Moreton Corbet Castle

Has been described as a Certain Timber Castle (Ringwork), and also as a Certain Masonry Castle

There are masonry ruins/remnants remains

NameMoreton Corbet Castle
Alternative NamesMoreton Toret; Moreton Turret; Moretoin; Mortuñ
Historic CountryShropshire
Modern AuthorityShropshire
1974 AuthorityShropshire
Civil ParishMoreton Corbet And Lee Brockhurst

Moreton Corbet is a fine example of a post-medieval country house which Pevsner has described as being 'amongst the most impressive and consistent designs in the country'. The standing remains are a rare survival of a bold and imposing design, and will retain evidence for the method of construction and ornamentation of the mansion. Evidence for the original layout and extent of the south range, and for the slightly earlier east range it incorporated, will survive below ground. The earthwork and buried remains of the formal gardens further demonstrate the high status of the site, and illustrate the importance of symmetry as an architectural device in landscape planning of this period. Formal gardens, combining massive earthworks with exotic and intricate planting, were in vogue between the mid-16th and early 18th centuries, and their extent and design reflect not only artistic aims and changing fashions but also the social aspirations and status of their owners. At Moreton Corbet evidence for the method of construction will survive in the earthwork remains of the walkways and prospect mounds, and evidence for the original symmetrical arrangement of features such as flower beds and paths will survive as buried features. The monument is of additional interest because of its development from an earlier medieval castle, and evidence for the various phases of its construction and modification will be preserved in both the standing remains and as buried features. Enclosure castles were the defended residences of leading medieval families, built mainly of stone, and protected principally by surrounding walls and towers. Although some form of keep often stood within the enclosure, this served mainly to provide accommodation rather than defence. Outside the walls, a water-filled or dry ditch was often created, with access via one or more bridges

The first enclosure castles were constructed at the time of the Norman Conquest, and they continued to be built into the 14th century, often acting as major administrative centres and providing a focus for developing settlement patterns. They occur in both urban and rural settings, and exhibit considerable diversity of form. The standing remains of the medieval castle at Moreton Corbet will retain details of their method of construction, and evidence for the original access to the castle will be preserved in the causeway across the ditch. Where no longer visible on the surface, the ditch will survive as a buried feature, and its accumulated fills will preserve environmental evidence for the activities which took place at the castle. The foundation of Moreton Corbet castle, and its post-medieval development into a grand residence for an eminent Shropshire family, are well documented in contemporary and later sources, and there are a number of depictions of the original features of the south range. These complement the standing and buried remains to illustrate the development of a high status residence over several centuries, and as such the monument can increase our understanding of the political and social organisation of the county from the medieval period. Moreton Corbet is a prominent local landmark, is in the care of the Secretary of State and is open to the public.

The monument includes the earthwork, ruined and buried remains of the medieval enclosure castle at Moreton Corbet, the ruined and buried remains of the country house to which it was converted in the 16th century, and the earthwork and buried remains of its formal gardens protected within three separate areas. Moreton Corbet is situated on low-lying ground on the west side of the Roden Valley, 12km north east of Shrewsbury. The medieval castle was established by the Toret family, probably in the 12th century, and was then known as Moreton Toret. It consisted of a small keep on the west side of a moated platform, and was probably surrounded by a timber stockade. The property passed by marriage to the Corbets of Wattlesborough, who provided the castle with a stone curtain wall with a gatehouse in its north east angle. A medieval settlement is known to have grown up around the castle and was still inhabited in 1503, but appears to have been deserted when the castle was rebuilt soon after this date. Its remains will have been modified by the construction of post-medieval buildings and roads, and the aerodrome to the south, and they are not included in the scheduling. The 16th century remodelling of the castle took place in two phases. The first has not been precisely dated, however the style of the remains suggests it was underway during the 1560s, under the ownership of Sir Andrew Corbet, who was several times Sheriff of Salop. During this phase the gatehouse was extensively refaced and part of the curtain wall between it and the keep was rebuilt. A new east range was constructed, along a different alignment from the curtain wall, with a great hall at its southern end which encroached on the earlier moat. The second phase of remodelling involved the construction of an L-shaped south range, arranged around a courtyard and incorporating the recently rebuilt east range. The south range is dated 1579 and, although begun in Sir Andrew's lifetime, it was almost certainly inspired if not designed by his eldest son Robert. Robert Corbet was a courtier and diplomat who travelled extensively in Europe and, according to Camden, 'carried away with the affectionate delight of Architecture, began to build in a barraine place a most gorgeous and stately house, after the Italian model ...'. The south range, which housed a suite of large chambers, obliterated the medieval defences and was built over a section of the infilled moat. Its southern facade still shows the ostentatious nature of its classical theme, which incorporates Doric and Ionic columns in a symmetrical design. South of the new house extensive formal gardens were created to complement its grandeur and symmetry. A contemporary document refers to 'a garden with an orchard adjoining it .... divers solars (solaria) cut into one rock, and .... divers covered walks and arbours'. Robert Corbet died in 1583 leaving his house unfinished, and during the Civil War it was damaged and subsequently set on fire by the Parliamentarian forces. Later sold by Sir Vincent Corbet to pay off his Civil War debts, the house was redeemed by Andrew Corbet in 1743; however plans for its repair were never carried out, and the Corbets' preferred residence in the 18th century was Shawbury Park. By 1776 the south range was roofless, and early 19th century drawings by Buckler show the buildings in almost the ruinous state in which they stand today. Moreton Corbet castle remains in the ownership of the Corbet family, and in the care of the Secretary of State and is Listed Grade I. St Bartholomew's Church, which is not included in the scheduling, to the north of the castle contains several monuments to the Corbet family. The remains of the medieval castle are constructed of coursed dressed sandstone blocks. The north wall and parts of the east and west walls of the keep stand to the height of the wall-walk, with parts of the parapet wall remaining. Originally rectangular in plan, the keep measured 12m x 10m externally, and has pilaster buttresses at its angles. It is divided internally into three stages, the second floor chamber probably being a later insertion, and the north wall retains a fireplace at first floor level, with the remains of a stone hood and polygonal shafts with foliate carved capitals. The 14th century curtain wall extends north eastwards from the north west angle of the keep and appears to have enclosed a roughly triangular area. Its southern extent has been obscured by later developments, however evidence for the original layout of the curtain wall will survive below ground. Two medieval sections stand between the keep and two-storey gatehouse, which retains some medieval fabric despite extensive 16th century remodelling. The gatehouse, now approached by a modern wooden staircase, has a chamfered plinth and central chamfered archway with the remains of a 16th century window above it. Rectangular windows light the first floor at either side. A carved elephant and castle decorate the datestone above the entrance which is inscribed 'SAC 1579', recording Sir Andrew Corbet's 16th century modifications to the medieval structure of the castle. The outer wall of his east range survives as standing ruin; an old drawing shows that the upper end of the great hall, the south end of the range, was formerly lit by a large mullioned and transomed bay window. The south range is also dated 1579, on a shield on the south west corner, and in the form 'ER21' at the south east corner. It is constructed of brick on a plinth of coursed sandstone blocks, and is faced in ashlar. Originally L-shaped in plan, the west face, parts of the north and east faces, and much of the south face stand to their full height. The five-bay design housed two main storeys and an attic, and had a moulded pediment and cornice. The grandeur and symmetry of the original design can still be appreciated from the remains of the south face, whose two intermediate bays are lit by three-light mullioned and transomed windows. The central and end bays project slightly and house massive five-light windows, with ogee-shaped gables above incorporating three-light windows with triangular pediments. Attached Doric columns ornament the ground floor, and fluted Ionic columns the slightly taller first floor, in addition to carved pedestals and carved beasts at the corners of the building. Two small doorways in the intermediate bays have small caryatids with Ionic capitals. Internally, several divisions remain, as well as a number of fireplaces, one retaining its moulded surround and cornice. The rear wing, which incorporated the earlier east range, is now largely demolished. Old illustrations show that the north wall had a central seven-light window flanked by two four-light windows with ogee-shaped gables. The west wall of the range has no columns, instead having pilasters on the first floor; the windows are of three and four lights. This slightly irregular scheme contrasts with the carefully executed south face and may have been carried out after Robert Corbet's death. The medieval castle was surrounded by a moat which survives as a broad shallow depression up to 15m wide around the north west, north, and east sides of the castle. There is a low causeway across the moat in front of the gatehouse, under the modern stairway. The south end of the eastern arm of the moat has been obscured by part of the 16th century east wing, and the southern arm was infilled by the construction of the south range, however evidence for the original extent of the moat will survive below ground in these areas. The remains of the formal gardens associated with the 16th century house extend southwards from the house in the form of a large platform, c.130m square, which has been modified in places by agriculture and by the construction of the road which dog-legs inside its western and southern edges. The platform is defined by a scarp slope which is up to 1.2m high along the western half of the south side. The western side of the platform has been partly removed by small-scale quarrying, and the eastern side is indicated by a very spread scarp which now merges with the natural slope of the land. A survey of the remains in the 1980s located low mounds at the remaining three corners of the platform, the north western one having been modified by the construction of Castle Farm. These will have housed gazebos from which the gardens could be viewed, and the mound at the south west corner of the garden is clearly visible. Only the surviving south western mound and an adjoining section of platform are included in the scheduling. West of Castle Farm the earthwork remains of a causeway are believed to represent the original access to the house from the road to the west, with further earthworks to either side representing further garden features designed to ornament the approach. (Scheduling Report)

Castle, now ruined. Circa 1200 and C14, altered and enlarged in the mid- and late C16 (dated 1576 and 1578) for Sir Andrew Corbet (d.1579) and Robert Corbet (d. 1583). Red and yellow/grey sandstone; dressed stone and ashlar. Roughly-triangular plan. Keep of c.1200 to south- west, C14 gatehouse to north altered in late C16, C12 east range altered in the 1560's, and L-shaped south range dated 1578. Keep: square plan. 3 storeys. Chamfered plinth, and set-back pilaster buttresses, returning to square at top and bottom (cf.Wattlesborough Castle. Alberbury with cardeston C.P. - not included on this list). Large first-floor fireplace with remains of hood and octagonal shafts with stiff-leaf capitals. Curtain wall: section of wall between keep and gatehouse with chamfered plinth and bastions at intervals. Gatehouse: 2 storeys. Chamfered plinth. Central continuously chamfered archway with remains of C16 first-floor window above. First-floor chamfered rectangular side windows. Carved elephant and castle and datestone: "S A C/1579" above entrance. East range: inserted C16 windows, and fireplaces internally. South range: L-plan. 2 storeys and attic. 1:3:1:3:1 bays. Moulded plinth. Applied orders, Doric to ground floor and Ionic to first floor, with carved pedestals (beasts at corners) and full entablatures (Doric with carved devices). Parapet with shell lunettes and obelisks with figures (now mostly gone). 3-light stone mullioned and transomed windows. Projecting bays with 5-light mullioned and transomed windows and shaped gables with triangular- pedimented 3-light windows. Small doorways in second and seventh bays with doorcases consisting of small caryatids with Ionic capitals supporting entablatures with uncarved medallions. 2-bay left-hand return front. Rear wing largely demolished. Interior of southern range: various fireplaces. One in room to left of centre with moulded surround, cornice and chamfered- rustication to right. Brick-lined walls. The architect of the southern range is not known but it might have been Robert Corbet who travelled throughout Europe in the course of his diplomatic missions and is known to have visited Italy, France and the Low Countries. The range was unfinished at the time of Robert Corbet's death in 1583. It was set on fire by the Parliamentarian force during the Civil War but a drawing records the date 1667 on one of the stacks which suggests that building work continued afterwards. John H. Haycock prepared designs for the rebuilding of the house in 1796 but they remained unexecuted. (Listed Building Report)

Moreton Corbet is first mentioned in Domesday of 1086 when 2 lords, Hunning and Wulfgeat, were living there, possibly in the first castle. The manor then passed to the Verleys who subinfeudated Toret. His great grandson, Bartholomew Toret, left an heiress who married Richard Corbet who thereby inherited the castle in 1235. The castle remained in Corbet hands till shortly after the civil war when it was sold to cover war costs. The casle remained occupied until c.1730 when it fell into ruins and was then repurchased by the Corbets. It was not burned in the civil war as is often stated. (Paul Martin Remfry 1999)

This site is a scheduled monument protected by law

This is a Grade 1 listed building protected by law

Historic England Scheduled Monument Number
Historic England Listed Building number(s)
Images Of England
Historic England (PastScape) Defra or Monument number(s)
County Historic Environment Record
OS Map Grid ReferenceSJ561231
Latitude52.8041191101074
Longitude-2.65240001678467
Eastings356130
Northings323150
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Books

  • Goodall, John, 2011, The English Castle 1066-1650 (Yale University Press) p. 448-9
  • Duckers, Peter and Anne, 2006, Castles of Shropshire (Stroud: Tempus) p. 116-9
  • Salter, Mike, 2001 (2edn), The Castles and Moated Mansions of Shropshire (Malvern: Folly Publications) p. 60-2
  • Emery, Anthony, 2000, Greater Medieval Houses of England and Wales Vol. 2 East Anglia, Central England and Wales (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press) p. 476
  • Remfry, Paul Martin, 1999, Moreton Corbet Castle, 1066 to 1700 (SCS Publishing: Worcestershire)
  • Cooper, Nicholas, 1999, Houses of the Gentry, 1480-1680 (Yale University Press) p. 9, 18, 21-2, 41
  • Pettifer, A., 1995, English Castles, A guide by counties (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 215
  • Jackson, M.J.,1988, Castles of Shropshire (Shrewsbury: Shropshire Libraries) p. 40-42
  • King, D.J.C., 1983, Castellarium Anglicanum (London: Kraus) Vol. 2 p. 427, 563-4
  • Fry, P.S., 1980, Castles of the British Isles (David and Charles) p. 262
  • Renn, D.F., 1973 (2 edn.), Norman Castles of Britain (London: John Baker) p. 249
  • Pevsner, N., 1958, Buildings of England: Shropshire (London) p. 204-5
  • Lord Harlech, 1955, Ancient Monuments (HMSO) Vol. 3 p. 41, 79-80
  • Oman, Charles W.C., 1926, Castles (1978 edn Beetham House: New York) p. 134
  • Harvey, Alfred, 1911, Castles and Walled Towns of England (London: Methuen and Co)
  • Mackenzie, J.D., 1896, Castles of England; their story and structure (New York: Macmillan) Vol. 2 p. 145 online copy
  • Leach, Francis, 1891, County Seats of Shropshire (Shrewsbury) p. 74-9
  • Stackhouse-Acton, Frances, 1868, The Castles and Old Mansions of Shropshire (Shrewsbury) p. 36-7 online copy
  • Eyton, R.W., 1860, Antiquities of Shropshire (London: John Russell Smith) Vol. 10 p. 181- (tenurial history) online copy

Antiquarian

  • Camden, Wm, 1607, Britannia hypertext critical edition by Dana F. Sutton (2004)
  • Chandler, John, 1993, John Leland's Itinerary: travels in Tudor England (Sutton Publishing) p. 385, 397
  • Toulmin-Smith, Lucy (ed), 1909, The itinerary of John Leland in or about the years 1535-1543 (London: Bell and Sons) Vol. 4 p. 1 online copy

Journals

  • Harwood, Elain, 2006, 'Moreton Corbet Castle' English Heritage Historical Review Vol. 1 p. 36-45 (mainly about later buildings) abstract and online purchase
  • 2003-4, 'Morton Corbet Castle' Castle Studies Group Bulletin Vol. 17 p. 14-15
  • Coulton, Barbara, 1995, 'Moreton Corbet Castle: a House and its Family' Shropshire History and Archaeology Vol. 70 p. 184-190
  • Weaver, O.J., 1981, 'Moreron Corbet Castle' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 138 p. 44-6
  • Hogg, A.H.A. and King, D.J.C., 1967, 'Masonry castles in Wales and the Marches: a list' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 116 p. 71-132
  • Hogg, A.H.A. and King, D.J.C., 1963, 'Early castles in Wales and the Marches: a preliminary list' Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. 112 p. 77-124
  • Brown, R. Allen, 1959, 'A List of Castles, 1154–1216' English Historical Review Vol. 74 p. 249-280 (Reprinted in Brown, R. Allen, 1989, Castles, conquest and charters: collected papers (Woodbridge: Boydell Press) p. 90-121) view online copy (subscription required)
  • Jones, T.L., 1956, 'Moreron Corbet Castle' The Archaeological Journal Vol. 113 p. 221
  • Coulton B., 195?, Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological and Historical Society Vol. 70 p. 184-90
  • 1900, Country Life Vol. 7 p. 366-7 (slight)
  • Sandford, G., 1897, 'Knightly families of Shropshire' Montgomeryshire Collections Vol. 30 p. 244 (slight) online copy

Guide Books

  • Ferris, Iain, 2000, Haughmond Abbey, Lilleshall Abbey and Moreton Corbet Castle (London: English Heritage)
  • Errington, C.J.R. et al, n.d., A short History of Moreton Corbet Castle and Church (Preston Hall Press)

Primary Sources

  • Hardy, T.D. (ed), 1835, Rotuli litterarm patentium in Turri londinensi asservati (Record Commission) p. 166b (1216) online copy
  • Hardy, T.D. (ed), 1833, Rotuli litterarum clausarum in turri Londinensi asservati (Record Commission) Vol. 1 p. 199a
  • The Memoranda Roll of the tenth year of the Reign of King John (1207-8) : together with the Curia Regis Rolls of Hilary 7 Richard I (1196) and Easter 9 Richard I (1198). A roll of plates held by Hugh de Neville in 9 John (1207-8), and fragments of the close Rolls of 16 and 17 John (1215-16) (Pipe Roll Society 69) p. 131

Other

  • English Heritage, 1997, Scheduling Papers (Revision, 07/02/1997)
  • Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission, 1987, Scheduled Monument Report on SAM 32118 (17/02/1987)