Appleby Magna

The place name Appleby is a combination of Saxon and Danish elements and this is an indication that the settlement appears to date in the Saxon period before the Danish invasions of the 9th century. Appleby Magna or Appleberie as it was known in Saxon times later took the Danish ending "-by". An alternate explanation is that the name Appleby Magna is often mistakenly believed to refer to Apple Trees; but is derived from the Saxon word, Apa, meaning water or stream, and by, Norse for settlement. In the case of Appleby Magna, early records indicate there were apple orchards there right up until the early 19th century, so the second explanation seems unlikely.

There is evidence of human settlement in Appleby from the early Neolithic period, 6,000 years ago. There was no single settlement, but a scattering of round houses, whose inhabitants farmed the land south of the River Mease. In the same area there is an oval ditch of a 6-acre enclosure, which was revealed by crop marks. In 1966, archaeologists found prehistoric pottery on the site. A short distance to the east, near the White House Farm, crop marks revealed a rectangular enclosure believed to be an Iron Age site. To the east of the parish, on Birdshill Gorse, a further ring ditch was discovered, believed to be from the Bronze Age. At that time the settlement was most probably a collection of single roomed wattle and daub roundhouses surrounding a central area.

Roman remains, a mediaeval dwelling still used as a family home, and a school based on an original design by Sir Christopher Wren are just some of the area's treasures. Archaeological excavations in advance of building the hotel at Appleby Fields produced evidence of a small 4th century Roman Farmstead. There was also evidence of a corn drying oven. Appleby is near three known Roman roads: Watling Street, 16 km south of the village; Bath Lane, 8 km north of the village; and Salt Street, which forms the parish's south boundary. The name of the neighbouring village of Stretton en le Field suggests that a Roman road ran through the parish, but this has not been confirmed. It has also been suggested that the site of St Michael's and All Angels' church was originally that of a Roman temple.

The village was in the Saxon kingdom of Mercia, only 13 km from its capital, Tamworth. During this period, the settlement of Appleby Magna grew around the Meadow Brook, and the first Christian church was built on the site of St. Michael's and All Angels church. It was a wooden chapel, on the site of the present St. Helen's Chapel within the church. The village is centred on the narrowest part of the shallow valley surrounding the Meadow Brook. William de Appleby is recorded as living at Appleby Magna in 1166 and had a stone house built, surrounded by a moat. The gate house, now known as the Moat House, still stands, occupied and lovingly preserved, in the centre of the village. The manor house (Moat House) and church were built on opposite sides of the brook, and the village grew up around them.

Appleby appears 3 times in the Domesday Book, with Appleby Magna (listed as Aplebi and Apleby), aka Great Appleby (Magna is Latin for Great), and Appleby Parva (listed as Apleberie) aka Over Appleby or Little Appleby, recorded separately. Appleby Magna is listed as partly in Derbyshire and partly in Leicestershire, where Appleby Parva is listed as being in Leicestershire. The whole parish has been part of Leicestershire since 1897. The village belonged to the Abbey of Burton, Henry de Ferrers, 1st Earl of Derby, and Lady Godiva, of Coventry, and was worth 90 shillings (£4.50).

Appleby Parva
The hamlet of Appleby Parva is thought to have been relatively undeveloped until prior to the Norman Invasion of 1066; the land sits at the bottom of a hill and is poorly drained, so was not cultivated by the Saxons or Danes: the settlement only began to properly develop under its new French Lord, post-1066.

There is thought to have been some local ethnic divide, with Appleby Magna inhabited by primarily Anglo-Saxon villagers, and Appleby Parva (which was originally a Danish settlement) inhabited by a small group of Normans. The land of the hamlet was then leased to farmers by the Applebys until in the 1600s, when the Manor was purchased by the Moore Family. The family held no formal titles, but were known locally as Squires.

Around Appleby Magna
St. Helen's Chapel (also known as the De Appleby Chapel) is the earliest surviving building in the village. It dates from before the early 14th century, but its exact date of construction is unknown. From the mid-14th century it was used as a private chapel for the de Appleby family, Lords of the Manor of Appleby, who resided in the adjacent Manor House (the Moat House). The de Appleby / Appleby Family were Lords of the Manor from the early 12th century until the 16th century.

The church was enlarged to its present size in the early 14th century and was named St. Michael's and All Angels church. St. Helen's Chapel was incorporated into the north east section of the church and served as both a private chapel and burial site for the de Appleby family. Most of the tombs have been removed but the Alabaster effigies of Sir Edmund de Appleby and his wife Joan, dating from 1375, still survive. The chapel would eventually become known as the de Appleby Chapel although it is currently used as the church vestry.

The earliest currently surviving fragments of the Manor House (the Moat House), date from Sir Edmund's time when the Manor was enlarged into a large, moated, fortified, courtyard house. A rectory which stood opposite the church (on the site of the current almshouses), a tithe barn which stood on the eastern wall of the churchyard and two water mills, one by the Moat House and one at Mease-Meadow were all constructed in the same era, although none survive.

Thomas de Appleby (1356 - 1396) appears to have moved away from Applby Magna/Over Appleby to Lartington in County Durham to after retiring from military service. He appears to have established Clove Lodge prior to his death in 1395. Richard II, in whose army Thomas served, was deposed in 1399. Perhaps Thomas moved away upon seeing the writing on the wall for the King and his supporters.

It was during the Tudor era that the downfall of the de Appleby family occurred. Sir George de Appleby was killed following the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh in Scotland in 1547. His wife, Joyce, was burned as a Protestant martyr in Lichfield. The de Appleby occupation of Appleby Magna manor came to an end with the sale of the property in 1549. The male line ceased in 1630 with the death of George's nephew Francis, who died childless.

It was at the end of the Tudor period that the next influential family, the Moores, entered the village. Charles Moore is recorded as "Lord of the manor of Appleby Parva" in 1599, although the exact date of his arrival to the village is unknown.

There are a further 26 listed structures in the parish and the village has a Conservation Area. Other places worth viewing are the Church and the Almshouses and the bridge across the stream at Old End. The village was described by Nichols History of Leicestershire in 1811 “... viewed from any point, no village is better bosom’dbin trees”

Thr Moat House

William de Appleby is recorded as living at Appleby Magna in 1166 in the Manor House (Moat House) and had a stone house built, surrounded by a moat. The Moat House is today one of Appleby's most significant historic buildings. Located in the centre of Appleby Magna, it is a well known local landmark, where its moat and grounds form the green heart of the village. The site was the location of the manor house occupied by the de Appleby family. All that remains of the de Appleby's house is the gatehouse, which now forms the stone front part of the house.

The gatehouse was extended with a timber construction after the George Appleby sold the ancestral manor in 1560, and the half timbered house may have been built immediately afterwards by the new owner. A third extension in 1854 formed the house as it is today. From the 17th to the mid 20th century the house was let to tenant farmers until the 1960s when it was condemned as unfit for habitation. Henry and Margaret Hall purchased the house, by now in a poor state, and renovated the building and the moat. The house is now grade II* listed and the whole of the site is designated a Scheduled Ancient Monument.

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