Dorset's Castles and Forts
Dorset is home to so many fantastic Castles and Forts boasting some incredible British history, we've compiled a list of some of our favourites:
Corfe castle is one of the most interesting castles on this list, partly because as it stands it is a ruin. Corfe Castle has such a rich and outstanding history of Britain. Originally built by William the Conqueror the Castle remained a Royal fortress until it was sold by Elizabeth I. During the English Civil war most of Dorset was under parliamentarian control whilst Corfe Castle was held in the Royal Cause, during this time Lady Mary Bankes resided at Corfe and managed to hold the Castle on a 6 week siege suffering only 2 casualties whilst the parliamentarians suffered at least 100. In 1645 Corfe Castle was one of the few remaining strongholds in the south that remained under royal control, it was besieged and was betrayed into the hands of rebels, Corfe Castle was captured and Lady Banks was allowed to leave. Parliament voted to demolish the castle giving its appearance after the siege however due to the castles structural integrity they were only able to partially destroy it. After the restoration of the monarchy in 1660 the Bankes family regained their properties but rather than rebuilding or replacing the ruined Corfe Castle they chose to build a new house on their other Dorset estate Kingston Lacy.
Corfe Castle is said to be the inspiration for Enid Blyton’s Kirrin Island which has a similar Castle. It was also used as a shooting location for the 1957 film five on a treasure island and the 1971 film bed knobs and broomsticks.
Portland castle is another castle filled with British history. It was built by Henry VIII as a costal fort in the early 1540s to protect against French and Spanish invasion after King Henry broke with Pope Paul III to annul the long- standing marriage to his wife. As Catherine was the aunt of Charles V the holy Roman Emperor he took the annulment as a personal insult which resulted in France and the empire declaring an alliance against Henry and the pope encouraging the two countries to attack England. It was also used extensively in the first and second world war as an important naval base.
Lulworth castle is a Mock castle that was completed in 1609; it was built as a hunting lodge by Thomas Howard 3rd Viscount Howard of Bindon. And in 1641 was bought by Humphrey Weld and it still remains in the Weld family. Today it is a tourist attraction and holds many medieval- themed events. It is also now home to both Bestival and Camp Bestival. Part of the Lulworth estate is in use as a MoD firing range as well as a wildlife conservation area.
Maiden Castle is one of the largest and most complex Iron Age hillfort in Britain. It is a vast area that is the size of 50 football pitches. It is thought that the construction of Maiden Castle began around 3000BC and flint tools and other objects dating from that time have been found. The hillfort contains complex arrangements of ramparts and ditches, the huge earth walls rise up to 6 metres high and in the Neolithic period a barrow around 540m long was constructed east to west across the site. In 43AD the romans attacked the inhabitants of the town and built a roman temple and you can still see the foundations of this today. Maiden castle is now also in a series of postage stamps celebrating the nations prehistoric sites.
Badbury rings is another iron age hillfort in Dorset constructed by the Durotriges tribe who provided the first real resistance to the Roman’s when they commenced their southern invasion of Britain if AD43. It is also the place of legend as it is traditionally claimed that Badbury rings is the location of Mons Badonicus where in the late 5th or early 6th Century King Arthur fought his greatest and truly decisive battle against the Saxons, which bought a period of peach that, lasted for twenty-one years.
Brownsea Castle was originally a Device Fort constructed by Henry VIII to protect Poole Harbour from French attach. After this is was sold into private residence and was eventually sold to Mary Bonham-Christie who bought the whole of the island and lived there as a recluse reducing the occupancy of Brownsea island from 70 to around 7. She let the castle fall into disrepair and after her death in 1961 her grandson donated the island to the state in lieu of taxes. The National trust now has ownership of the castle and the John Lewis Partnership lease it from them. Brownsea Island is one of the only places in the UK where red squirrels still live.
These are only a handful of the outstanding Castles and Forts that Dorset has to offer, take a look here to discover even more Castles that you can visit in Dorset.