Today’s Treasures – Moreton Corbet Castle
In 1086 two Anglo Saxon thegns, Hunning and Wulfgeat, were living at Moreton Toret – maybe on the site where the first fortified timber house was built around 1100 – by the Torets. It passed by marriage into the hands of the Corbets – who gave their name to the village – and was gradually replaced in stone in the traditional style of fortified manors in the Welsh Marches.
By the 16th century the Corbets were amongst the most powerful and richest landed gentry in Shropshire . In 1485, Sir Richard Corbet supported the House of Lancaster at the Battle of Bosworth. Richard III had alienated the people of Shrewsbury when he imprisoned Edward V and his brother, Richard of Shrewsbury, ‘The Princes in the Tower’ – Prince Richard was born in Shrewsbury in 1473.
Richard’s son, Sir Andrew Corbet modified the medieval castle making it into a manor house – remodelling the gatehouse and adding the Tudor great hall. When Sir Robert Corbet inherited the castle, he completed the refurbishment of the castle, adding Sir Andrew’s monogram, SAC, which was carved above the gatehouse in 1579. Sir Robert Corbet then set about building the new Elizabethan building – from elaborate plans he had brought back from Italy – and influenced by the classical architecture he had seen overseas in his role as a diplomat. Unfortunately, he died of the plague in 1583. After his death, his two brothers and successors, Richard and Vincent Corbet, carried on with the building of the new manor, but left what remained of the original fortification.
In 1642, during the Civil War, Sir Vincent Corbet, fought for the king and the house was used as part of Royalist Shrewsbury’s defence – you can still see where the masonry is pock-marked by musket shot.
At this time, Puritans were being persecuted and, whilst Sir Vincent was not himself a Puritan, he gave sanctuary to a neighbour, Paul Holmyard, who was. Unfortunately, as Holmyard’s views grew more radical, Sir Vincent felt he could no longer protect him and cast him out. Holmyard cursed the family, declaring that none of them, or their descendants, would ever inhabit the house.
When Richard died, Vincent inherited huge debts, so he moved his family to Acton Reynald Hall and left the elaborate new building, begun by Robert, a quarter of a century ago, still unfinished. Their grand design fell into decay – leaving Paul Holmyard’s ghost to inhabit the ruins.
Moreton Corbet Castle is still owned by the Corbet Family, but managed by English Heritage.
Published in the December edition of the Whitchurch Gossip