Swanage-based writer, Cathy Lewis has published a refreshed version of her guidebook to Corfe Castle that spares no blushes or detail of dastardly deeds.
The Gory Story of Corfe Castle with illustrations by Swanage artist Tony Kerins, is a revised version of a book she wrote for the National Trust in 2004, which eventually went out of print.
Cathy Lewis with her revised book at Corfe Castle
Terrible toilets and foul food
Like the Horrible Histories series, it’s particularly aimed at children, with descriptions of wicked weapons, terrible toilets and foul food.
Swanage artist Tony Kerins provided the illustrations
“Back into print”
The guide may have gone out of print but interest in it hadn’t waned.
“I was contacted by a woman whose son had seen the guide at school. He desperately wanted one for himself, and being autistic, became fixated on getting it.
“After much searching, his mother finally tracked me down and I gave him one of my last copies. At that point, I realised I had to try to get the guide back into print.”
The original guide produced for the National Trust
Renamed the guide
Cathy was able to acquire copyright permission from the National Trust. Working with the former education officer at the castle, Pam White, she renamed the guide and updated the text, while Tony Kerins refreshed the illustrations.
Cathy, a year-round sea swimmer, grew up in Manchester but has lived in Purbeck for around 17 years, firstly in Worth Matravers and more recently in Swanage.
She was a public relations officer for the National Trust before becoming a freelance copywriter. She is currently a marketing officer for Wessex Museums and has two grown up daughters.
Former education officer Pam White helped with the new guide
“Gory and gruesome happenings”
“The castle was always the beacon signalling that I was almost home! Whenever we had visitors, they always wanted to see the castle – and my daughters would regale them with the stories of gory and gruesome happenings there!”
Some of the things the guide reveals are that soldiers used lots of dirty tricks during castle sieges. The defenders stood above the entrance and dropped rocks, hot ashes or even boiling water through ‘murder holes’ – straight onto the heads of the attackers.
The Butavant Tower – the last part of the castle to collapse and where the dungeon was
On the other side, attacking soldiers had some sneaky stunts too. They catapulted rotten dung or dead animals over the castle walls to spread disease among their enemy.
One story still haunts the castle. King John (1199-1216) kept his French niece, Princess Eleanor, a prisoner here for many years. She survived and was treated well, but her 22 knights starved to death in the dungeon. Some say you can still hear their ghostly screams echoing around the walls.
The Keep – the two holes at the bottom are where the toilets drained out (still stained with medieval poo!)
“It’s so good to see the guide back in print. It’s cost us a lot of time and money to get it out there again, but it’s worth it just to see a new generation of children reading it, learning from it and being grossed-out by it!”
‘The Gory Story of Corfe Castle’ is available from outlets including The Swanage Bookshop, Swanage Information Centre and Corfe Castle Sweet Shop, as well as online via Etsy and costs £7.50.
Seb and Erin from Swanage read the Gory Story