the Rings - a remnant of "the Anarchy"

The Rings are an earthwork on a mound sited about two hundred yards to the west of Corfe Castle; the angle at which this photo was taken shows both sites.

We have only heard of the 17th Century Civil War as the sole civil war in our history, one ending with the decapitation of King Charles I (in 1649) and the subsequent reign of Oliver Cromwell.  This was by no means the sole civil war to ravage this country. 
Undoubtedly the most ghastly of them was the struggle between Stephen of Blois and Matilda for the English crown, a war which ravaged the length of the country between 1135 and 1153.  

I have found an excellent precis of the Anarchy and the (fortunately) minor role played in it by the rings and Corfe Castle.


Henry I died in 1135 without leaving a male heir. Prior to his death he made key magnates swear loyalty to his daughter, Matilda, but when the King passed away almost all switched their allegiance to her cousin, Stephen of Blois. However, when Matilda's half-brother - Robert, Earl of Gloucester - supported her claim England descended into civil war which would become known as the Anarchy.

One of the earliest actions in the war occurred in 1138 when Baldwin de Redvers (later Earl of Devon) landed at Wareham and seized control of Corfe Castle. Stephen immediately marched to besiege the castle but, appreciating that a direct assault on such a strong position would be pointless, he built a ring and bailey fortification to contain the garrison. Corfe Castle had been well provisioned and ultimately Stephen gave up the siege as more important military events occurred elsewhere.

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