The Vanities of Man - the ruins of Morten Corbett Hall
I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
Percy Bysshe Shelley
Shelley's sonnet is a wonderful thing, gently mocking man’s vanity and the relative impermanence of our achievements. I think we feel safely insulated from the message by virtue of the language and the fact that it is set in a far distant (and imaginary) past. In Shropshire, however, I came across a more contemporary example.
The Corbets are wealthy landowners. They have a long and noble history. The Doomsday book lists Roger Fitz Corbet and his brother Robert as tenants of the King and of Roger, Earl of Shrewsbury. The line died out (as they say) but quaintly termed 'cadet' branches spread and thrived. In 1873, according to Wikipedia, the Corbets still retained a part of their former vast states in Shropshire and in 1873 two Corbets owned more than 17,000 acres between them. When I first arrived in Shropshire, I played squash was one of the Corbets. As we were changing after the game (he won) I asked if he was from around Shropshire. It was only later that I realised why he was so bit sniffy! We never played again, despite the fact that I can trace my family back a bit too.
Moreton Corbet Hall lies just north of Shrewsbury. It's history dates from perhaps the 9th century. In the sixteen century Andrew Corbet made many changes to the existing castle and his son, influenced by his time abroad as a diplomat, set about creating a new mansion. Unfortunately, the plague did for him, but successive Corbets persevered. The house was besieged during the English Civil War as it was part of Royalist Shrewsbury's defence.
Now, it's a shell.
I spent a happy afternoon photographing the site, having driven past it many times. It has a peculiar atmosphere of isolation but not decay. It almost looks like someone just lost interest in maintaining it. The feeling that you in a time warp is palpable. I walked around and took lots of photos but the images, taken on a lovely summers day, do not seem to convey my vision of the place. I would love to go back.
I have played around with the images to try and convey the sense of agelessness.