Corfe Castle, Dorset
© Ross Hoddinott/Minden Picture
Dark deeds at Corfe Castle
The shadowy ruins of Corfe Castle, towering over the foggy hills of Dorset, are no stranger to plotting and intrigue. The centuries-old tale begins with a betrayal. It is rumoured to be on this site that the teenage King Edward the Martyr was assassinated, probably by his half-brother and successor Æthelred the Unready, way back in 978 - a century before the original stone structure was built.
The castle itself was later a favourite of early 13th-century ruler King John, who was quite happy to starve numerous prisoners in its fearsome dungeon. Further scheming would follow during the mid-1600s English Civil War. While the castle’s new lord was off fighting, his wife Mary Bankes doggedly defended it against anti-royalist forces in a three-year siege. But Mary was given up by members of her entourage and captured, and the castle was toppled into the craggy heap you see now – a last betrayal to end its story.
Nowadays the remains of Corfe Castle are preserved as a Scheduled Ancient Monument - but maybe that's not the only thing protecting the site. Reports of children's sobs, unexplained flickering lights and, most notoriously, the headless apparition of a woman in white have some believing spectres of the past still haunt this ruin.