A headless white lady wandering in the ruins chills the blood of those who encounter her at Corfe Castle, Wareham in Dorset.
(by Robert Goulden - Geograph Project Collection - CC A-S A 2.0 license)
Is she the spirit of the young woman who betrayed the Castle to Cromwell’s Parliamentary troops during the Civil War?
The castle dates back to the 11th Century although some form of stronghold predated the Norman Conquest. The reference to Wareham Castle in the Domesday Book is thought to refer to Corfe rather than the Wareham timber castle. William the Conqueror himself may have been the responsible for it being built.
Towers, halls and walls were added during the reigns of Henry I, King John and Henry II. In 1210 Maud de Braose and her eldest son William were walled alive in the castle dungeon where they starved to death. Eleanor the "Fair Maid of Brittany" the rightful heir to the throne was captured in 1203 and taken to Corfe Castle where she remained a prisoner until her death in 1241.
The castle remained a royal fortress until sold by Elizabeth I to her Lord Chancellor. In 1635 the castle was bought by Lord Bankes, Attorney General to Charles I. During the Civil War while Bankes was away the castle was besieged twice by the Parliamentarian forces. The Parliamentarians withdrew after the first six week siege. The second siege lasted two months until it was betrayed by one of Lady Bankes’ (“Brave Dame Mary”) own garrison.
After its capture the castle was undermined and blown up to ensure that nothing remained– it could never be used again as a royalist stronghold.
Subsequently there has been talk of ghostly encounters, flickering lights on the ramparts at night and the noise of a child sobbing in a cottage abutting the grassy knoll on which the castle stands. The most enduring spectre remains the castle’s headless white lady – was it she who betrayed Brave Dame Mary in those Civil War days?
(By Robert Brook - CC Attribution 2,0 generic license)