Corfe Castle celebrates a big birthday at Xmas

With an established reputation for one of the best festive displays in Dorset, the village of Corfe Castle again served up a dazzling show to mark its 70th year of community Christmas decorations.

On Saturday 2nd December 2023 the festive lights were switched on and Father Christmas arrived in the Square on his sleigh to the excitement of an estimated 1,000 people who had gathered for the event.

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Corfe christmas lights 2023
J M Alcock

Not the originals but angels still adorn Mortons House, now known as Mortons Manor Hotel

Angels on Mortons House

What started off with a few upmarket lit up angels on Mortons House in East Street in the 1950s, has grown into a wonderful annual display organised by the Corfe Castle Christmas festivities committee, which this year included the traditional Christmas tree and colourful strings of lights around The Square and into the adjoining roads.

For 2022, there was the addition of a beautiful glowing red robin on the Bankes Arms pub in memory of local man Robin Swain who had greatly contributed to the Corfe Castle community. As robins like to do, the festive decoration returned again to keep a beady eye over The Square and the festivities.

However the new decoration for 2023 was a brightly lit number 70 on the wall of the village bakery to celebrate 70 years since the beginning of organised Christmas decorations in Corfe Castle.

Corfe christmas lights 2023

The big seven O, lit up to mark 70 years of Christmas lights in Corfe Castle

Corfe christmas lights 2023

The red robin appears again on the Bankes Arms overlooking The Square

Corfe christmas lights 2023
J M Alcock

In years gone by, Father Christmas would appear on the roof over what is now the National Trust shop

“Amazing childhood”

Helping organise this year’s event was 80 year old Gill Batchelor, who was born and brought up in Corfe Castle. She said:

“I remember the Christmas lights being switched on in Corfe Castle as a child. I think from memory it was Fred Kyle who was part of the City Display organisation in London who brought the original angels from Regent Street and first displayed them on Mortons House in the 1950s.

“I had an amazing childhood and remember that in those days Father Christmas would appear on the roof of what is now the National Trust shop.

“They’d be a false chimney and he’d appear from it and entertain everyone. A searchlight would beam across The Square and put Father Christmas in the spotlight.

“Corfe has always been a place that likes a celebration. On Boxing Day there used to be a pram race from The Square to the New Inn in Church Knowle. The men would have to drink a pint of cider or beer and then push a pram with another man in it to the pub.

“I took part one year and the women were allowed to drink a half pint – I had a half of cider and we were allowed to take it in turns to push. It was quite a distance!”

Corfe christmas lights 2023

The view down West Street towards the Fox Inn and the Pink (and Green!) Goat

Corfe christmas lights 2023

Mist settling in The Square creating a very traditional festive atmosphere

Corfe christmas lights 2023

Gill Batchelor (centre with a festive hat) busy serving hot dogs

“Absolutely flat out serving food and mulled wine”

Still energetically contributing to village life, Gill was part of the team serving hot dogs during the Christmas lights switch on. She added:

“This year was so wonderful with so many more people than before. We were absolutely flat out serving food and mulled wine. We had 50 bottles of mulled wine and completely sold out, along with all the hot dogs.

“The exact amount that we made has yet to be properly calculated but we must have made hundreds of pounds for charity, which is a lot of money for us!”

Corfe christmas lights 2023

An estimated 1,000 people gathered in The Square despite the freezing fog

Corfe christmas lights 2023

The star of the show – Father Christmas!

Corfe christmas lights 2023

More eerie than usual, the ruins of Corfe Castle were open in the dark for the adventurous to explore!

Illuminated Corfe Castle shrouded in mist

The National Trust coordinated with the village event and opened the illuminated Corfe Castle for the evening, although it was shrouded in an atmospheric mist.

More mulled wine was available in the castle along with marshmallows that could be toasted over the wood fired braziers. While the castle was only open for that evening, other festive activities will continue throughout December 2023.

Watch the switch on

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Corfe christmas lights 2023
J M Alcock

Robin popped back for a second year to watch over the festivities

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