30cm x 19cm image size not including the white boarder paper. More details below.
A brief history of Corfe and the castle
The story of Corfe goes right back to pre-history, and substantial evidence of settlement by the Romans has been found in the form of pottery and copper they used to make their bronze weapons and tools.
The first mention of of the castle was in the time of Alfred the Great when he built “Corffe’s Gate” in the 870’s, aiming to discourage Danish raiders.
The big build began during the Norman Conquests of course, by Henry I, the son of William. Henry left no legitimate male heir so his daughter Matilda took the crown.
Moving into the medieval period Corfe castle was expanded further and was used as a Royal Castle and viewed as secure enough for King John to keep the crown jewels there.
It then passed through Plantagenet hands to Henry Tudor (VII), and from there to the infamous Henry VIII. It then went to his daughter Elizabeth 1st who must have tired of it as she sold it to her Chancellor, Christopher Hatton, who fortified it further to defend against the Spanish Armada that never came.
The English Civil war
Corfe Castle is most famous for its part in The English Civil war in the 17th Century. At this time is was owned by Sir John Bankes, Lord Chief Justice to King Charles I.
Whilst he was out fighting, the defence of the castle was left to his wife Mary Banks. She became a bit of a royalist hero as she held out for two years, through two sieges, and so became known as ‘Brave Dame Mary’.
She was however, eventually betrayed by one of her own officers, Colonel Pitman who snuck through Parliamentarians in disguise. The defenders lost the ensuing battle and the castle fell into Parliamentarian hands.
Following an Act of Parliament, the Castle was then blown up from the inside by engineers leading to the thrilling ruin we see today.
I decided to paint the view looking up from the outer bailey to the up to the ruins of the keep.
Once the main ideas were down, I climbed up to the keep catching views right across Dorset and beyond. From there you can really appreciate why it was such a valued position for a defensive structure in the days before cannon. It really does command the terrain.