1st Civil War siege
As carefully as she could over the next few weeks Lady Mary Bankes slowly gathered in powder, match
and provisions so that the castle was ready for anything. She
also raised a garrison of 80 men 'and also procured a gunner.' A
troop under Captain Robert Lawrence was sent from the Marques of Hereford.
On the 23 June 1643 the Parliamentary forces left Dorchester under the command of Sir Walter Erle. This was a force of between 5-600 men, officered by Sir Thomas Trenchard and Captains William Sydenham, Henry Jervis, and Skuts, son of George Skuts MP for Poole. They were headed for Corfe Castle wfhere they expected little more than token resistance.
Taking advantage of a misty morning they seized the town and attempted a quick sortie on the castle, but this failed. This time they had came prepared for siege, if necessary, with a demi-cannon, a culverin, and two sakers. The battery was soon organised to open fire on the weakest point of the castle.
They now set to work building two siege engines, the 'sow' and the 'boar'. These they made from boards lined with wool so as to protect the occupants. (These would possibly have been some type of battering ram.) These engines protected all except the bottom of the users legs. Needless to say when they used the ‘sow’ this is what the defenders fired at. The fire being was accurate so of the 11 using them nine broke out 'as well as their battered and broken legs would give them leave', of the remaining two one was killed.
The church not only provided an excellent vantage point it was also ransacked for supplies "of the surplice they made two shirts for two soldiers; they broke down the organ and made the pipes serve for cases to hold their powder and shot; and not being furnished with musket-bullets, they cut off the lead of the church and rolled up and shot it without ever casting a mould."
The 'Mercurius Rusticus', from which we get much information, poked fun at Erle saying "that valiant Sir Walter never
During the siege although food wasn't running low the defenders sally out and captured eight cows and a bull. Not to be outdone a little while later five boys captured four cows. While this escapade was going on the boys by some troops on a hill this brought from them the shout to 'shoot Anthony.' Whoever Anthony was he didn't but afterwards the defenders came out with the jeer 'shoot Anthony.
After an unknown period of time the using of much ammunition, and the loss of troops, the Earl of Warwick arrived off Studland, he didn't stay long but, sent 150 sailors well supplied with cartloads of scaling ladders, grenades and petards, as reinforcements for the besiegers.
Erle organized an assault, which included several prisoners, some even under sentence of death. There was the promised of £20 to the first man over the walls, and so by descending scale with the twentieth getting £1. The assault troops were liberally supplied with drinks of spirits to reinforce their courage, and then were sent them into the attack. The attack was in two parts one was against the middle ward, which was defended by Captain Lawrence, who had the bulk of the defenders.
The other part of the attack was against the upper ward defended by Lady Bankes, with her daughters, some women and five soldiers. When the assault commenced the defenders there dropped stones and hot embers on any attacker attempting to scale the ladders.
Parliamentary sources put the blame on the men 'such was the baseness and cowardice of the seaman and landmen both that scarce one man of five came on....(they) advanced 30 or 40 paces, the bullets coming thick about their ears, they shamefully ran away and left him (Erle) alone to make a single retreat.'
Information reached Erle, and Lady Bankes, that Royalist forces under Prince Maurice and the Marquis of Hertford had taken Dorchester and were marching on Blandford. Lady Bankes dispatched a messenger asking that a commander and troops be dispatched to aid the castle.
With the advance of the Royalists Erle fled Corfe leaving Sydenham in charge to 'bring off the ordnance, ammunition and the remainder of the army.' Sydenham planned to retire after having had his supper. But the alarm was raised that the enemy close were close and would soon arrive. Sydenham now made a hurried departure, on a boat for Poole, leaving behind his supper.
The next day the Royalists collected up the abandoned tents, artillery, ammunition and 100 horses. Soon the Earl of Caernarvon arrived with a considerable body of horse and dragoons clearing the area before him of Parliamentary forces.
So after six weeks of close siege the siege was raised on 4 August 1643. In total the Parliamentary forces lost 100 killed and wounded.
Banks visited the castle over the winter of 1643-4 returning to Oxford in the January.