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Moreton Corbet Castle
The Saxon Builder
The first castle built at Moreton Corbet was most probably a timber building but this was replaced by a stone structure in around 1200. The stone castle was built with an impressive gatehouse, a keep, high curtain walls surrounding it and was roughly triangular in shape.
At the time of the Domesday Survey of 1086 Moreton was one of 13 manors held by Thorold of Verley from Roger of Montgomery. His tenants were two Saxon brothers, Hunning and Wulfgeat, who were also the pre-Conquest tenants and had been allowed to keep their estates. Some time after 1086 the manor passed to Toret, one of Hunning's Saxon contemporaries.
Toret's descendant Bartholomew Toret fell out with King John and was thrown into jail. In 1239 Toret’s heiress married the Norman Richard Corbet of Wattlesborough and the castle passed into this family.
In the 16th century Andrew Corbet altered the gatehouse and perimeter wall but the fantastic ruins that stand on the site today were built by Andrew’s son Robert. Robert was a favourite of Queen Elizabeth I and was a courtier and diplomat with great influence. He travelled throughout Europe at a time when architecture modelled on the classical buildings of Rome was very popular. Robert Corbet wanted to recreate this style in his own part of Shropshire and so built a new house of a single range, which incorporated much of the 13th century building.
The design of the new building included an ambitious floral garden to create an elegant frontage.
The Castle's Ghost
Robert Corbet died of the plague in 1583 and his brothers Vincent and Richard went on to complete the building. Work must have progressed slowly as in 1623 carpenters were still fitting and furnishing the house. Vincent Corbet died in the same year and there is an interesting story connected to him, which tells of a curse laid upon the house and a ghost who haunts the grounds of the castle.
The ghost is said to be that of Paul Holmyard who was a Puritan. At the height of their persecution Paul was given protection by Vincent Corbet and allowed to live in the castle. As the Puritans became more devoted to their beliefs Vincent began to worry about the implications of giving protection to Paul and so asked him to leave. Paul took shelter in nearby woods but one day returned to the castle and is said to have put a curse on the building, so that work on the castle would never be completed. Vincent Corbet was so afraid of the consequences of the curse that he never set foot in the castle again and neither did his son Andrew.
The Civil War
Andrew’s widow was the first person to live there again when she moved back in 1638, just before the outbreak of the English Civil War. The Corbets were loyal supporters of the Royalist cause in this war and members of the family had fought for the Royalists at Nantwich and Whitchurch (Shropshire). They had also placed a garrison at Ercall Hall in High Ercall (Shropshire), which had been attacked by Parliamentarian troops.
When the Parliamentarians arrived to besiege the castle they found that it had been garrisoned by 110 men but bizarrely the castle fell to a force of just 10 opposition troops. The house was severely damaged during the fighting and set fire to by the Parliamentarians but was later rebuilt and the Corbet family continued to live there until the 18th century, although work on the buildings was never fully completed – perhaps fulfilling the prophesy of the earlier curse.
Today all that is left of the castle are some very impressive ruins, which include parts of the 13th century stone structure and of the beautiful Elizabethan manor house. The buildings are still owned by the Corbet family but managed by English Heritage.
The Corbet Bed Project
In 1997 a group of volunteers decided to create a new set of curtains, cover and valances for the 16th Century Moreton Corbet bed, which was on display at Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery.
Over 200 embroiderers were involved in the project in which only the finest silks and velvets (many of which were specially shipped over from Paris) were used. The fabric alone cost over £2,000. Elements of the design were copied from contemporary fabrics on display in the Victoria & Albert Museum.
The bed, although originally built for the Corbet family, is actually owned by the Victoria and Albert Museum but has been on long term loan to Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery.