Sitting at the top of Boroughgate street in a defensive position by the River Eden, Appleby Castle dates from Norman times. There was probably a Roman fortification on this high hill by the river. Founded by Ranulph le Meschin c1100-20, the castle passed to the Crown, then the Scots took control from 1136 to 1157, after which it was regained by the English.
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It was Hugh de Morville who built Caesar’s tower, the square stone keep, in 1170, considered one of the best preserved in Britain. Surrounded by two moats, the 12th century five-floored keep and the Great Hall are two completely different buildings.
Passing in and out of the Crown’s hands and various families, the castle ended up in the 13th century belonging to the Clifford family. They retained ownership for the next 400 years. The castle saw good times and hard ones. Much rebuilt by Thomas Lord Clifford in Henry VI’s time, it was then neglected, and during the Civil War, slighted.
During the Civil War both the Royalists and the Parliamentarians occupied the castle. When surrendered by the Royalists, the castle’s forces were “5 knights, 25 colonels, 9 lieutenant colonels, 6 majors, 46 captains, 17 lieutenants, 6 coronets, 3 ensigns, 5 pieces of cannon, 1200 horses, and 1000 standard arms”, not to mention all of their baggage.
Lady Anne Clifford, Countess of Pembroke, was a staunch loyalist. After the return of Charles II to the throne, she occupied Appleby Castle and celebrated the joyful event with the town. It is said that she "thought not her gates then wide enough to receive her guests, which before had been too wide for receiving armies of soldiers."
The castle was extensively rebuilt and restored from 1651 by Lady Anne who was described as an "ornament of her age and country." In 1653 she built Lady Anne’s Bee House in the grounds, thought to serve as a spot for mediation. She also added the stables in the castle grounds.
After her death at the age of 87, Appleby castle was further improved by her grandson, the Earl of Thanet. Between 1686-88, he took stone from Brough and Brougham castles to build the east range, with its great hall, staircase, oak paneling and paintings of the Clifford family. During this time the exterior of the building was faced with dressed stone.
The castle’s 27 acres of grounds are home to a collection of rare breeds that include sheep, goats, pheasants, ducks and geese.
Appleby castle is located in the town of Appleby-in-Westmoreland, just off the A66 between Penrith and Brough.
Open: generally only can be viewed from outside but check with the Appleby Visitor Information centre phone no.0 1768 351 177 to find out if an open day
For information on the town of Appleby see our article Appleby
Photos © by Barbara Ballard and Graeme Dougal