Corfe Castle at Christmas and a Merry Christmas
The picture below is of Corfe Castle in Dorset, all lit up for the Christmas season. The castle is in ruins not so much because of its age but rather it was on the wrong side during the English Civil War. While much of Dorset was under Parlimentarian control, the castle, owned by Sir John Bankes, attorney general to Charles I and of course a Royalist, was held by Bankes’ men whilst he was away in London with Charles. Bankes’ wife, Lady Mary Bankes remained at the castle with her children.
Parliamentarian forces planned to infiltrate the castle’s garrison by joining a hunting party from the garrison on a May Day hunt, however they were unsuccessful. The Parliamentarians gave orders that anyone joining the garrison would have their house burned and that no supplies were to reach the castle. Initially defended by just five people, Lady Bankes was able to get food through and swell the garrison to 80. The Parliamentarian forces numbered between 500 and 600 and began a more thorough siege; it went on for six weeks until Lady Bankes was relieved by Royalist forces. During the siege the defenders suffered two casualties while there were at least 100 deaths among the besieging forces.
The Parliamentarians were in the ascendency so that by 1645 Corfe Castle was one of a few remaining strongholds in southern England that remained under royal control. Consequently it was besieged by a force under the command of a Colonel Bingham. One of the garrison’s officers, Colonel Pitman, colluded with Bingham. Pitman proposed that he should go to Somerset and bring back a hundred men as reinforcements, however the troops he returned with were Parliamentarians in disguise. Once inside, they waited until the besieging force attacked before making a move, so that the defenders were attacked from without and within at the same time. Corfe Castle was captured and Lady Bankes and the garrison were allowed to leave. In March that year, Parliament voted to slight (demolish) the castle, which involved bombarding the castle with a great deal of ordnance giving no chance that it might be a stronghold in any future conflict.
This is a much photographed landmark in the Dorset countryside as I’m sure you can imagine. The National Trust now floodlight the castle during the week before Christmas so this seemed a fitting image for this post. I had to provide my own floodlighting for the mile marker (which looks rather unfortunately like a gravestone) and surrounding foreground. I used a torch to ‘paint’ the area during the long exposure. A very useful technique.
The marker has advised travellers for hundreds of years that it is just a half mile to the village of Corfe. This information would seem a little superfluous as the village and castle can be clearly seen and it really is a big chunk of stone to have to haul up a hill. I can only assume this area was at one time, densely forested.
The slightly hazy appearance of the floodlighting around the castle’s main tower is due to smoke from traditional braziers used to give light and atmosphere for visitors at this time of year.
I wish you all a very Happy Christmas and all the best for the Christmas season. Whether you celebrate or not, enjoy the holiday! :-)
Please click on the image for a clearer sharper view..
I mentioned the Jurassic Coast and the fact that Dorset is famous for fossils in my last post. The picture below shows some fossils that were found on the beach at Lyme Regis last week. I’m grateful to a very good friend with a much sharper eye than me for finding them and, being a bit of an expert on fossils and geology in general for explaining what these are.
These are complete ammonites (not just impressions in rock) that would have been happily swimming in the ocean 150 million years ago or more. I find that quite difficult to get my head around but there it is, fossilised shellfish as well as some vertebrae from a squid-like creature the name of which I’ve forgotten. One of the ammonites you can see is encrusted with iron pyrite, otherwise known as fools gold. How nice it would have been if it were the real McCoy.. :-)