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Works Thomas Girtin

A Reconstruction of the Elizabethan Wing of Moreton Corbet Castle


Primary Image: TG1555: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), A Reconstruction of the Elizabethan Wing of Moreton Corbet Castle, (?) 1800, graphite and watercolour on paper, 32.7 × 53 cm, 12 ⅞ × 20 ⅞ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Lyon & Turnbull, Edinburgh, Photo: John McKenzie (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • A Reconstruction of the Elizabethan Wing of Moreton Corbet Castle
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on paper
32.7 × 53 cm, 12 ⅞ × 20 ⅞ in

'Girtin 1800' lower left, by Thomas Girtin

Object Type
Commissioned from Thomas Girtin; Studio Watercolour
Subject Terms
Country House View; Shropshire View

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
365 as 'Moreton Corbet Castle'
Description Source(s)
Auction Catalogue


Sir Andrew Corbet, 1st Baronet (1766–1835); then by descent to Lady Lesbia Rachel Lambe (née Corbet) (1905–90); then by descent; Lyon & Turnbull, 30 April 2014, lot 104 as 'South View of Moreton Corbet Castle, Shropshire', £10,000


Tonkin, 1983, p.32

About this Work

The reappearance of this view of Moreton Corbet Castle in Shropshire after almost two hundred years in the collection of the family who commissioned it from Girtin, together with another image of the property from the west (TG1556), has led to a surprising discovery. What was assumed to be a straightforward country house portrait of the Corbet family seat since the thirteenth century turns out to be a significant act of imaginative reconstruction. A watercolour by John Buckler (1770–1851) and John Chessell Buckler (1793–1894) (see figure 1) records the ruined state of the Elizabethan wing in 1822. The fact that this was the condition of the building at the time of Girtin’s commission is confirmed by a drawing from 1790 by the Revd Edward Williams (1762–1833) that illustrates just how much the professional artist had to add to create his view of the house. Therefore, far from being the outcome of a sketch made on his trip to or from North Wales in 1798, as was suggested when it was sold in 2014, the watercolour was almost certainly made from an intermediary source – probably an anonymous drawing now in the collection of Shropshire Archives (see figure 2). This shows the same part of the castle that had been severely damaged during the Civil War, when it served as a defence post for the Royalists against the Parliamentarian forces, together with the church of St Bartholomew in the background. The anonymous watercolour actually depicts the Elizabethan wing in a less ruined state, and it appears that it too is a partial reconstruction of the ruins, with the later doorway shown to the left of Williams’ view replaced by the original window. However, it still left Girtin with the task of adding a roof and completing the north facade to the right. 

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


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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