The village of Hopton Castle, with its black and white houses, church overlooking the brook and romantic ruin, is often described as 'quintessentially English' but that belies the history of the area.

All boundaries in these borderlands, but particularly that between England and Wales, were disputed. Offa's Dyke, constructed in the 8th century by the powerful King of Mercia, confirms how far the old tribes had been pushed west by successive conquests. The substantial remains of the dyke lie sometimes to the east, sometimes to the west of the present border. Local place and family names (Clungunford, Llanbrook; Williams, Hughes, Morris and Pugh) indicate the significance of Welsh lineage even on the English side of the present border.

Between the 1st and 5th centuries AD, the Romans had a settlement (Bravonium) at what is now Leintwardine, 3 miles to the south-east but there is no record of anything which can be identified with the present site of Hopton Castle.

Copyright Richard Moult

By the time of the Norman Conquest in 1066, a Saxon named Eadric owned the manor of Opetoune as well as Clun and Hopesay.
By 1086, however, the Domesday Book recorded the area, owned then by Roger de Montgomery Earl of Shrewsbury, as 'waste' so the settlement may have been dispersed or destroyed in local fighting. The incumbent at the time, holding the manor from the Earl, was Picot de Say. The Norman names indicate who was now in charge here as in most of the rest of England.

By 1165 the owner was Walter de Opton - the name taken, presumably from the manor - and his successors (in time the written form becoming 'de Hopton') until the 15th century. Even in the 13th century, the family was politically significant, Sir Walter de Hopton being Sheriff of the large, adjacent counties of Shropshire and Staffordshire. Acting as judge and, for a time, as an auditor in Ireland for Edward I, he left the national scene after being himself heavily fined for corruption. He was also accused of stealing cattle from the road between Hopton and Jay. In the official record of the incident, there are references to both Hopton Woods and the 'castles of Hoptone'. The next Walter de Hopton, while Sheriff of Hereford, was accused of stripping another family home in Wem to furnish Hopton.

The estate descended by marriage in the 15th century to the Corbets of Moreton Corbet in north Shropshire and in the 16th century to Sir Henry Wallop of Hampshire although there were still Hoptons amongst the gentry in the area in the 17th century. Sir Henry, powerful and rich, had, like Sir Walter, served his monarch, Elizabeth I, in various roles including Lord Justice in Ireland. He is known to have made improvements at Hopton, although the extent is uncertain. Sir Henry's son, Robert, was the Parliamentarian owner of Hopton at the time of the Civil War and the siege.