Appleby-in-Westmorland, Cumbria – St Lawrence

Monday 26 June is a day to escape on a Northern Rail rover ticket. I ended up in Appleby-in-Westmorland, meeting my friend Clare for lunch. We found a second hand bookshop – if you are having a day out with a beautiful young lady, always a good idea to purchase books for your wife.

St Lawrence’s church, Appleby-in-Westmorland, is beautifully situated in the middle of the town,  grid reference NY683205 – website

A simple leaflet and a fuller guide book – both very well illustrated with good photos. It has suffered from flooding twice in recent years, 2004 and 2016, and bears some of the scars. They are keeping going – good leaflet for “Thy Kingdom Come”, the Archbishops’ prayer initiative (probably worth ‘borrowing’ for next year). They obviously have a busy funeral ministry too. Do they have another set of cones labelled “Wedding”?

The oldest part of the church is the lower part of the tower. This dates to the C12 when Ranulf le Meschin developed New Appleby. It soon became a prosperous market town run by merchants, a prize to be fought over by Scots and by English. The Border Wars meant destruction, so there was C14 rebuilding, restoration in C17, C18 and C19. Nice porch, useful sundial, and a practical welcome.

There is a cupboard under the tower for chained books – this one is designed for three volumes of “Foxe’s Acts and Monuments of the Martyrs” dated 1631. The books are away being restored, and I doubt it will ever be wise to have them back in church – chained or not. Worth considering what books we would wish to chain away, or using it as a focus for education work in making books and information available in regimes where they are banned?

Nice light church, and I like the slender light fittings. I wonder how well they illuminate on a dark day (not that we ever have dark days in Cumbria).

The organ belongs to the town not the church – I bet that causes interesting legal debates when it needs tuning or when a faculty has to be applied for. It was a gift to the town of Appleby from Carlisle Cathedral in 1683 (“Well Mr Dean” said the Director of Music, “who can we give our old organ to?”). The leaflet says “It was at one time thought to be the oldest still-working English organ in the country, having originated at the Restoration (ie  1661-2)”. Which makes me ask (1), where is the oldest still-working English organ? (2) why did Carlisle Cathedral want to get rid of it only 20 years later? I like the angel faces on the organ, and the carvings on the pillar.

The Corporation Pew before the pulpit dates from about 1720 and is still used by the Mayor and Councillors on civic occasions. The carving is C17. I failed to photo the sword rest – apparently, by 1264 the Town Mayor served as King’s representative in the Royal Borough, which gives him the right to have a sword or mace carried before him. The fact the guidebook (and much else) proclaim we are in Westmorland, forty years after Cumbria was formed, suggests we take these things very seriously, and so we should. General Synod has spent time this week getting rid of ancient legislation to “free us up for mission” – insert rude noise here. One day we will remember that mission involves being part of the community around us, and if we can use swords and processions and history to bring people together, thank God for them. End of Rant.

The Chancel is nothing special, but in the North Chapel we have two smashing tombs. This black marble monument is that of Lady Anne Clifford (1590-1676). She was born in Skipton Castle and was the daughter and sole heir of George Clifford, the third Earl of Cumberland. When he died in 1605 she was deprived of her inheritance as King James I judged in favour of her uncle Francis and his heirs. In 1643 she finally inherited all the Clifford estates – 90,000 acres in the North, including most of Appleby. Even then, because of the Civil War, she had to wait another six years before she could travel north. The royal court, where she had enjoyed favour, had gone – so she settled in the wild and lawless north. She was incredibly wealthy and her own mistress – so she took over her new estates with a great zeal. After many decades of absentee landlords, her presence bought stability. She was a devout Anglicans, and many churches were repaired and endowed. To quote the leaflet “It has been said that 1649-1662 was her most creative period. She was a patron of art, architecture, and sculpture; of calligraphy, and manuscript illumination; a family and social historian and an antiquarian. Much of this stemmed from her pride in her Clifford ancestry, detailed for all to see on [this] memorial … which she designed for herself.”


This picture of Lady Anne is from this website.

Opposite her is the grave of her mother, Lady Margaret, Countess of Cumberland, who died in 1616. Lady Anne had left her mother’s house a decade earlier when she was 16 – she was off to marry the Earl of Dorset – and never saw her again. Forty years later the daughter commissioned this tomb for her mother. It was sculptured by Maximilian Colte, and is similar to the one he made for Queen Elizabeth I in Westminster Abbey.

Lady Anne repaired St Lawrence’s in 1655, building a new Lady Chapel as part of it. She also built a vault. Her diary states “About 10 Oct 1655, while at Appleby Castle, did I cause a great part of Applebie Church to be taken downe (it being very ruinous and in danger of falling of itselfe) and so I caused a Banke to be made in the NE Corner of the Church for myselfe to be buried in, (if I pleaseth God). And the repairinge of the said Church cost me about some 6 or 700 pounds, being finished the year following.” Lady Anne is buried underneath. She also wrote in her diary, quoting Psalm 16 – “The Lot is fallen unto me in a pleasant place. I have a fair heritage.”

We should also remember  a previous Vicar – “Here Gabriel Smallwood M.A. has laid down his mortal remains and his outer covering of flesh. He was vicar of this church, much missed, who daily bestowed his goods on the poor, and at the last gave back the only thing he had left to give, his soul to God and his body to the earth, on the 7th March, A.D. 1698, at the age of 48.” May he rest in peace and rise in glory.

Mr Yates does not sound as friendly, though perhaps I am being unfair to him. I don’t remember any of the Masters (or Mistresses) of Cambridge Grammar School for Boys giving me an accurate knowledge of Roman literature, or any of the above – but I remember some of them with affection (even if Mr Giles called me “the stupidest boy in all Cambridgeshire” when I broke the second hacksaw blade of his woodwork lesson). I hope Mr Williams, my history teacher, and Messrs Scoble, Branscombe and Bye, my geography teachers, and Mr Wadham, Religious Studied, would be impressed with my blog.

We had a walk round outside, then spent the rest of the day driving over the hills, picking my Godson up from school, and generally putting the world to rights.


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