This browser is not fully supported by Historic England. Please update your browser to the latest version so that you get the best from our website.

Moreton Corbet Castle

List Entry Summary

This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Name: Moreton Corbet Castle

List entry Number: 1015317

Location

The monument may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County:

District: Shropshire

District Type: Unitary Authority

Parish: Moreton Corbet and Lee Brockhurst

National Park: Not applicable to this List entry.

Grade: Not applicable to this List entry.

Date first scheduled: 09-Oct-1981

Date of most recent amendment: 07-Feb-1997

Legacy System Information

The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System: RSM

UID: 27557

Asset Groupings

This list entry does not comprise part of an Asset Grouping. Asset Groupings are not part of the official record but are added later for information.

List entry Description

Summary of Monument

Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

Country houses of the late Tudor and early Jacobean period comprise a distinctive group of buildings which differ in form, function, design and architectural style from country houses of both earlier and later date. Built after the dissolution of the monasteries they are the product of a particular historical period in which a newly-emerged Protestant elite of lawyers, courtiers, diplomats and other officials, mostly with close contacts at court, competed with each other to demonstrate wealth, taste and loyalty to the sovereign, often overstretching themselves financially. Their houses are a development of the medieval hall with flanking wings and a gatehouse, often looking inwards onto a courtyard; later examples tend to be built outwards, typically on a U- or H-plan. The hall was transformed from a reception area to an entrance vestibule and the long gallery and loggia were introduced. Many houses were provided with state apartments and extensive lodgings for the accommodation of royal visitors and their retinues. Country houses of this period were normally constructed under the supervision of one master-mason or a succession of masons, often combining a number of designs drawn up by the master-mason, surveyor or by the employer himself. Many designs and stylistic details were copied from Continental pattern-books, particularly those published in the 1560s on French, Italian and Flemish models; further architectural ideas were later spread by the use of foreign craftsmen. Symmetry in both plan and elevation was an overriding principle, often carried to extremes in the Elizabethan architectural `devices' in which geometric forms were employed to express religious and philosophical ideas. Elements of Classical architecture were drawn on individually rather than applied strictly in unified orders. This complex network of influences resulted in liberal and idiosyncratic combinations of architectural styles which contrasted with the adoption of the architecture of the Italian Renaissance, and with it the role of the architect, later in the 17th century. About 5000 country houses are known to have been standing in 1675; of these about 1000 are thought to survive, although most have been extensively altered or rebuilt in subsequent centuries to meet new demands and tastes. Houses which are uninhabited, and have thus been altered to a lesser degree, are much rarer. Surviving country houses of the late Tudor and early Jacobean period stand as an irreplaceable record of an architectural development which was unique both to England and to a particular period in English history characterised by a flourishing of artistic invention; they provide an insight into politics, patronage and economics in the early post-medieval period. All examples with significant surviving archaeological remains are considered to be of national importance.

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.

History

Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Details

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. The sets of modern wooden steps are excluded from the scheduling, although the ground beneath them is included.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.

Selected Sources

Books and journals
Pevsner, N, The Buildings of England: Shropshire, (1958), 204-5
Weaver, O J, 'Archaeological Journal' in Moreton Corbet Castle, , Vol. 138, (1981), 44-6
Wilson-North, W R, 'British Archaeological Reports' in Formal Garden Earthworks at Moreton Corbet Castle, Shropshire, (1989), 225-8
Wilson-North, W R, 'British Archaeological Reports' in Formal Garden Earthworks at Moreton Corbet Castle, Shropshire, (1989), 225-8
Other
held on SMR MB 0478, 0479, SJ52, (1992)
SRO 322/Box 2, Document in Shropshire Record Office, (1588)

National Grid Reference: SJ 55883 23099, SJ 56110 22992, SJ 56135 23165

Map

Map
© Crown Copyright and database right 2017. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2017. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
Use of this data is subject to Terms and Conditions.

The above map is for quick reference purposes only and may not be to scale. For a copy of the full scale map, please see the attached PDF - 1015317 .pdf

The PDF will be generated from our live systems and may take a few minutes to download depending on how busy our servers are. We apologise for this delay.

This copy shows the entry on 14-Dec-2017 at 08:16:48.

End of official listing