Woke up to my alarm and dutifully got ready to head out for sunrise, checking my phone just before I stepped out and I realised I'd lost half an hour somewhere. Turns out I'd immediately fallen back to sleep after switching off the alarm and didn't realise it, so I was running rather late.
Motored it down to Swanage sea front, I had planned to go to Peverel point, as I hadn't made it yesterday, but there was no time for that now. I got onto the beach just as the sun was cresting the horizon, so I scampered over the sand as fast as I could at that time in the morning, and fired off a few snaps. The sky was completely clean of clouds so there wasn't much drama to be had, but there was a nice hue to the skyline and I had the beach to myself, so despite the rush to get to Swanage, it was quite a peaceful start to the day.
After I had returned to the house to get some breakfast and pack up my belongings, I headed to Corfe Castle to explore the ruins. Having photographed this monument many times, I was quite familiar with it, but only from afar, this was the first time I had been inside, as it were.
Corfe Castle was built on a steep hill in a gap in a long line of chalk hills, created by two streams eroding the rock on either side. The name Corfe derives from the Old English ceorfan, meaning 'a cutting', referring to the gap. Built by William the Conqueror, soon after the Norman Conquest of England in 1066, it was one of the earliest castles in England to be built, at least partly, using stone, when the majority were still being built with earth and timber, indicating it was of particularly high status.
Sitting as it does on a hill top, Corfe Castle is one of the classic images of a medieval castle. However, despite popular imagination, occupying the highest point in the landscape was not the typical position of a medieval castle.
In 1572, Corfe Castle left the Crown's control when Elizabeth I sold it to her Lord Chancellor, Sir Christopher Hatton. Sir John Bankes, Attorney General to Charles I, bought the castle in 1635, and was the owner during the English Civil War. His wife, Lady Mary Bankes, led the defence of the castle when it was twice besieged by Parliamentarian forces.
The first siege, in 1643, was unsuccessful, but by 1645 Corfe was one of the last remaining royalist strongholds in southern England, when it finally fell. In March that year Corfe Castle was demolished on Parliament's orders, giving it its present appearance.
After I’d had a good nose around the ruins, I made my way back to the car and took a drive to Kingston Lacy, a grand old pile situated on what used to be part of a royal estate. In a handy segue, after the restoration of the monarchy in 1660, the Bankes family regained their properties. Rather than rebuild or replace the ruined castle at Corfe they chose to build a new house at Kingston Lacy on their other Dorset estate near Wimborne Minster.
The house was built between 1663 and 1665 by Ralph Bankes, son of Sir John Bankes, to a design by the architect Sir Roger Pratt. Various additions and alterations were made to the house over the years and the estate remained in the ownership of the Bankes family from the 17th to the late-20th century.
In 1923 control passed to Ralph Bankes, the seven times great-grandson of the original creator. During World War II an extensive military encampment was established in the south-east quarter of the park, which was only restored after the National Trust took ownership. Ralph Bankes died in 1981 and the Kingston Lacy estate, including 12 working farms and Corfe Castle, was bequeathed to the National Trust. The gift was formally accepted on 19 August 1982, the largest bequest that it had ever accepted.