Saturday 19 March 2016

St Bartholomew's Church, Moreton Corbet

Hello, thank you for dropping in.  I am delighted that so many of you enjoyed our little outing to Moreton Corbet Castle and today, I am going to show you the parish church,
St Bartholomew's, which stands only a few steps away.

I pushed open the heavy, boarded doors and stepped into the gloomy 12th century nave.

There is a list of rectors of this church, a list unbroken since the year 1300, displayed in a frame.  Christians have been worshipping here for more than 700 years but I had little sense that this is a House of God.  However, it is certainly a House of the Corbets.  There are memorials here of all shapes and sizes to members of the Corbet family, from marble tablets on the wall to painted tomb chests including this one -

This chest commemorates Richard Corbet, who died in 1567, and his wife, Margaret Savile.  Their colourful coats of arms surround the chest, the power of the Corbets symbolised by the elephant and castle and the wisdom of the Saviles represented by the owl.  The swaddled baby in the middle must represent a child who died in infancy as Richard had no surviving children and when he died, his Shropshire lands were inherited by his nephew, Sir Andrew, the man who extended the castle.
Obviously, the grand Corbets couldn't be expected to sit with the common people of the parish and in 1778 a "squire's pew" was added.  This three-sided room off the south aisle had a fireplace to keep the grandees warm, cushioned pews and curtains which they could pull across so that they wouldn't have to gaze upon/smell the hoi polloi.  This enormous memorial to another Richard Corbet, a royalist soldier who died in 1691, fills one corner of the room.
In 1883, Vincent Rowland Corbet, 3rd Baronet, paid for the refurbishment of the church and after he died in 1891, the family installed this window in the south aisle in his memory.  Entitled "Suffer Little Children" and made by the renowned firm Clayton and Bell, it depicts the passage in the bible in which Jesus exhorts his disciples to let the children come to him and it's quite charming.  Now, I know almost nothing about stained glass, but when I got home I looked up Clayton and Bell and was intrigued to discover that their windows can be found in Switzerland, Canada, the USA, Australia and New Zealand - as well as in St Peter's Church in Burnham (please excuse this personal reference, but I know that some of you are  familiar with St Peter's).  You can read more here if you are interested.
In 1904, Vincent Stewart Corbet, the son of the 4th Baronet, died of appendicitis; he was thirteen years old and a student at Eton College.  His parents commissioned Sir Ninian Comper, the great Gothic Revival architect who would go on to design windows for Westminster Abbey, to refurbish the chancel and replace the east window in his memory in 1905 and this is the result.  If you look very closely you may be able to make out the alabaster elephants on either side of the window's central bottom panel.  The refurbishment included a golden canopy on the ceiling -
There is another memorial to this boy outside in the churchyard, a carved stone plinth which once bore a bronze statue of Mercury.  The carving is rather beautiful and depicts two emblems of the Corbets, the elephant and castle and the squirrel. along with their respective mottoes: Virtutis Laus Actio (The Praise of Virtue is Action) and Dum Spiro Spero (Where There Is Breath, There Is Hope).  This poignant memorial tells a sad tale, for in 1910 Vincent's mother, Lady Caroline, added the name of her husband, Walter Orlando Corbet, and in 1915 she added the name of Vincent's younger brother, Rowland James Corbet, killed in action in France fighting the Great War; her husband and both sons dead within the space of eleven years.


It is a fascinating place to visit, displaying more than six hundred years of the history of the one family and how the English fashion for celebrating the lives of the rich and powerful has changed during that time - and holding the Corbet family's present as well as its past, for Christopher Corbet is the churchwarden. 

See you soon.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x


Tuesday 15 March 2016

A Sunny Sunday at Moreton Corbet

Hello, thank you SO much for your comments on my last post, I love to read your comments and the Best Beloved thanks you too; he is delighted that you liked his birdie photos.  

Spring is almost here: daffodils are nodding their heads and the crocuses are opening their faces up to bask in the periodic sunshine.  It's light when the Best Beloved leaves for work just before 7am and I watched a glorious sunset while I waited for him to pick me up yesterday at 6.30pm, waves of pink sweeping across the dark blue sky as the sun sank in a bank of amber and gold.  However, if you've been reading here for a while you will know that I am an astronomical kind of gal and in my book, it's not spring until the solstice next week, so although spring is almost here, winter is not quite done with us yet.

On Sunday, however, it did feel like spring as the sun shone and the birds sang, the Best Beloved even saw a butterfly (which is really annoying because he can't tell you any of their names) so when he suggested we go "out somewhere", he knew that he was pushing at an open door.  We really should have stayed at home and worked on the garden, neglected all winter, that would have been the sensible, grown-up thing to do, but I felt a blog post calling, so off out we went to place I have been wanting to share with you: Moreton Corbet Castle.

I love to visit old places.  Do you?  I like to tread the paths which others have trod hundreds of years before me, to place my hand on the stones they dressed and laid, to look at views which they would have looked like and feel their stories travelling through the centuries, to feel the connexions between their lives and mine.  Moreton Corbet is such a place.  In the 12th century the land was owned by the Toret family and in about the year 1200 they replaced the earth and timber structure which was there with a great sandstone keep, surrounding it with a curtain wall with an imposing gatehouse - remember that these were still violent times and an Englishman had to protect his castle.  When Bartholomew Toret died in 1239 without a male heir, the land and its castle passed to his daughter, Joan, except, of course, that married women were not allowed to legally own ANYTHING in this country until 1870, so in fact the land passed to her husband, Richard de Corbet, and so Moreton Toret became Moreton Corbet.  Seven hundred and seventy-seven years later, the Castle still belongs to the Corbet family, who live locally.  Shropshire's a bit like that.

Let's move forward in time 330 years or so, to the 1560s.  By this time, Queen Elizabeth I was ruling England and Sir Andrew Corbet had inherited the castle.  He decided to do some remodelling, building a range of domestic buildings inside the curtain wall and developing the castle into a comfortable manor house.  

When Sir Andrew died in 1578, his son, Robert, inherited the castle and continued his father's work. Robert, however, didn't really want to live in a Medieval castle, despite its makeover; he had travelled extensively in Europe and represented the government as an ambassador to The Netherlands.  His tastes were more sophisticated, he spoke fluent Italian and he was obviously enamoured of the new Italian style of architecture, so he set about the construction of a new range of buildings immediately south of the old castle, brick-built and faced with stone, elaborately carved and decorated.  Sitting in the middle of the fields of rural Shropshire it was absolutely extraordinary, and its remains still take your breath away.

Robert died of the plague in London in 1583, before his new home was finished and although his brothers Richard and then Vincent took over, the work was never fully completed.  During the Civil War in the 1640s the castle was damaged, eventually being taken by the Parliamentarians, and although it was restored to the Corbet family afterwards and repaired, it was abandoned in the early 18th century and mother nature has taken hold, dismantling the walls and wearing away the stones.  It is a lovely place to spend an hour or so, a quiet and peaceful place surrounded by fields and sheep, accompanied by the occasional butterfly or pheasant, a place where you can feel the hundreds of years of history which have drawn you there.  It's free to visit and open during daylight hours, just park your car in the layby and open the gate...

There is a little church there too, built around the time that Bartholomew Toret built his great stone keep, a fascinating church with much to see, but I shall save that for next time.  

See you very soon.

Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x