Nun Appleton

While Nun Appleton is part of Appleton Roebuck parish, its history is rather different from that of its larger neighbour. The site sits on the banks of the River Wharfe, to the south of Appleton Roebuck. The earliest occupation of the site may have been the moated site, but in 1150 a nunnery was founded at the junction of the Ouse and Wharfe.

It was built on a grand scale from local limestone – the church was 150 feet (approx 46m) in length and was one of the largest in Yorkshire. It initially had a male prior but there are records of 17 prioresses from 1303 and it housed about 30 nuns. At the Dissolution in the 1530s it was valued at £73 9s 10d – a valuable property.

Although the nunnery had large land holdings, the actual site wasn’t very good, being subject to regular flooding. The core of the present house – Nun Appleton Hall – dates to the mid-17th century and was built by Thomas, 3rd Lord Fairfax (aka Black Tom, the Parliamentary Commander in the Civil War). For a time it was also the home of the poet Andrew Marvell, who was tutor to Thomas Fairfax’s daughter, Mary. He wrote an 800-line poet about the hall.

Mary died without issue and in 1704 the house was sold. It was remodelled around 1711 by the Milner family, who were the proprietors of the Aire and Calder Canal, and again in the 19th century.

Sadly, the house now stands empty and derelict, with no public access to much of the estate. However, various reports can be found on the internet, including this interesting one about the gardens: