If you have wandered through Appleby in Westmorland, down the main street (Boroughgate) from the castle toward the town centre, you may have missed a charming little bit of history. The Alms Houses of St Anne’s Hospital.
Through the arched stoned doorway and you come out into a lovely cobbled courtyard surrounded by the brightly coloured doorways of the quaint little old houses. We are revisiting here again some of the legacy of Lady Anne Clifford, whom did so much not only for the restoration of castles and estates in the area, but also for the people of Appleby. When she was living in the castle, during the 17th Century, she became concerned with the welfare of the poor widows of the town. So, she had built these alms houses in 1651. Enough for 12 Sisters and a Mother. They are still in use today.
The door through to the courtyard and garden is usually open for passers by during the day. Once there you may see one of the resident ladies whom can perhaps show you some of the hidden quirky treasures within. A big tip is to ask to see inside the tiny chapel. Full of interest, history and the rules the ladies had to stick by to live here… some of them still stand to this day. One of ladies, if around, will be more than willing to help you take a look inside, in return for a donation.
The vicar of Appleby still comes every week to give a service to the residents. Around the walls are the commandments, bible passages and of course the written rules. In a glass case is a fine example of an extremely old King James bible.. so saddened to a past visitor had ripped the front cover off.
Also in the chapel is a fine portrait of Lady Anne Clifford herself… As can be seen here, during the 19th Century it was incorrectly labelled as her mother, Margaret.
If you are ever visiting the area and want to learn a little more of the history of Appleby, then take a step back in time to these Alms Houses. Enlightening and delightful!