Appleby Castle lies above the ancient town of Appleby deep in the heart of the Eden Valley.
The history of the site dates back to Roman times and probably beyond as the site is on a good defence plane with the Valley of the River Eden very steep to one side.
Appleby castle consists of one of a very few intact keeps (known as Caesar’s Tower) in the country along with a mansion house. These along with other associated buildings are surrounded by defensive curtain walls. Caesars Tower along with the mansion are designated by English heritage grade 1 listed buildings.
Caesar’s tower was built around 1170 and is the oldest part of Appleby castle and is said to be built on top of Roman foundations. The castle was founded around the same time by Ranulf le Meschin. The castle was captured by Scottish King, William the Lion, when his army invaded the Eden Valley during 1174. The constable of the castle gave up without a fight. The English regained control of the castle in 1203 when King John granted it to Richard de Vipont. It was in 1269 when Roger de Clifford came into ownership. Over the next 400 years the castle was owned by the Cliffords. The eastern part of what is now the mansion house was built in 1454.
In the mid-17th century, Lady Anne Clifford made the castle her home. During the Second English Civil War the castle was partly dismantled following a siege by the roundhead forces in 1648. However Lady Anne Clifford restored it between the years of 1651 and 1653. On her death the castle passed to the Earls of Thanet – the Tuftons, the third earl being Anne Clifford’s grandson. The hall block was converted into a classical mansion house by the Tuftons. The upper parts on Caesars tower were altered in the 17th and 18th century. Originally the mote was dry but Thomas Tufton decided that a water feature in the mote would look best, however this would have a detrimental effect to Caesars tower. The water has now eroded the ground under the tower causing damage and work is now being undertaken by English Heritage to safeguard the tower.
The house was largely rebuilt in 1686 and the northwest wing was added in 1695. In the 19th century it was again restored and sash windows were inserted.
Appleby castle and grounds including Lady Anne Clifford’s Beehouse is now owned and looked after by Mrs Nightingale and her family. Guided tours are now available through appointment via the website. The tour is well recommended and the guide knows much more of the history than is written here; it takes at least 2 hours followed by coffee and cake.
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