There is no sound evidence as to when Moreton Corbet castle was built, but the Domesday Book suggests that some form of residence stood here in 1086 when the English thegns Hunning and Wulfgeat held the manor. Quite possibly the remains of the early ditch around the site marks a trace of this early 'castle'. By the early twelfth century the two thegns had disappeared and the English thegn Toret had replaced them as lord of Moreton Corbet under the powerful Norman family of Verley.
Toret (d.1108+) and his probable son, Toret Wroxeter (d.bef.1175), were Englishmen and it would seem possible that they were responsible for building the rectangular tower keep, some 38' by 33', which still dominates the castle site. Somewhat similar rectangular keeps under 40' square exist in Wales at Carndochan (35' square), Dolwyddelan I (25' square), Hyssington (27' square) and White Castle (35' square): and in England at Bridgnorth (39'x35'), Clithero (35' square), Clun (30' square), Farnham (37' square), Goodrich (29' square), Peak (40' square) and especially Wattlesborough (30' square).
Before 1170 Peter Toret (d.1194) married Lucy Haget (d.1205+) and in her right became a powerful baron in Yorkshire. By the reign of King John his son Bartholomew Toret (d.1235) had become a member of the powerful anti-Plantagenet grouping called 'The Northerners'. In 1215 they compelled King John to sign the Magna Carta and when this failed moved a rebellion against the king. Moreton Corbet castle was one of those places which were garrisoned against John. In February 1216 Earl William Marshall of Goodrich castle, who at the time was residing at Shrewsbury, was ordered by the king to storm Moreton Corbet. This he duly did and a royalist garrison was placed within the fortress. By 1217 Bartholomew Toret and his son-in-law, Richard Corbet of Wattlesborough castle, abandoned the cause of the rebels and returned allegiance to King John's son, Henry III.
Bartholomew Toret died in 1235, leaving Moreton Corbet castle to his grandson by his daughter Joan, and Richard Corbet (d.1217+), yet another Richard Corbet (d.1248). The Corbets then held the castle for the rest of its days. In 1282 their grandson, Robert Corbet (d.1300), was one of those who helped in the annihilation of Prince Llywelyn's last army at Llanganten. Robert went on to join another Montgomery army that fought at Maes Madog in March 1295, destroying the army of Prince Madog ap Llywelyn. During the Elizabethan era Vincent Corbet (d.1623) and his sons rebuilt the castle as a fine Elizabethan house in a unique English style that abounds with Corbet symbolism. During the Civil War Moreton Corbet castle became a garrison for the king, although it changed hands repeatedly before the royalist cause was lost in the county. Bullet holes still pockmark the sandstone walls of both castle and house. The fortress was only finally abandoned in the early eighteenth century.
An updated version of Moreton Corbet Castle, 1066 to 1700 and the Families of Verley, Toret and Corbet (ISBN 1899376615), is now available as an A4 sized book of 110 pages. The revised book includes new photographs of the fortress and an index and can be bought for £29.95 through the PayPal basket below.
Paul Martin Remfry