History of Moreton Corbet Castle
The impressive ruins of Moreton Corbet Castle are the product of over five hundred years of building. The original fortified house of about 1100, probably built of timber, was replaced in stone about 1200, and the Corbet family ambitiously remodelled the building in the 16th century. By the 18th century, however, the castle had been abandoned as a residence.
The Medieval Castle
A castle was first established in about 1100 by the Torets, a family of Saxon descent. It passed by marriage after 1239 into the hands of the Corbets, who gave their name to the village. The first castle buildings were probably entirely of timber.
From about 1200, however, these were gradually replaced in stone. This stone castle was in the tradition of other fortified residences of the Welsh Marches.
‘A most gorgeous and stately house’
In the 16th century the castle was extensively remodelled in two phases. First, Sir Andrew Corbet (d.1578) erected a two-storey range between the medieval great tower and gatehouse. It housed a kitchen with a massive brick chimneystack, a larder on the ground floor and accommodation on the first floor. Sir Andrew also built a new east range, a section of which was dismantled later when his eldest son, Robert, inherited the castle.
Robert immediately began to transform his ancestral home, influenced by his extensive travelling abroad. According to the antiquary William Camden, writing in 1607:
Robert Corbet, carried away with the affectionate delight of Architecture, began to build in a barren pace a most gorgeous and stately house …
He had been ambassador to Antwerp, and his grand new south range was clearly inspired by Flemish buildings of the period.
Robert died of the plague in 1583 and his brothers Richard and Vincent, who inherited the castle in turn, completed the south range.
Civil War and Abandonment
During the Civil War Sir Vincent Corbet (d.1656) fought for the king and the house was damaged in the course of repeated bouts of fighting. The buildings were later repaired and reoccupied.
In the 18th century the castle was abandoned as a residence, and it soon became roofless. Plans were drawn up in 1796 to build a new house on the site, but the project was never realised and the castle remained a ruin. The Corbet family still owns the castle today, although the site is managed by English Heritage.
Ferris, I, Haughmond Abbey, Lilleshall Abbey and Moreton Corbet Castle (English Heritage guidebook, London, 2000)
Pevsner, N, The Buildings of England: Shropshire (London, 1958)
Weaver, OJ, ‘Moreton Corbet Castle’, Archaeological Journal, 138 (1981), 44