Near the village of Moreton Corbet, Shropshire, England, there are some ruins which make up what is left of Moreton Corbet Castle. Actually the ruins are from two different periods in the history of England. One was a stronghold from the medieval times and the other was a manor from the Elizabethan era.
In 1086, according to the Doomsday Book, there were two Anglo-Saxon thegns living at Moreton Corbet, Hunning and Wulfgeat. It is possible that they had some kind of fortified residence on the site. The remains of a ditch around the site could possibly be the remnants of this early “castle”. By the early 12th century, another thegn by the name of Toret had replaced them. Toret was an Englishman who held the title of Lord of Moreton Corbet under the authority of the powerful Norman family of Verley.
This Toret and Toret Wroxeter, who was probably his son, were responsible for building the square tower keep which still stands today as an icon of Moreton Corbet Castle. During the reign of King John, Bartholomew Toret was lord of the castle. Batholomew became a member of the powerful anti-Plantagenet group called “The Northerners”. In 1215, they forced King John to sign the Magna Carta. When this did not produce the result they wanted, they raised a rebellion against the king.
Moreton Corbet Castle was one of the places which was garrisoned against King John. In February 1216, Earl William Marshall of Goodrich Castle, who was, at that time, residing in Shrewsbury, received royal orders to attack Moreton Corbet. He succeeded and a royalist garrison was stationed in the castle. By 1217, Bartholomew Toret and his friend and ally, Robert Corbet of Wattlesborough Castle, had given up on the rebellion and pledged allegiance to King John’s son, Henry III.
When Bartholomew Toret died in 1235, he had no male heir. His daughter, Joan, inherited Moreton Corbet Castle. When she married Robert Corbet, the castle became the property of the Corbet family. Before the marriage, the castle was known as Moreton Toret. Robert changed the name to Moreton Corbet. The Corbets still own the castle but they no longer live there. They moved to Acton Reynald Hall in about 1800. English Heritage manages the castle now.
The Corbets were responsible for many of the modifications and extensions to Moreton Corbet Castle. When they took over as owners of the castle, they rebuilt the Norman fortress they inherited. They made it into a part-fortified stone residence protected by a curtain wall with an impressive gatehouse. Most probably the fortifications were just eye candy for they were not constructed to withstand a heavy assault on the castle.
Around 1560, when Sir Andrew Corbet was lord of the castle, he rebuilt it and added a new east wing with a great hall. Then his son, Robert Corbet, extended the floor space by adding a beautiful L-shaped south wing. This latest addition was considered to be one of the landmarks in English architectural history. It was built based on drawings of Italian villas. However, despite the time and effort devoted to its construction, it stands as an empty shell to this day.
A Puritan Ghost
There is a story connected to its uninhabited fate. In early 17th century, Puritans were persecuted throughout England. The lord of the castle at that time was Sir Vincent Corbet. He was not a Puritan but he sympathized with their plight. He had a neighbor named Paul Holmyard. Paul was a Puritan. Sir Vincent took pity on Paul and offered him shelter at the castle.
However, when he got to know Paul better, Sir Vincent was dismayed by the radical Puritan ideals. Perhaps concern for his own welfare should he be found to be sheltering a refugee weighed in on the side of caution. In the end, he felt compelled to ask Paul to leave.
Paul fled into the surrounding countryside. He hid in caves and subsisted on wild berries. He also hunted what wild animals he could to keep alive. After some time, he returned to Moreton Corbet. Sir Vincent Corbet was still busy continuing with the construction of the mansion which was started by his brother, Sir Robert Corbet. When Paul met Sir Vincent, he cursed the Corbet family,
“Woe unto thee, hard hearted man, the lord has hardened thy heart as he hardened the heart of the Pharaoh, to thine own destruction.
“Rejoice not in thy riches, not in monuments of thy pride, for neither thou, nor thy children, nor thy children’s children shall inhabit these halls.
“They shall be given up to desolation; snakes, vipers and unclean beasts shall make it their refuge, and thy home shall be full of doleful creatures..”
Apparently the curse was effective. Sir Vincent Corbet was so mindful of the consequences of the curse that he never set foot in the castle again. Neither did his son, Andrew. The mansion was never completed.
It is said that on moonlit nights, the bedraggled ghost of Paul Holmyard has been sighted in Moreton Corbet Castle. It has been seen wandering among the desolate ruins. Perhaps it is checking to see that the building is never completed. Or perhaps it is regretting the curse that it had placed on the premises.
Visitors to Moreton Corbet Castle can see for themselves how glorious the building could have become if it had not been cursed. Perhaps some who might be adept with the rites of exorcism might consider doing something to lift the curse.