Corfe Castle

Corfe Castle, midway between Wareham and Swanage, is one of the most dramatic of English ruins. It stands on an isolated hill which forms part of the Purbeck range, towering over the picturesque village of the same name. The late Saxon kings had a palace here and it was outside the gates that Edward the Martyr was murdered in a family coup that put Ethelred the Unready on the throne. The site allowed for two baileys of unequal size flanking a steep-sided summit, which forms a natural motte. The ring work known as The Rings, a quarter mile to the southwest is probably the siege fort of Matilda. Edward II was held captive here for a while between his abdication …

Compton Castle

Compton Castle, three miles west of Torquay, has belonged to the Gilbert family – with one long interruption – since the early fourteenth century. The Gilberts are famous for their role in the age of exploration, Sir Humphrey Gilbert discovering Newfoundland in 1583. Occupation descended to impoverished tenant farmers who could not afford any fashionable rebuilding, and for this reason the castle is one of the few to survive more or less intact but remarkably unspoiled. Disregarding its later defenses for a moment, Compton originated as a typical West Country manor house. It is centered upon a fourteenth-century hall which, having fallen into ruins, was rebuilt on its original lines in 1955. Otto Gilbert added the west wing containing the …

Goodrich Castle

Goodrich Castle is the most splendid in the county of Herefordshire and one of the best examples of English military architecture. It is still impressive despite its ruinous state. The castle is perched on a rocky spur above the River Wye, four miles southwest of Ross-on-Wye. Godric’s Castle – no doubt named after Godric Mappestone, who held the land nearby – is first recorded in 1101. Nothing is left of Godric’s stronghold but within the bailey, very close to the later curtain, rises a well-preserved though relatively small Norman keep. Henry II took over the castle and the keep is generally attributed to him, but the royal accounts record very little expenditure here. The keep is a tall, square tower …