CORBET, Sir Andrew (1522-78), of Moreton Corbet, Salop.
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Family and Education
b. 1 Nov. 1522, 1st s. of Roger Corbet† of Moreton Corbet by Anne, da. of Sir Andrew Windsor†, 1st Lord Windsor; bro. of Jerome. m. Jane, da. of Sir Robert Needham of Shavington, Salop, 6s. inc. Richard Corbet II and Robert 5da. suc. fa. 1538. Kntd. Oct. 1547.1
Escheator, Salop 1546-7; j.p. Salop 1547-58, Glos., Herefs., Worcs. 1554, q. Salop from 1561; sheriff, Salop 1550-1, 1555-6, 1569-70; commr. relief 1550, goods of churches and fraternities 1553, loan 1558, musters 1562; member, council in the marches of Wales 1553, v.-pres. Aug. 1575-Aug. 1577; steward, Ruyton Patria, Salop by 1566; lt. Salop 1569.2
Corbet was a leading Shropshire landowner, who by 1578 owned property in 40 parishes in the county, in addition to manors in Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Cornwall, Essex, Herefordshire and elsewhere. He was a minor when his father died, and in July 1539 his wardship was granted to an uncle, Richard Corbet I; he received livery of his lands in November 1543. Before the end of Henry VIII’s reign he had added to his already extensive estates by buying from the Crown for over £550 the manor of Redcastle, Shropshire, with other lands in the county. He leased further Shropshire property under Mary, and at some time acquired houses in Shrewsbury. He lived mainly at Moreton Corbet, rebuilt in the Italian style by his sons Robert and Richard. In 1561 Sir Andrew sold a considerable amount of his Essex property, including the manor of Woodham Mortimer.3
His long career as an official was uninterrupted by the religious changes of the period. In 1555 he opposed a major government bill and did not sit in Mary’s last Parliament. The bishops’ letters to the Privy Council in 1564 described him as sound in religion, and as one whose advice had been taken on the religious position of justices of the peace. During the Norfolk plot Thomas Ashton, headmaster of Shrewsbury school, told Cecil that Corbet, though seeking quietness and loving ‘to have no dealing in things’, was
the only staid man, most secret, true and faithfullest to his prince ... in all these parts of the realm ... the fittest man for a charge wherein consisteth the stay of the country.
He allowed the parishioners of Moreton Corbet to choose their own pastor, William Axton, a Cambridge contemporary of Cartwright.4
Corbet was knighted early in Edward VI’s reign for service against the Scots. In 1560 he was in command of 200 men sent to Berwick, and in June that year was present at a banquet with the French in Scotland. He took an active interest in his local county musters: in August 1562 he submitted a report on the state of armour in Shropshire, and a number of the visits he made to Shrewsbury, where the town records refer to wine and other presents given to him, were connected with the musters.5
He was apparently an energetic and successful official. It is significant that he was the only Shropshire recipient of the Privy Council letter of 1571 urging ‘good choice to be made of knights, citizens and burgesses of the parliament’ in the county. A letter survives from him to the bailiffs of Shrewsbury, appointing a date early in March for the election of burgesses ‘in pursuance of letters from the Queen’. In September of the same year he wrote again, apologising for not being able to help the corporation over the collection of the subsidy, as he was occupied with the arrest of Lawrence Banester. In addition to his other offices in Shropshire, Corbet served between 1573 and 1578 as a commissioner for oyer and terminer, for sewers, and for the survey of tanning houses. He was one of a number of government officials appointed as feoffees of the property by the will of the 1st Earl of Essex, who died in 1576.6
By January 1574 he was signing orders as a member of the council in the marches of Wales, and in the summer of 1575 Sir Henry Sidney, before his departure for Ireland, invested him as vice-president at Shrewsbury. There was some opposition to the appointment, William Gerard complaining that Corbet was ‘a very sickly man, not able to take the toil of that service’. In fact, he proved to be a vigorous and efficient administrator who made a determined effort to put down corruption among the minor officials. In 1577 the Queen accepted his resignation as vice-president ‘in consideration of the illness of your body and to give you some relief after your travail, although we could be well content to have used you longer in our service’. She asked him to come to her as soon as possible, to discuss the state of the marches.7
During Corbet’s period as vice-president there was plague in Shrewsbury, and he did what he could to ensure supplies of grain. When he died, intestate, on 16 Aug. 1578, the town chronicle described him as ‘such a jewel to all Shropshire that the like was not for many years before, for the loss of whom there was many a sorrowful heart, especially in the town of Salop’. He was buried at Moreton Corbet, administration of the estate being granted on 22 Aug. to his son Robert, and a new grant being made on Robert’s death in 1583.8