Appleby-in-Westmorland's St. Anne's Hospital.

By Oliver Swann, Editor      

St. Anne’s Hospital, towards the top of Boroughgate in Appleby, was founded by Lady Anne Clifford in 1653. For more than 350 years spinsters and widows lived there rent free. The upkeep of the almshouses was paid for by Holme Farm, which she gifted for the benefit of the almshouses. Recently the farm hasn't made enough money to so a £10 weekly rent was introduced for the residents.

Walking into the courtyard of St. Anne’s Hospital through the stone arch facing Boroughgate  is like stepping back in time not only visually but socially too since the residents still keep to the rules established over 350 years ago.

The courtyard consists of 13 self-contained cottages with one traditionally set aside for a “Mother” the 17th Century equivalent of a sheltered housing scheme warden. Each property, originally built for “poor widows or almswomen”, has a bedroom and bathroom upstairs and a downstairs living room with kitchen area. No pets are allowed and the residents are not permitted to have overnight guests.


Each house has its own little bit of garden at the front and there's also an area of lawn at the back where occasionally a red squirrel has been spotted. The women see to their own decorating and furnishing and have council tax to pay, but all the maintenance services are


 administered by the charity's trustees. Each member of the close-knit community is also encouraged to attend a weekly service at the on-site chapel and must notify the 'Mother' if they are to be away for more than 24 hours.


St. Anne’s is usually open to visitors to walk around the courtyard and gardens. You might find yourself in a conversation with one of the residents who might show you the chapel and sell you some of the apples from their garden if you're there in autumn.