Description of Moreton Corbet Castle
The earliest surviving remains at Moreton Corbet are those of a stone castle begun in about 1200, including a fine gatehouse. The castle was remodelled in the 16th century, and the Elizabethan south range is a rare survival of a bold and imposing Italian-inspired design from this period. Earthworks survive of large formal 16th-century gardens.
The gatehouse at Moreton Corbet was probably built in the 13th century and served as the main entrance to the castle throughout its occupation.
A depression in the ground in front of the gatehouse marks the line of a ditch which was part of the medieval defences. This ditch once encircled the site and probably dates back to the first foundation of the castle.
Sir Andrew Corbet (d.1578), a prominent royal servant, remodelled the gatehouse in about 1560. His decision, and that of successive owners, to preserve this austere and fortified medieval frontage is remarkable. It suggests that the Corbets wanted the building to preserve its character as a castle.
A panel above the gatehouse arch, which commemorates Sir Andrew’s work, is carved with his initials, SAC; the date 1579 (it must have been erected posthumously); and the Corbet family emblem of an elephant and castle.
From the evidence of the ruins it is possible to reconstruct the complex changes to the domestic buildings around the castle courtyard.
The earliest surviving building on the site is the great tower, which would have dominated the medieval castle. Judging by the details of its fine fireplace, it was probably erected about 1200. The first-floor interior may have served as a bedchamber for the lord of the castle.
Elsewhere in the courtyard of the medieval castle there would have been a hall and other domestic buildings, but no trace of these survive today. Traces remain of the Corbet family’s modernisation: fireplaces on the east side probably relate to Sir Andrew Corbet’s great hall, and between the great tower and gatehouse is a massive brick chimneystack from the 16th-century kitchen.
The Elizabethan Mansion
Across the courtyard are the remains of the Elizabethan south range. Its grandeur and symmetry can still be appreciated in the broad south façade, which is punctuated by huge grid windows. It was covered in rich, classical detailing, some of it evidently copied from books on architecture printed in Europe. There was a high-pitched slate roof, partially concealed by tall gables.
The most notable surviving interior features are a large decorated fireplace and a vaulted brick cellar.
The main rooms of the range overlooked a new garden created by Sir Robert Corbet beside the castle. A 1588 survey records that the garden had formal walks and a central sundial, with an orchard nearby. Traces of the garden are still faintly visible as earthworks in the neighbouring field.
The nearby parish church of St Bartholomew’s houses a number of the family’s funerary monuments, including the chest tomb of Sir Richard Corbet (d.1566) and his wife, Margaret.