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Corfe Castle was partially demolished (slighted) during the English Civil War so that its defences could not be reused.

Slighting is the deliberate destruction, partial or complete, of a fortification without opposition, to render it unusable as a fortress.[1][2]

Sometimes, such as during the Wars of Scottish Independence and the English Civil War, slighting is systematic by one or both sides to deny the use of fortified places to their enemies.[3][4][5]


In England during the Middle Ages, adulterine (unauthorised) castles, if captured by the king, would usually be slighted.[6] During the Wars of Scottish Independence, King Robert the Bruce adopted a strategy of slighting Scottish castles to prevent them being occupied by the English.[5] A strategy of slighting castles in the Levant was also adopted by the Mamluks in their wars with the Crusaders.[7]

Under the terms of The concessions of Francis and Mary to the nobility and the people of Scotland and the Treaty of Edinburgh in July 1560, various fortified places were designated for demolition to prevent their use by French and English forces.[8] These included the recent fortifications at Dunbar Castle, Leith and Eyemouth.[9][10][11] On the island of Inchkeith a token garrison of 60 French soldiers were allowed to remain for a time. Inchkeith and Dunbar were finally slighted in 1567.[12]

One side of the Great Tower of Kenilworth Castle was slighted following the English Civil War

During the English Civil War many castles and fortified houses were slighted by the Parliamentarians to stop them being used by the Royalists.[3] Most of the destruction was in Wales, the Midlands, and Yorkshire e.g. Pontefract Castle. Some southern coastal fortifications were spared by the Commonwealth, as they might have been useful for hindering a Royalist or foreign invasion,[4] however others such as those at Dover, Winchester, and Plymouth were slighted.[13]


  1. ^ Hull 2008, p. 86.
  2. ^ Friar, Stephen (2003). The Sutton Companion to Castles, Sutton Publishing, Stroud, 2003, p. 271. ISBN 978-0-7509-3994-2
  3. ^ a b Manganiello 2004, p. 498.
  4. ^ a b Lowry 2006, p. 29.
  5. ^ a b Perry & Blackburn 2000, p. 321.
  6. ^ Muir 1997, p. 173.
  7. ^ Fulton 2018, p. 302.
  8. ^ Haynes, Samuel, ed. (1740). A Collection of State Papers left by William Cecil, 1542–1570. London. p. 354: letter summarising the finalised treaty of Edinburgh.
  9. ^ Flintham 2011, Fortified Places: Edinburgh cites Cullen 1988, p. 1
  10. ^ Guthrie 1768, pp. 124, ff.
  11. ^ Calendar State Papers Scotland, vol.1 (1898), p.862, 452, 454
  12. ^ Pollard & Banks 2009, p. 112.
  13. ^ Rakoczy 2007, pp. 55–56.


  • Cullen, Douglas W. (1988). The Walls of Edinburgh: A short guide. Edinburgh: Cockburn Association. p. 1.
  • Flintham, David (5 July 2011). Goode, Dominic, ed. "Fortified Places: Edinburgh". Fortified Places.
  • Fulton, Michael S. (2018), DeVries, Kelly; France, John; Johstono, Paul; Neiberg, Michael S.; Schneid, Frederick, eds., Artillery in the Era of the Crusades: Siege Warfare and the Development of Trebuchet Technology, History of Warfare, 122, Leiden and Boston: BRILL, ISBN 978-90-04-34945-2
  • Guthrie, William (1768). A general history of Scotland from the earliest accounts to the present time. 6. A. Hamilton. pp. 124, ff.
  • Hull, Lise (2008). Understanding the Castle Ruins of England and Wales: How to Interpret the History and Meaning of Masonry and Earthworks. McFarland. p. 86. ISBN 9780786452767.
  • Lowry, Bernard (2006). Discovering Fortifications: from the Tudors to the Cold War. Discovering. Princes Risborough: Shire. p. 29. ISBN 0-7478-0651-9.
  • Manganiello, Stephen C. (2004). The Concise Encyclopedia of the Revolutions and Wars of England, Scotland, and Ireland, 1639-1660. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press. p. 498. ISBN 0-8108-5100-8.
  • Muir, Richard (1997). The Yorkshire Countryside: a landscape history. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. p. 173. ISBN 1-85331-198-7.
  • Perry, David R.; Blackburn, Mark A. S. (2000). Castle Park, Dunbar: two thousand years on a fortified headland. Monograph: Society of Antiquaries of Scot land. 16. part 4 (illus. ed.). Society Antiquaries Scotland. ISBN 978-0-903903-16-5. Retrieved 20 September 2015.
  • Pollard, Tony; Banks, Iain (2009). "Bastions and barbed wire". Journal of Conflict Archaeology. BRILL: 112. ISBN 90-04-17360-9.
  • Rakoczy, Lila (2007). Archaeology of Destruction: A Reinterpretation of Castle Slightings in the English Civil War (PhD). University of York. OCLC 931130655. open access publication – free to read

Further reading

  • Johnson, Matthew (2002). Behind the Castle Gate: From Medieval to Renaissance. London: Routledge. pp. 173–175. ISBN 0-415-25887-1.
  • Thompson, M. W. (1987). The Decline of the Castle. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0521083973.
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