Borough, market town and county town of Westmorland, in East ward, Westmorland. This entry covers medieval borough itself (Boroughgate; in Appleby St Lawrence parish) and townships of Bongate (in Appleby St Michael parish) and Scattergate (in Appleby St Lawrence parish). The ancient borough, Scattergate township and part of Bongate township were combined to form Appleby MB, created 1885; remainder of Bongate was subsumed into Appleby 1908.


Boroughgate (the medieval borough) covered a mere 48 acres [19 ha]; Bongate township covered 3,448 acres [1,395 ha] and Scattergate township 947 acres [383 ha]. After 1908 area of Appleby MB was 1,876 acres [759 ha]. Bongate and Burrells Moor enclosed 1774. Gallows (Fair) Hill, which became part of Appleby MB 1885, remained common land until 1912, when commoners conveyed it to Appleby Corporation, which then enclosed it.


Appleby was caput of barony of Appleby or Westmorland from 12th century. Appleby castle may have been built by Ranulph Meschin in early 12th century and was in hands of Sir Hugh de Morville in reign of Henry II. Robert de Veteripont (or Vipont) was granted barony 1203; it descended to his granddaughters Isabel (d. 1291), who married Roger de Clifford, and Idonea, who married Roger de Leyburne. Both heiresses’ shares of barony were reunited in Robert de Clifford in 1308. Cliffords held barony until 17th century, when it passed to Lady Anne Clifford (1590-1676) and through her daughter Margaret Sackville by marriage to Tufton family, earls of Thanet, who rebuilt parts of castle 1686. In 1881 the then owner, Sir Henry James Tufton, was created Baron Hothfield; his descendants remained in possession until 1961 when castle and estates were sold by auction. By 18th century local influence of earls of Thanet was challenged by acquisition of land and property in Appleby by Lowther family, later earls of Lonsdale.

Origins and growth of the town.

Originated as planted borough, laid out, probably in 12th century, at foot of baronial castle. New town consisted of wide, planned street of Boroughgate with its own parish church of St Lawrence; earlier settlement of Appleby lay across River Eden in St Michael’s parish, in Bongate (literally ‘the street of the peasants or unfree tenants’), referred to in 1276 as ‘old Appleby where the villeins dwell’ – it was not within area granted borough status by Henry II 1179. As caput of barony of Westmorland, borough became county town of Westmorland. Its grwoth was limited and it suffered badly from Scottish raids and economic depression in troubled late-medieval centuries; in 1528 Leland described it as ‘the Shire town, but now a poor village’. In 1671 Sir Daniel Fleming described Appleby as being ‘so mean’ and devoid of manufacturing that it would be ‘little better than a village’ were it not for its county town functions. However, 17th-century Appleby owed much to widowed Lady Anne Clifford, who made a refurbished Appleby Castle her principal home and rebuilt both parish churches and much of Boroughgate. Appleby’s principal role from 12th century was as market centre for upper Eden valley, with important cattle fairs every fortnight from Whitsuntide to Michaelmas, held on the Sands. After 1775 they were gradually eclipsed by ‘New Fair’ held in June on Gallows Hill, outside borough boundary and not subject to corporation control. Following opening of auction mart next to Appleby West railway station in 1880, New Fair became largely a horse fair, increasingly dominated by travellers until by late 20th century it was recognised as largest gypsy/traveller gathering in Britain. Appleby’s second main function was as county town for Westmorland and, as such, it was location of shire hall and county gaol and sittings of both Quarter Sessions and Assize courts. Inns to serve these gatherings and lawyers’ practices were features of the town. However, though nominally Westmorland’s shire town, it was overshadowed by Kendal by 18th century. Some manufacturing industry developed in 19th century: in 1829 there were two breweries, a rope and twine manufacturer, three bellows makers and a bag maker; two linen manufacturers were located in Bongate. Despite arrival of railway (Appleby East station on North Eastern Railway opened 1862 (closed 1962); Appleby West station on Midland Railway opened 1876), Victorian Appleby remained very small country town. Ancient borough had 711 inhabitants in 1801, rising to peak of 960 in 1861 (coinciding with railway building) and falling back to 850 in 1901; population of whole of Appleby MB was a mere 1,764 in 1901. In 1910 town’s main industries were recorded as brewery and mineral water manufactory. After 1931 Express Dairy, handling milk eggs and manufacturing cheese, became major employer until it closed 1997. Population had dropped to 1,618 in 1931 but numbers steadily rose during second half of 20th century, reaching 2,862 in 2001. Ceased to be borough and county town 1974, on creation of new county of Cumbria; its name was subsequently changed to Appleby-in-Westmorland. Economy has focused on tourism from later 20th century.

Places of worship.

Two medieval parish churches: St Michael, Bongate, probably earlier of the two (evidence of pre-Conquest fabric), closed 1974 and converted to house and studio. Borough’s medieval parish church of St Lawrence, Boroughgate, remains in use. Carmelite Friary (Whitefriars) founded at Battlebarrow 1281. Wesleyan Methodist chapel built 1823; rebuilt on The Sands 1888 and extended 1904. United Methodist Free Church (formerly Wesleyan Reform Tabernacle Chapel) built 1837; rebuilt 1872 and Sunday School added 1884; now youth centre. Chapel on the Rock Primitive Methodist church built 1872; later used as Oddfellows’ Hall and, since 1995, as Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Our Lady of Appleby RC church on Garth Heads Road built 1958. Municipal cemetery with mortuary chapel opened c.1908.


Appleby Grammar School, in existence by 1453, originated as chantry school; re-founded by Elizabeth I 1574; moved from town centre to present site on Battlebarrow 1887 (became co-educational 1956 and comprehensive 1962). National school in St Lawrence’s parish recorded 1818 as having ceased due to want of school room. Bongate National School built 1844 and subsequently enlarged. British school in St Lawrence’s parish built 1849 and enlarged 1875. St Lawrence’s elementary school for girls built by subscription 1872; remained open until 1962. British and National schools closed 1910 after opening of county elementary school on site between the two railway stations; now Appleby Primary School. Appleby Training and Heritage Centre for further education established 1996, using former Midland Railway buildings.

Other institutions.

St Nicholas’ leper hospital founded on outskirts of town before 1235. Almshouses for single elderly ladies, known as St Anne’s Hospital, founded 1653 by Lady Anne Clifford and endowed with estate at Brougham and lands formerly belonging to St Nicholas’ hospital. Moot Hall overlooking market place built 1596 (upper storey still used as council chamber; ground floor for Tourist Information Centre and shops). Cloister at foot of Boroughgate built 1811; used as market house in 19th century; its function replaced by Market House, erected by corporation 1867 and enlarged 1880. Shire Hall built on The Sands 1770-1, as court house for Assizes, Quarter Sessions, Petty Sessions and County Court. Its judicial functions ceased in late 20th century and, after refurbishment, now used for business premises. County Gaol behind Shire Hall disused by 1885; part of building subsequently used as vagrant ward for East Ward Poor Law Union, and as police station since 1971. Mechanics’ Institute founded 1848, with library and reading room in Boroughgate. News room in King’s Head Inn and book club recorded 1860. Church Institute, The Sands, built 1862. Appleby Golf Club founded 1894 and transferred to present site on Brackenber Moor, two miles from town, 1903. King George V playing field donated by Lowther family for public recreation. Open air swimming pool built as Second World War memorial; replaced by indoor leisure centre 1994. Sports hall on land next to Grammar School opened as a millennium project.