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Corfe; The Rings

Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Cromwell's Battery

In the civil parish of Corfe Castle.
In the historic county of Dorset.
Modern Authority of Dorset.
1974 county of Dorset.
Medieval County of Dorset.

OS Map Grid Reference: SY956820
Latitude 50.63763° Longitude -2.06336°

Corfe; The Rings has been described as a certain Siege Work.

There are earthwork remains.

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law.


The Rings earthwork remains of a 'ring-and-bailey' castle, lie some 320 yards SSW of the nearest point of Corfe castle. Their position commanding the town, the castle and a main approach route supports the view that they are remains of a siege castle thrown up by King Stephen in 1139 when he unsuccessfully besieged Corfe. They stand apart from the town and were apparently never integral with it. Traditionally a battery was sited here in the 17th century Civil War (Dorset Procs. XLVIII (1927),xlix), and the Tithe Map (1844) calls the 'Rings' 'Cromwell's Battery'. A rampart-walk inside the bank could belong to this phase (cf. the ramps, though different in form, inside Maumbury Rings. The earthwork is set at the E end of a low chalk ridge running parallel to the much higher West Hill to the N and sloping S; the ground falls away from it on all sides but the NW., giving an excellent field of view, particularly from the 'ring'. This last, alternative to a motte, consists of a massive rampart still up to 13ft. high above the bottom of the surrounding ditch with a platform just inside it; the platform, up to 10ft wide and about 2 1/2ft below the crest, is best preserved on the SW and gives the impression of a rampart-walk. The rest of the interior, about 40 yards across and 1/4 acre in area, slopes gently SE. Two gaps occur in the rampart: that to the E. is modern, while the other, to the S., which is very narrow and cuts the bank diagonally, seems unlikely to be original. The bank and ditch of the bailey seem to have been of similar proportions to those of the 'ring', but the interior, of about 1/2 acre, slopes more steeply and to the S as if deliberately tilted away from Corfe castle. The 'ring' is covered with bent grass, bramble and bracken; the present road runs virtually in the ditch on the NW and has encroached on the rampart which, with the rampart-walk, has been eroded on the N.E. The bailey has long been ploughed as part of the surrounding field after destruction of the rampart on the W. (PastScape)

Despite a part of the bank and ditch having been removed by road construction, the ringwork and bailey known as 'The Rings' survives well and is a good example of its class. A Civil War battery is believed to have been located within the earlier remains during the 17th century. The site is located a short distance to the west of Corfe Castle which had an important strategic role during the civil wars of the 12th and 17th centuries. The Rings is believed to have been built in 1139 by King Stephen as part of an unsuccessful attempt to besiege the castle. The later battery is an example of how earlier monuments could later be reused, in this case to perform a similar military purpose.
The monument includes a ringwork and bailey, later re-used as a Civil War battery, situated on the east end of a low chalk ridge running parallel to West Hill. The ground on which the site lies falls away on all sides except the north west, giving an excellent field of view. The circular ringwork has a large earthen rampart standing above a surrounding ditch. Within the rampart is a platform of earth best seen in the ringworks south east quadrant. This is thought to represent a Civil War battery emplacement. The bailey, lying to the SSE of the ringwork and adjoining it, has a bank and external ditch. The internal diameter of the circular ringwork is c.40m giving an area of 0.1ha, and the internal area of the bailey 0.2ha. Within the ringwork, the interior platform behind the south east rampart, thought to be the site of the Civil War battery emplacement, stands to 1.25m above the internal floor; the associated length of rampart stands a further 0.5m above this. The remaining ramparts stand to c.1.5m from the internal floor of the ringwork, and are c.6m wide at the top. The ditch is c.1.5m deep, 1m wide at the bottom and c.10m wide at the top. There is a 2m gap in the southern side of the ringwork's bank and ditch which cuts the bank diagonally. It is thought unlikely to be an original entrance. On the ringwork's north west side the rampart and ditch are cut by a modern road. The bailey, which lies SSE of the ringwork, slopes quite steeply to the south. Its ditch joins the ringwork ditch and is c.1.5m deep at its deepest point, but has been ploughed out in places, particularly towards the southern end of the monument. Similarly, the bank of the bailey, the height of which is similar to that of the ringwork, is much reduced to the south by ploughing. There is an entrance at the southern end of the bailey which appears to be original since the eastern bank forms a terminal at this point. The position of the ringwork and bailey, commanding the castle, town and approach route, supports the view that it is the remains of a siege castle constructed by King Stephen when he unsuccessfully besieged Corfe in 1139. Traditionally a battery was sited here in the 17th century Civil War, and the tithe map of 1844 calls the 'Rings' 'Cromwell's Battery'. (Scheduling Report)
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This record last updated 26/07/2017 09:21:27

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