Westmorland Road Trip: Pt 1 – Appleby

Our next trip was to the Historic County of Westmorland, which was absorbed, along with a part of Lancashire, and the whole of Cumberland, into Cumbria in 1974. The old boundaries still exist in law and many people are proud to say they are from Westmorland. Our journey started in the Westmorland county town of Appleby…


Status: Eden District, Cumbria (Historically Westmorland), Town, England

Date: 26/05/2014

Travel: Car

Eating & Sleeping: Appleby Bakery

Attractions: Appleby Castle, Appleby Horse Fair, Low Cross, High Cross, Jubilee Bridge, Sandstone Bridge, River Eden, The Cloisters, St Michael’s Church, St Lawrence’s Church, South Africa Memorial, War Memorial, Moot House, Tourist Information etc

App 1

We parked up on the high street (known as Boroughgate) in the centre of town, where many of the local attractions can be found. The centrepiece of the street is the beautiful Moot Hall, which also contains the Tourist Information office at the far end (it was originally home to various butcher shops). There are two plaques on the building, one dated 1179, to commemorate the first Town Charter, and one to show the buildings construction date, back in 1596.

It’s a great looking building inside, and going into the Tourist Info office we could see the enormous wooden beams holding up the ceiling, in amongst the more modern light fixtures and walls. There are a number of souvenirs of the town, with a few relating to the towns position close to the Lake District, as well as the Appleby Horse Fair, held annually in the town. Hundreds of spectators, horse riders and Gypsy Travellers from all the over the UK descend on the town for around a week. It started in 1685, when a charter was granted by King James II (1633 – 1701) to start the fair near the river Eden which flows through the town.

Note that the Moot Hall is also flying a flag at one end. This is the flag of Westmorland, which was registered in 2011. It features a golden apple tree (representing Appleby) and the white and red bars of the Barons of Kendal. It celebrates the recognition of historic Westmorland, and now flies in various parts of the old county borders. The overall design is based on the coat of arms previously held by Westmorland county council.

App 2

At the end of the street, before the Church, is the low Cross. The road slopes up at the other end, leading to the high cross. The High Cross is the original 17th century Cross, whilst the Low Cross is a copy created in the 18th century.

It bears a sundial at the top on the right, along with an ornate weather vain on the top. We got up to the High Cross later on, but the Low Cross contrasted well with the blue sky. It was a beautiful day for a road trip, and Appleby is one of those places that looks great in any weather, but even more amazing in the sun, and what’s great about the town, and the high street is how many of the older buildings have survived, giving it a good sense of character.

App 3

To enter the Churchyard, you pass through the beautiful Cloisters, which consists of 7 arches between the two towers. Constructed in 1811 by Robert Smirke (1780 – 1867, English Architect), it provides a fine front to the Church as well as an end to the whole street, with this area being the main Market Square. The Cloisters also help to separate the busy town from the more quiet inner sanctum of the Church.

Behind the three central arches are the Iron Gates leading through to the Churchyard. There are benches inside and it’s a great place to sit and watch the world go by, as the Market Place is often a hive of activity.

App 4

This is the Church in question, St Lawrence’s. It is the Parish Church of Appleby, falling under the jurisdiction of the wider diocese of Carlisle. The building itself looks reasonably new, as it is has been well cared for over the years. In actual fact, the oldest section of the building, the lower section of the tower was built in 1150, nearly 900 years ago! The South Porch was added later in the 13th century, with the rest of the church following over the next 200 years.

In 1655 the church was restored by Lady Anne Clifford (1590 – 1676, Countess of Dorset) and various sections of the building, including the North Chapel benefited for a rebuild. Originally the interior was a lot plainer, until the fine ceilings were added by Christopher Hodgson in the 1830’s, with more restorations in the following decades. I did try the door but it was locked, and many smaller churches are only open for services. One of the most well known features inside is the Organ, given to the Church in 1683 by Carlisle Cathedral, which it was originally built for in 1661.

The Churchyard is a beautiful place, with old stones and graves at various angles, having stood the test of the time.

App 5

We soon wandered down to the river Eden, and what an incredible sight it was. You can walk down either side of the river, the two banks being separated by the double arched sandstone bridge, built in the 1880’s to replace a much older, unsafe medieval bridge.

It’s a great place to sit and relax around here, with the older stone buildings on the far side flanked by tall trees, and a variety of river wildlife, and on this side you will find the local Cricket Club a bit further down the path. I wonder how often they have to go swimming in the river to find the ball, as it’s right next to the river bank on the far side of the path.

The Eden itself began it’s journey not too far from here, on the border between Cumbria and Yorkshire, high up in the Yorkshire Dales. After running through Appleby it proceeds to flow through the Eden District of Cumbria (from which it takes it’s name) and finally to Carlisle, and out into the Solway Firth near Gretna.

App 6

From the river we decided to go around the whole town in a large circle, which meant walking back up the high street, and up to the top of the road towards the Castle. As this section of the road slopes upwards it affords a great view back down into the Market Square, with the Moot Hall, Low Cross, Cloisters and Parish Church all visible down below.

As we kept going up the slope, staying on the same side of the road, we came across something incredible…

App 7

A seemingly normal looking gate blending into the wall leads you through into the most amazing little courtyard, with a fountain as it’s centrepiece. Although all the buildings around the outside of the square are private houses, the locals are very friendly and are used to visitors coming in for a look around the square.

This is the site of St Anne’s Hospital, and it was built originally in 1651 by Lady Anne Clifford (whom I mentioned earlier), for 13 widows in the town and counting the red doors around the outside there are indeed 13 of these Almshouses.

It’s an amazing little find, and it’s often the most fantastic areas that are hidden away from view, so always keep an eye out for an old stone arch housing a set of gates, with a stone coat of arms next to the doorway, as more often than not it will turn out to be something special.

App 8

At the top of the slope is the High Cross, looking down into the town centre. You can’t tell it is the older of the two Crosses as both have been kept in immaculate condition. The Crosses actually mark the sites where Lady Anne erected scaffolding as part of the festivities she hosted when Charles II (1630 – 1685) was restored to the English throne at the end of the English Civil War in 1660.

Behind the Cross, right at the top of the hill is one of the many entrances to the grounds of Appleby Castle, however it’s shut to the public at this time of year as it is privately owned. We would encounter the Castle again later on our loop of the town.

App 9

The loop took us down and around the main Castle grounds, which are bounded to the side by a high stone wall. The outer streets of Appleby are very green, with trees lining the roads. The houses also all have that old style to them, with modern developments few and far between in this part of the town. It is a lovely rural setting, and part of the reason that Westmorland is one of the most beautiful counties in this part of England.

App 10

We soon encountered the River Eden again, as the town centre of Appleby is located almost on an island in the centre of the river, as it comes around it in a U shape. This section of the river flows round to our position on the banks of the river earlier, back in the centre.

An old Iron/Wood bridge once crossed the river here, between 1887 and 1968 when it was washed away by floods. 2 years later the new bridge was opened by the Mayor of Appleby, and it is a popular walk for locals and tourists alike.

App 11

From the bridge, you get an amazing view up to Appley Castle, and the Mansion House that is one of the main parts of the complex. Aside from the Mansion House, there is also a large square tower, known as Caesars Tower.

The tower is the oldest part of the Castle, having been constructed in 1170 by Ranulf le Meschin (1070 – 1129, 3rd Earl of Chester). William the Lion (1143 – 1214, Scottish King) invaded the valley in 1174 and took the Castle with no resistance. At some point prior to 1203 it was retaken by the English, and King John (1166 – 1216) granted the Castle to Robert de Vieuxpont (Local Landowner). In 1269 it passed to Roger de Clifford and his family retained possession for the next 4 centuries, and it was during this time that the main parts of the house were built, in the 13th century, with the East end of the house being added in 1454.

Returning again to Lady Anne, the Castle was bought by her after the Civil War, and she restored the damage done during a siege of the war in 1648. Caesars tower also underwent some restoration, with the top of the tower being altered over the next 2 centuries. The house was rebuilt in 1686, and in 1972 Ferguson Industrial Holdings took control, before vacating in 1990. It is now a private house, but it is available as a Wedding Venue, and the perfect way to celebrate. Other events such as Conferences and Meetings can also be held here, and there are tours available by appointment starting around Summer Time. Check out the official website here to find out more. Here you can find a great view from above and it’s amazing how large it actually is, and for such a small town of Appleby it really is incredible.

App 12

Having crossed the river we were on the return portion of the loop, and passed the second church of the day. It looks very similar to St Lawrence’s, however it is called St Michael’s, and is actually now a private residence, although it did begin life as a Church back in the 12th century. What an incredible place to live, especially if the tower is still accessible as the view from up there would be fantastic, with the Castle possibly visible from up there as well.

App 13

Our last stop was the town’s War Memorial, located where the small road down to the bridge meets up with the main road, Bongate, which runs round from here back to our start point by the river. This particular memorial is in remembrance of the Second Boer War in South Africa in 1900 and the locals from the town who saw active service there.. Another memorial commemorates the Great Wars, and stands in the churchyard of St Lawrence’s.

We had one more stop after this in the town, but I shall leave that for my next post, when we made a visit to the Settle & Carlisle Railway…

Appleby is a fantastic little town, and it’s a shame that administratively Westmorland no longer exists, but at least the old county has been recognised officially and its great to see the new Westmorland flag flying proudly in the Market Square. There is plenty to see in the town, and it’s great rural location close to the Lake District, Carlisle, Penrith and Kendal as well as the direct rail links on to Carlisle, Settle and Leeds makes it a great place to explore from.

The Appleby Horse Fair is a major draw, but if it’s not your cup of tea you can take a tour around the Castle, enjoy the old churches or just sit and relax by the river. Whatever you decide, you won’t be disappointed, and a range of historic pubs and restaurants afford great views down the river and across the Market Square, and I think it is one of the most picture perfect towns in the area.


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