Fjordhammer On Tour - Corfe Castle

Possible atmospheric black metal project album cover?

 The Chronicling Of My Adventures Begins

As the world begins to open up and I can begin to travel, I can now share with you an idea that kept me motivated through all the lockdowns and this whole pandemic. Fjordhammer On Tour will be me chronicling my adventures around the world (although I'll be remaining in the UK for the moment, I've already decided I won't be boarding a plane until 2022), alongside this I will be creating and sharing playlists filled with songs that I've listened to on my travels to these locations and songs that remind me of this place. As this is partly historical as well, I will be sharing this content in collaboration with my history blog that I share with my cousin Andrea, Wandering Through The Ages. Joining me on many of these wonderful and magical adventures is Sabrina (the melodic and lyrical genius behind WW&TPY), who is the absolute master behind the camera lens and the transport getting me to these stunning places. Sabrina's photos are epic and I can't wait to share them with you all, but alongside being an incredible photographer she's a bloody good artist, check out her art Instagram @Sliver_Nettle. We both have a penchant for exploring historical and natural sites, making these adventures truly special. There seems no better place to start this journey than at Corfe Castle in Dorset. The gothic, medieval ruins have a haunting beauty to them as they sit high upon a lonely hill in the middle of the Isle of Purbeck peninsula. 

The History

Looking out over Corfe village

Corfe Castle has been many things over the centuries, and is a castle shaped by warfare. Originally built by William The Conquerer in the 11th century, the castle commands a gap in the Purbeck Hills on the a signifiant route between Wareham and Swanage. This gap is where the castle gets its name, as it is believed that Corfe derives from the Old English word 'Ceorfan', which means gap. The village around the castle are up with it and boasts many fine and picturesque buildings and cottages. 

Before the Normans moved in, the site was used by the Anglo-Saxon nobility, and is possibly the site in which Edward the Martyr was assassinated in 978. Contemporaries from the time state that he went to the castle at Corfe to visit Ælfthryth (the second or third wife of King Edgar of England) and his brother, the later notoriously unprepared Æthelred the Unready. A castle was soon built at Corfe in the 11th century by William The Conquerer, it's construction out of stone shows that the castle was particularly high status, William built 36 such castles across the country. Corfe is a stereotypical image of a medieval castle, but that makes it a rarity. Contrary to popular belief a castle occupying the highest point in the landscape was not the typical position of a medieval castle as many in England  are in valleys, near strategic and important transport routes and rivers. In Henry I's reign, the stone keep was built and completed in 1105. The keep was constructed with Purbeck limestone, as the chalk it was built upon was not a suitable building material. By the reign of King Stephen (1135–1154) the castle had become a strong fortress with a keep and inner enclosure built in stone. During the civil war in 1139, Corfe withstood a siege by the king (something that it would not do by the time the Roundheads and Cavaliers got going but that is not my area of expertise). It is believed that Stephen built a siege castle to help facilitate the siege, as a series of earthwork about 290 metres (320 yd) south-southwest of Corfe Castle mark the site of the fortification.

During Henry II's and Richard I's reigns the castle remained relatively unchanged, with mainly maintenance work carried out. However, there is a complete contrast between the reigns of John and Henry III, as construction on the other towers, walls and halls took place. Both kings also kept Eleanor, rightful Duchess of Brittany, who posed a potential and significant threat to their crowns, in confinement at Corfe until 1222. It is during King John's reign that the Gloriette in the inner bailey was built. One of the secondary roles of castles was to act as a storage facility, this was demonstrated at Corfe Castle in 1224 when Henry III sent to Corfe for 15,000 crossbow bolts to be used in the siege of Bedford Castle. In December 1460, during the raging Wars of the Roses, Henry Beaufort and his army marched from the Corfe and were destined for the Battle of Wakefield.

The Adventure

Pondering by the river

I had already heard about Corfe Castle long before I visited with Sabrina. A friend of mine, Lewis would regularly go down there on family holidays and enlighten me to the beauty of the place, and of course I've heard about the castle through books, mainly Dan Snow's The Plantagenets. It doesn't take a lot to keep me happy, and taking me to a pile of old stones on a hill is one of the best ways to do that, so off me and Sabrina went! We started off with a lovely woodland walk, in which we discovered a stream and a mini guard box, like the ones you find in London. The sun was shining and it was smiles all round as we could see the castle in all it's glory, as we lost ourselves in an enchanting sense of place. As usual I carried on my love affair with sitting and posing in trees, perfectly captured pondering the big questions on a saw tree stump over hanging the river. 

As we progressed to and around the castle, we were captivated by the magnificent views of the Purbeck hills as a steam train trundled along its tracks billowing vast clouds of steam. There is always a mystical beauty to castle ruins, channelling all sorts of stories like Dracula and King Arthur, I get a plethora of ideas as all the fires of my imagination burn at once. The gothic beauty of the architecture is also very appealing to me (unsurprisingly).  There was a stillness in the air whilst in the castle, as lockdown was still being eased and the weather started to become increasingly overcast (it would later bucket down, but we had managed to get ourselves in a sheltered beer garden for a cup of tea and some food). Exploring the grounds we found out little snippets of information about castle life and the day to day running of the place. That kind of history is always immersive as I can often imagine myself in some of those roles. There were also props and mini displays scattered around the castle, and as Sabrina is channelling her more spiritual and witchy side, the broom display was a perfect photo opportunity, although part of me thinks she wanted to jet off on it after hearing my terrible puns and one liners. 

Sabrina really wanted to bring this home!

As the clouds began to gather, the castle took on a moodier and darker vibe. We crawled through this small opening into part of a tower and we both briefly felt an uneasy vibe. Corfe is a magical place, I felt really inspired gazing upon the ruined castle knowing all the history that it has seen. Something about it lasting this long and still looking dominating and powerful even in its ruined state is quite captivating. The wind blowing through its hollowed windows, and the voices of previous occupants carried on them, got me thinking about music. As many of you who read my blog know, music is always whirling around in my head, my brain doubles up as a jukebox. As I walked around the castle, admiring the views and taking pictures with and of Sabrina, I had the melodies, harmonies and chants of monks, the folk songs of old and some of the more modern atmospheric black metal rushing around in my head. Sometimes it felt like Howard Shore (composer for the Lord Of The Rings) had teamed up with bands like Saor, Obsequiae and The Infernal Sea. Thus this idea was spawned (alongside a visit to the equally magical but far more ancient Badbury Rings), and that is why this particular outing deserved to be the debut post in what is to hopefully become a long chronicle. From here, I shall let the pictures do the talking for the castle. 

We then went on to explore Corfe village, a curious place that reminded me very much of Lacock, with its narrow roads, terraced cottages and quirky independent shops. The most captivating building was the main pub in the village centre, the Bankes Arms Hotel. We were hungry, and unfortunately they weren't doing food, so we made our way round the corner to The Greyhound in. There we had a cup of tea and some food, for Sabrina a falafel and beetroot sandwich and for me a spicy meat feast. There is began to rain heavily and as we cosied up in the beer garden we reflected on the day with fondness. Usually I buy souvenirs or books when I go to these places but this time we bought some mead from the local store (we're both big mead fans), but not just any mead, it was mead labelled by Bullet For My Valentine of all people! So, as a self-respecting metalhead wanting to pay homage to his early influences I bought both varieties and enjoyed them with Sabrina. 

The Playlist

Ethereal chanting
Potion brewing
Now, as I formulated this idea in my head, it was with the intention that you read the post whilst listening to the unique playlist that I crafted together for the post. You can however do whatever you like. The playlist for Corfe Castle is mainly atmospheric and medieval themed black metal. However, the one band that immediately jumped into my mind when I visited Corfe was Obsequiae. Their clever crafting of traditional sounding medieval melodies with the haunting atmospherics of black metal will forever be a winning combination to me, as they do it in such a unique way. I tried to keep this playlist specific and so all the songs work, but I imagine in future posts it may be a bit more all over the place. However on this particular visit and the way the castle seemed spooky with the grey back drop of the clouds, these songs felt like a natural choice. With some songs being in French, I feel that adds to the medieval vibes as French was the language of royalty when this castle was first built. Overall, I hope you enjoy my selections, as this is the first one it may not be perfect but it is a start. I also wanted to match the ethereal nature of my favourite picture that I took that day, a beautiful candid of Sabrina gazing up at the castle. It looks like she is singing, which is what I absolutely love about it!

Thus Concludes Our First Chronicle

So, this concludes our first adventure. If you wanted to know what I've been doing over the past month and why my posts have been somewhat irregular, this is why! As things start to open up I want to see as many places as I can and document them for you. I believe this will be an awesome addition to the blog as I satiate my travel lust and combine it with the music that inspires me. I hope that you have enjoyed this first adventure, I hope it is the start of many more to come! A big thank you to Sabrina for taking me to Corfe and being a brilliant photographer!

Corfe Castle Gallery

Follow this link to see some selected shots from our Corfe Castle outing here.


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