What to See in England
By Gordon Home
Public Domain Books
IN THE ISLE OF PURBECK, DORSETSHIRE
=How to get there=.–By rail from Waterloo Station. South-Western Railway. =Nearest Station.=–Corfe Castle–quite close to the ruins. =Distance from London.=–130 miles. =Average Time.=–Varies between 3 to 5 hours.
1st 2nd 3rd =Fares.=–Single 21s. 2d. 13s. 3d. 10s. 7d. Return 37s. 0d. 23s. 3d. 21s. 2d.
=Accommodation Obtainable.= “The Banke’s Arms Hotel." =Alternative Route.=–Via Bournemouth and steamer to Swanage.
Corfe Castle on its great hill, with the little hamlet which goes by the same name which clusters at its foot, is one of the most spectacular of the ruined fortresses to be found in Southern England. At the periods of the year when there are no strangers in the village, the ruins and the village leave an impression on the mind which is not so palpable when there are the distractions caused by other visitors. But even then, the grand view across the wild downs forming the backbone of the island of Purbeck, over which one gazes from the shattered towers and curtain walls, is sufficiently memorable. Its position, commanding the whole Purbeck range of hills, made the spot famous in Saxon days, when it was known as Corfe Gate. Shortly after the days of Alfred the Great the hill was strongly fortified by King Edgar, who made it his residence and probably built the central keep, whose ruins still crown the summit of the hill. Edgar left the castle to his widow Elfrida, whose name has been handed down as the murderer of her stepson Edward–afterwards named Edward the Martyr. He visited Corfe Castle in order to see his brother, but while drinking a goblet of wine in the gateway between the two circular towers shown in the illustration, he was stabbed by command of Elfrida. During the civil war between Stephen and Maud, the fortress defied all attempts to take it by Stephen’s adherents; and up to the struggle between Charles I. and his Parliament, when for a space of six weeks Lady Bankes held the castle with a handful of retainers, Corfe Castle has figured prominently in English history.
The village is almost entirely composed of cottages whose stone walls and thick slate roofs are beautifully mellowed by the hand of time. Nowhere does there appear anything new to jar with the silver greys and the grey greens of the old cottages, the church, and the castle ruins.
A charge of sixpence each person is made for admission to the castle.
[Illustration: CORFE CASTLE.
Showing on the left the massive round towers flanking the gateway, where, in Saxon times, Edward is said to have been stabbed by command of his stepmother, Elfrida.]