It is uncertain when Hopton castle was built, but it is likely that the family of Hopton were responsible for this act during the Anarchy of King Stephen's reign. By the reign of King Henry II the Hoptons were the major honourial baron of Clun lordship. As such the Hoptons rose in the service of such families as the Says, Fitz Alans and Mortimers. During the barons' wars of the 1260's Walter Hopton became an important royal justice who was much complained of by English and Welsh litigants alike. It was probably at this time that Walter refurbished his ancestral castle as a powerful motte and bailey fortress. In the 1290's Walter suddenly fell from royal favour and was imprisoned in the Tower of London for a while. The last Walter Hopton died during the Wars of the Roses and the castle passed by marriage to the Corbets of Moreton Corbet castle.
During the Civil War Hopton castle was one of the few castles held for the Parliament in the west. In 1644 Sir Michael Woodhouse marched from Stapleton castle and laid siege to the fortress. John Moore valiantly defended the castle until the bailey fell. He then attempted to hold the tower until the porch was fired: he then surrendered at mercy. Unfortunately Michael Woodhouse refused his surrender and his Irish troops butchered all the garrison except Moore. Moore was later used to force the surrender of Brampton Bryan castle with the threat of annihilation to the garrison. It is not known exactly how the garrison of Hopton was put to death. The two surviving contemporary accounts differ. One says that the garrison was tied back to back and then had their throats cut. The other says that they were bound and thrown into the moat. It is not impossible that both were right and one action followed the other! The castle, or at least the keep, just like Moreton Corbet castle, was still habitable in 1700, but fell into disrepair soon afterwards. The keep at 45'x40' was similar in size to the keep at Criccieth (43'x32') and Dolwyddelan II (44'x31') in Gwynedd, the large tower keep (45'x33') in the bailey at Richards Castle in England and Adare (43'x35') in Limerick, Ireland.
The remains of Hopton castle, both the keep/tower house and the earthwork remains are fully explored as well as two nearby castle sites at the Rabbit Berries and Warfield Bank.
Hopton Castle, 1066 to 1282 (ISBN 1-899376-01-1)  can be ordered for £4.95 through the PayPal basket below.
Paul Martin Remfry