No details of the commission survive, but it seems that Girtin was brought in during the final stages of a plan by the owner of Moreton Corbet, Sir Andrew Corbet (1766–1835), to restore the ruined and abandoned family seat to its former Elizabethan splendour. In 1796 Corbet employed a local architect and builder, John Hiram Haycock (1759–1830), to prepare plans to incorporate the south wing into a new structure, only to abandon the project in 1800 in favour of remodelling the nearby Acton Reynard Hall as his home (Harwood, 2006, pp.41–45). Corbet’s commission to Girtin was therefore in effect a way to complete on paper what the patron had failed to do on the ground, and this watercolour is therefore as much about what might have been than about what once was.
What was described as a ‘copy’ of this view of the Elizabethan wing of Moreton Corbet came up for auction in 2015 (see figure 3) (Exhibitions: Bonhams, 30 June 2015, lot 246). I was not able to view the watercolour at the time, but working from an image it appears at worst a good full-scale copy by a professional artist and one, ironically, that has survived in a slightly better condition than the original, and at best it could even be a second version of the composition by Girtin himself.
A Reconstruction of Moreton Corbet Castle, from the West