Located close to the English-Scottish border, the Castle has often been at the forefront of Anglo-Scottish conflict. It was founded by Ranulf le Meschin at the beginning of the 12th century and around 1170 the great square Norman keep, known as Caesar's Tower, was built. The Castle was in royal hands when the Scottish king, William the Lion, invaded the Eden Valley in 1174 and was surrendered without a fight. In 1203 the Castle was granted to Robert I de Vipont by King John. Following its recapture the keep was raised higher and a stone curtain wall replaced the wooden palisades of the first Castle. In 1264, the Castle came into the possession of Roger de Clifford through his marriage to Isabel de Vipont. Later, in the 1450s, the eastern range of buildings was extended.
Several Kings were Lords of Appleby: Henry II, Richard I, John and Edward IV among them. King Richard III, whilst Duke of Gloucester in the 1470s, held the whole Lordship of Westmorland. Other Lords of the Castle also feature in English history. Hugh de Morville was one of the four assassins of Archbishop Thomas à Becket in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170. Robert, First Lord Clifford, former Earl Marshal and Lord High Admiral, was one of the English leaders who fell at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.
The Castle remained in the possession of the Clifford family for nearly 400 years. During the English Civil War of 1642-1651 the Castle was besieged by the Parliamentarians and partly dismantled following its capture. However, it was rebuilt by Lady Anne Clifford in 1651-53.
Lady Anne Clifford was a formidable woman in her own right, both an author and patron of the literary arts. On the death of her father in 1605 she succeeded to the title of 14th Baroness de Clifford, and fought a long and complex legal battle to obtain the family estates, in which she was eventually successful. As a child she was a favourite of Queen Elizabeth I, danced in masques with Queen Anne of Denmark, consort of King James VI and I, and played roles in several of the early court masques by Ben Jonson. A distinguished female diarist, Lady Anne Clifford is a notable literary, known for her letters and the journal she kept from 1603 to 1616. After moving north, she rotated her residence amongst her Castles, including Appleby Castle, Skipton Castle, Pendragon Castle and Brougham Castle, living in various ones for several months to a year at a time.
Upon Lady Anne Clifford’s death, the Castle passed to her grandson, the Sixth Earl of Thanet, who remodelled the austere hall block into a classical mansion house. The house was largely rebuilt in 1686 and the northwest wing was added in 1695. In the 19th century it was again restored.
The village of Appleby has an interesting connection with the United States of America: the father and step-brothers of the founding President, George Washington, both attended the local school. Were it not for the sudden death of his father in 1743, on reaching the age at which the two older boys had made the long voyage from Virginia, George Washington himself would have most certainly followed in their footsteps.
The library of Appleby Castle encompasses works from the 16th to 21st centuries, including a stunning collection of fine bindings, and a letter from Louis XI of France (lot 83) summoning his uncle the Duke of Burgundy, Philip the Good, to appear before Parliament. A magnificently illustrated copy of Holinshead’s Chronicles of 1577, (lot 67) is another highlight. Recognised as one of the greatest historical works on British history, it was an important source book for William Shakespeare’s writings.
A selection of important books produced by William Morris’s Kelmscott Press are also included in the sale. These comprise of The Story of Sigurd, the Volsung and the Rise of the Niblungs, 1898, (lot 73); The Earthly Paradise, 1896-97, (lot 74 - illustrated below); and The Well at the World's End, 1896, (lot 75 - illustrated above). All three books are very handsome examples of the works produced by William Morris’s Kelmscott Press, widely regarded as some of the finest examples of Arts & Crafts era illustration and printing.
The current owner of Appleby Castle, Sally Nightingale, has lived at the Castle for 18 years and has opened it to the public, making the Castle available as a venue for weddings, conferences and functions. It is also open for private tours. Special events such as open air theatre, mediaeval re-enactments and banquets are also held in the Castle precincts.