Return of Owners of Land in 1873 for Dorset is available to browse.


Online maps of Corfe Castle are available from a number of sites:


A list of the Mayors of Corfe Castle 1596-1862.

Newspapers and Periodicals

The British Newspaper Archive have fully searchable digitised copies of the Dorset County Chronicle and the Sherborne Mercury online.


The following pictures of Corfe Castle have been kindly provided by Tim Sandberg

Corfe Castle in 1643
Corfe Castle in 1643

Corfe Castle in 1984
Corfe Castle in 1984

Villages, Hamlets, &c

East and West Orchard
Newton (Corfe)

Visitations Heraldic

The Visitation of Dorset, 1623 is available on the Heraldry page.

RegionSouth West
Postal districtBH20
Post TownWareham