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history of appleby...

The double-ringed Oddendale Stone Circle and other prehistoric cairns can be found on the limestone plateau to the south-west of Crosby Ravensworth, as well as evidence of Iron Age settlements. At Ewe Close there are traces of a Romano-British settlement - one of the finest in northwest England - comprising a series of hut circles and enclosure walls. The Romans came marching through this fertile valley, on route from Luguvalium (Carlisle) to Verterae (Brough) and thence over the Pennines to York. Forts, milecastles and sentry stations were placed at regular intervals along the road. Bravoniacum (Kirkby Thore) was sited at a strategic junction with the Maiden Way that branched northwards to Whitley Castle (near Alston), Hadrian's Wall at Gilsland and the fort at Bewcastle.

During the 9th century, Viking settlers arrived in the Eden Valley and probably established the first homestead near Bongate in Appleby (Norse for ‘place with apple trees') and at many other places along the Eden and its tributaries.

The Normans recognised the advantages of overlooking an important river crossing at Appleby and built the defensive stone keep of Appleby Castle on a high vantage point. The Clifford family took over the castle in the 13th century and held it for the next 400 years, during which time it was rebuilt and extended, and the stone keep given a new name: Caesar's Tower. Extensive renovations were made in the 17th century by Lady Anne Clifford, who also founded St Anne's Hospital in 1651. After her death, the castle passed to the Earl of Thanet who re-faced the building (using stone from the demolition of castles at Brougham and Brough). The castle is still open for tours, weddings, functions and conferences.

Appleby is an ancient royal borough and was the county town of Westmorland until government boundary reorganisations in 1974 swept away the old counties of Cumberland, Westmorland and parts of Lancashire to create Cumbria. Its high status is evident in the elegant uphill sweep of its tree-lined main street (Boroughgate) from the Norman church of St Lawrence at the bottom to the defensive Norman castle at the top. In places are narrow defensive lanes called ‘wiends' that could be closed off in times of danger.

Appleby developed early as a market town to sell produce from the surrounding rural area. The two tall crosses at either end of Boroughgate delineated the extent of the market area. High Cross at the top was the cheese market, whilst butter was sold from Low Cross near the Parish Church. This strong tradition of milk, butter and cheese production led to the establishment of the Appleby Express Creamery in 1931; an enterprise that closed in 1998. Meat and livestock were also sold in the market shambles and bulls were baited by dogs before slaughter (the belief being that baiting improved the quality of the meat). The bull tethering ring, which can still be seen between Low Cross and the Moot Hall, was last used in 1812.

The Moot Hall, dating from 1596, is where the town council has traditionally met for centuries. It is also used for exhibitions of local crafts and houses the Tourist Information Centre. The area known as The Butts in the loop of the river was used for archery practice every Sunday. Further along, the old County Gaol incarcerated prisoners for various misdeeds. Prisoners were made to work for their keep by grinding malt for the brewery and pumping water. A treadmill was uncovered here by Channel 4's Time Team in 2003. Gallows Hill (now known as Fair Hill) was the site for public hangings, the last being in 1829.

The colourful spectacle of Appleby Horse Fair has its origins circa 1685 when James II granted the town a second market charter to hold a fair ‘for the sale of all manners of goods, cattle, horses, mares and geldings'. Held in early June every year at Fair Hill, the event is a major cultural gathering for travelling people and attracts huge numbers who come to witness horse sales and the tradition of washing horses in the river.

The Sands area of Appleby grew rapidly with the arrival of the Eden Valley Railway in 1862 and the Settle to Carlisle railway in 1876 - the latter still in operation today and served by Appleby's award-winning station.

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