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Ancient crypt opened as part of church flood defence work

An ancient crypt which contains the remains of a noblewoman has been opened temporarily as part of work to protect a Cumbrian church from flood waters.

Work also took place in 2012 to lift the stone cover over the crypt of Lady Anne CliffordLady Anne Clifford died in 1676 and was laid to rest in the specially prepared crypt she had had prepared inside St Lawrence’s, Appleby.

But high water tables in the area meant flood water has previously seeped into the crypt following heavy rain.

Now – as part of a two year scheme to protect the church from flooding – special work has been completed to remove the crypt cover, drill through its wall and insert a pipe which leads to a new external sump pump which would drain water.

The Rev Sarah Lunn, Team Rector for the Heart of Eden Team Ministry, said: “There has been a sense of huge privilege to be able to enter the crypt.

“The fact that it is in a church lends itself to the feeling that this is very much a sacred space, within a sacred space.

“There’s been a sense of reverence throughout all of this important work. When all the work is completed we will of course conduct a special service for the reburial of any disarticulated and ancient bones.”

Lady Anne Clifford who lived from 1558 to 1676 was a devout Christian and was daughter to George Clifford, the 3rd Earl of Cumberland.

Her strong faith saw her spend 26 years restoring churches and castles, including St Lawrence’s which originally dates from the 12th Century and which she restored in the 16th Century.

Her crypt was badly affected in January 2005 following flooding which hit many parts of Cumbria. At that time the flood water in the church was 18 inches deep.

Inside the crypt of Lady Anne CliffordSt Lawrence’s stands on a flood plain and in recent years the congregation has helped raise £40,000 to pay for flood defence work.

In 2013 a special bund was built around the church and the latest phase of work has seen the sump pump introduced so that future flood waters could be drained away.

Sarah added: “We have also been able to apply for some grants but the congregation has done a tremendous job to raise the funds necessary to complete this work.

“Lady Anne was such a forward thinker for her time and so I am sure she would approve of what’s been done to help protect the church building which she so lovingly helped restore.”

All the work was approved by the Diocese of Carlisle’s Advisory Committee for the Care of Churches.

Cumbria County Council’s archaeologist has also been on site throughout the work conducted by Carlisle-based Askins and Little, specialists in stonemasonry and the restoration of historic property.


Note for editors
Appleby St Lawrence is a grade I listed building, of late 12th century foundation, rebuilt late 13th after a raid by the Scots, restored 16th by Lady Anne Clifford, plus 2 rounds of 19th century internal remodelling. It is noted for the organ, probably from Carlisle Cathedral in 1683, and the tombs of Lady Anne and her mother Lady Margaret and is featured in Simon Jenkins' 'A Thousand Best Churches'.


For further information please contact Dave Roberts, Diocesan Communications Manager, on 07469 153658, 01228 815401 or at

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