Corfe Castle Begins

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It would be wrong to let the day go by without our NT anniversary post. This was the Outer Gatehouse at Corfe Castle, Dorset on 7th April 1986. I was there again today 30 years later.

The ticket office and the turnstiles are gone now and the Outer Bailey today was alive with people dressed in medieval costumes, amongst the tents and archery practice. Lots of children on holiday getting involved and soaking up the atmosphere.

In 1986, Nancy and I met the first mini-bus full of National Trust working holiday campers and we began to cut the turf to understand what lay under the grassy mound.

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Under the turf was a courtyard of limestone gravel and the west wall of the Outer Gatehouse guard chamber which had fallen against the curtain wall (to the right) burying a flight of stone steps.

The mound turned out to be a large block of walling, part of the Outer Gatehouse guard chamber which had been blown up in 1646. After the second siege, the Parliamentarian soldiers captured the Castle and undermined the walls. It seems that they filled the guard chamber with gunpowder and blew it to pieces. Everything flew outwards and the barrel vaulted roof dropped onto the floor burying the guard chamber fireplace and flagstone floor.

Nancy excavated the diamond leaded window which had been scattered outside ..as the blast tore through it.DCOC743

Nancy excavating the diamond leaded window pieces. The stone west window of the guard chamber top right.

We found that the top and edges of the collapsed wall had been picked over and a lot of the good stone blocks had been nicked by the locals to make repairs to their houses.Well, why not after all the damage that had been done to their properties during the Civil War… some of the Corfe cottages acquired some very grand fireplaces in the 17th century.

The west wall had fallen and broken over the stairway that once led to the top of the gatehouse.

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Clearing the broken blocks of fallen gatehouse to reveal the stairway up to the top of the curtain wall. Part of the first floor of the gatehouse can be seen to the right 90 degrees out of true.

We cleaned the revealed walls, photographed and drew them and then it was time for the stone masons to come and consolidate the masonry.. the mystery of the mound of grass had been revealed.

I got a particular buzz when we cleaned the steps and saw the wear marks of the feet on the stone. Nobody had walked there for 350 years. We walked up and down them..our feet where theirs had trod.

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