Appleby in Westmorland, a small town in the Eden Valley, Cumbria, but truly packed with history and uniqueness. previously we showed a series of posts on the Appleby Horse Fair, a week or so where the town gets full with visitors, travellers and of course horses. But, Appleby in Westmorland is so much more than that, and that is a small window of time in the year. I can assure you. Built within a great loop of the River Eden it is surrounded by mountains, open countryside, river beauty.. but let’s look within. I should know, I lived near here for over 3 years.
The Town History
In the days of pre 1974, with the old county boundaries, the town was simply called Appleby. It was the capital town of the county of Westmorland before all the changes. The name change to Appleby in Westmorland preserved and recognised a connection to the past.
That past goes far back beyond the Norman Conquest of the 11th Century from when it was made the main market town of Westmorland. With a history that long you can imagine it has connections with some famous historical names.
George’s father went to Appleby Grammar School, and George’s two older brothers were thus sent over from Virginia to be educated here too. When George was 11 his father died and that ended George Washington’s chance to follow on and have the same full education over here. Looking over to America you will see George has his birthplace in a county named after this Cumbrian area – Westmoreland, Virginia.
Politicians and Solicitors
MPs to Prime Ministers – William Pitt the Younger and Viscount Howick (2nd Earl Grey) were members of parliament for the town.
And those that know the life of Beatrix Potter will still find a Heelis Solicitors here.
Lady Anne Clifford
In the past I have mentioned Lady Anne Clifford many times in my articles, her tireless work restoring all the castles and properties she was left, for example Brougham Castle nearby. She owned five others, including Skipton, Brough, Pendragon castles. Appleby castle became her main home out of all the castles she owned and she gave a lot of work and help to the people of the town. In the 17th century she restored the church, St Lawrence. Looking inside you will find the monuments to Lady Anne and her mother, Lady Margaret Clifford.
St Lawrence Church
Another big landmark in the centre of town is St Lawrence’s Church. The arched cloisters taking you from the bustling road to peace and calm almost immediately.
Parts of the building dates back to the 13th century like its porch. And older than that is the arch. The Scottish raids meant it was destroyed a few times so over the centuries it has been rebuilt. making a church built in all ages.
The main image at the top of this post shows Moot Hall, dated 1596, built for the town’s administration. You cannot miss it as you pass through. A quaint white building as if on its own in the centre of town. The ground floor now hosts the font of great local knowledge, the Tourist Information Centre. The top floor still does host the council meetings.
The main street of Appleby that stretches from Appleby Castle gates down to the cloisters of the church is called Boroughgate. A really wide tree lined street that is wonderful to look up or down at any time of day or season.
The market crosses
At the top and bottom of Boroughgate stand white distinctive tall crosses.
These do mark were the old markets used to be. The pic above shows the bottom cross, beside it is now an oval shaped little car park for shoppers and the Saturday market. With the road running around it, and Moot Hall, you can see how it used to be the bull tethering ring ‘Bull Ring’.
The high cross, at the top of the road was the historical site of the cheese market.
Around and through the town of course you have the looping River Eden. This itself is full of hidden treasures, from wildlife and woodland to great architectural backdrops.
The bridge above is the main thoroughfare to get into town from the east…. but upstream you can find some natural wonder.
By Jubilee Foot Bridge (below) there is a weir where the water drops a few feet down, stretching across the waterway. In Autumn, this spot gives rise to the spectacle and a great view of salmon jumping up to get ‘up river’. Not only do we know this but a pair of Herons are also seen patrolling or standing motionless across the top of the drop, waiting to catch their jumping dinner. Quite a spectacle.
For those with patience and quiet timing you can often also see Otters swimming around in the river. In fact there is a huge array of birds and flowers. Take the time, any time of year to see what you can find.
The Eden Benchmarks
If you have explored any length of the River Eden you could quite well have seen one of the 10 Eden Benchmarks. Stone sculptures that act as seats, all designed by different artists to mark the turn of the new millennium. There are ten in total along the river and Appleby is home to one of them – The primrose Stone.
This was just a taster. There is so much more to see and there is so much more to tell.
Remember, the Tourist Information Office is in Moot Hall. I would highly recommend the town circular walk that they can help you with. Maps, photos, illustrations and a booklet packed with info for every turn.