Corfe Castles
2nd Civil War siege

As 1644 entered its second half the war turned against the Royalists in the area.  In August Colonel William Sydenham and Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper took Wareham.  All that held out in the area were Corfe and Portland Castles.
        In September the garrisons of Weymouth, Poole, and Lyme Regis were strengthened.  Portland Castle was under siege, although this was raised by Charles early in October.
     With the fall of London Sir John Bankes had accompanied the retreating Charles to Oxford.  In the New Year Dame Mary was to get word that her husband had died there after a short illness on 28 December 1644.  With his death Parliament declared his wife and children malignant and all his property forfeited.
            During the war the Isle of Purbecks were a scene of constant skirmishing between the rival sides i.e. on Sunday 9 February a force from Portland Castle captured Weymouth for the Royalists, but by the 28th it was back in Parliamentary hands; on 20 June Captain Butler marched from Wareham with both horse and foot.  They entered the town and those who comprised the garrison retired to the castle.  While there they rounded up 160 cattle and horses from under the castles walls and took them to Wareham.
     By the 2nd July the New Model Army was again marching across Dorset driving the Royalist supporters out of the county.  On the 1st August Sherborne Castle was invested, he Dorset Clubmen, who mainly supported the Royalist cause were scattered and on the 15 August Sherborne Castle surrendered.  At the beginning of November Colonel William Sydenham blocked up Portland.
            The whole of the Purbecks had slowly been coming under Parliamentary siege and on the 18 December Sir Thomas Fairfax sent 400 infantry to tighten it, but a month and a half later these reinforcements were taken away.  A levy was also but upon Dorset, and the local counties, thus giving the Royalist in the area a chance to breath.

            But by the January the whole of Dorset was held by Parliament except Corfe and Portland Castles.
  Colonel John Bingham, Governor of Poole, was ordered conduct a more effective operation against the castle so by the 10 January Corfe Castle was closely invested.
With the Royalist war effort in such a perilous state there could be no possibility of an organized attempt to relieve the castle.  With this in mind it was now that Colonel Cromwell, a Royalist, and a distant relation of Oliver Cromwell, hearing of the ladies distress set out from Oxford with a troop of 120 men to come to their assistance.  He rode rapidly through the countryside arriving unexpectedly at Wareham on the 7 February.  Colonel  Butler, the Governor, and his son put up a fight but when their house, close to the powder magazine, was set on fire he submitted, also captured were two Commissioners.
On arrival at Corfe Castle Cromwell found a body of the besiegers were drawn up to bar their way but due to the aggressive nature of Cromwell's men, and fearing a sally from the castle, the Parliamentary troops withdrew from their exposed position.  Here they were greeted like heroes by the defenders.
            Cromwell had made the journey  with the intention of saving those within the castle.  Lady Bankes and all those within refused.  With this the gallant Cromwell and his men set out on the return journey.  Unfortunately the Parliamentary forces had had time to make preparations and were ready for him.  He was attacked by Colonel Cooke and his troops and defeated.  Cromwell and some of his troop were captured, others fled in various directions, and still others escaped back to the castle.
     Butler from his prison set about corrupting the garrison and Captain Robert Lawrence who had been so loyal in the first siege could see the war was as good as lost and not only did he help Butler escape but he deserted.
        Butler had also persuaded Colonel Thomas Pitman, who had served loyaly under the Earl of Inchiquin in Ireland, to turn traitor.   Pitman had arrived with Cromwell when he took Wareham.  In exchange for £200, amnesty for previous behaviour, and a commission to raise a Regiment for Ireland he would give up the castle.

     Butler proposed to Colonel Henry Anketell, who had become Governor Lawrences defection, that he leave the castle and pass through the besieger’s lines (this maneuver was arranging under the cover of a prisoners exchange) and go to Somerset and raise 100 men to reinforce the garrison.  Anketell agreed with this.
The 100 Parliamentarians chosen for the venture were raised from the garrisons at Weymouth and Lulworth.  And so about 0200 hours on the 27th February Pitman led these men to the sally-port at the northeast corner of the castle where Anketell 'stood to welcome them with much courtesy.'  After admitting about half the number Anketell, for some reason, was to become became suspicious and suspecting treachery would admit no more. While he and Pitman argued those already admitted 'very gallantly and resolutely possessed themselves, in an instant, of the strongest wards of the castle.'
     For the next four hours attacked the intruders held out against fierce attacks from the garrison who 'shot often and threw down great stones from the wall.'  Lady Bankes had also fought on, locking herself in her chambers and throwing hot embers as they climbed the ladder to her window.  
     At dawn the Parliamentary troops advanced to attacked the castle.  The defenders were now caught in a crossfire.  At 0800 on the morning of 27 February 1646 Anketell asked for a parley and accepted the conditions offered.  These terms allowed that the lives of the besieged be spared and those who lived locally would be allowed return to their homes.
While the terms were being discussed two of the besiegers eager for plunder used a ladder in an attempt to scale the walls.  Not knowing what was going on the garrison fired upon them.  Bingham managed to calm the situation so preventing a massacre.  Tradition has it that Parliament lost one man in the action and that only two of the Royalists were slain.
            The siege lasted 48 days in which time 11 lives were lost and five pieces of ordnance taken. Parliament took 140 prisoners, and released 30 men who were prisoners in the castle.
  Lady Bankes had so impressed the Parliamentary forces with her courage that they allowed her to leave the castle with her garrison and the keys to the castle.  Those keys still hang over the chimney in the library at Kingston Lacy House.  Lady Bankes survived her husband by 17 years.
         The man who had carried the news of the castle fall to Poole was given a shilling.  One odd payment was that of two shillings and eight pence 'for four pounds of prunes to the gunners on taking of Corfe Castle.'  The Houses of Parliament ordered 'that £20 be bestowed upon the Captain that brought the news of taking in Corfe Castle and another £10 upon the messenger that brought the news thereof.'
         The Parliamentarians looted the castle, especially the weapons that they found there 'many arms in the magazine and hall of Sir John Bankes own, all there to the value of about 400 pillaged by the soldiers.'   The halls, galleries and other chambers had been well decorated with rich tapestries and carpeting.  Well-made furniture abounded, and many books.  All this was fell into the hands of the plunderers, officers and men alike.
            In 5 March 1646 Parliament voted that this great castle should be 'slighted'
so that it could never again be used to aid the Kings' cause.  However, even with the use of gunpowder it could only be partly destroyed, taking several months of endeavor, as well as putting a heavy burden on the rates in the area for the gunpowder’s supply, cost £300.  Some of the bastions have gone hurtling down the grassy slope, but enough remains of the walls and chambers and the pinnacled keep  These remains still sit defiantly on its' hill above the picturesque village of the same name.  
            Much of the present day village of Corfe, and not a few mansions in the area were built from the stone and timber carried away from the castle.  Lady Bankes property was sequestered, although on a payment of a fine of £1,400 she was later to recover it.  (Sequestering had the effect that two thirds of the property was confiscated then let out and the monies that accrued from this going to Parliament.)