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COUNTESS PILLAR

ALTERNATIVE NAME:  ALMS TABLE
DESCRIPTION + /

The site of the Countess' Pillar and alms table. This pillar marks the place where Lady Anne Clifford, Countess of Dorset, bade farewell to her mother Margaret on 2 April 1616, at the gateway to Brougham Castle. Soon afterwards, Margaret died and, in her memory, Lady Anne erected this pillar in 1656 (although it bears the date 1654). She was particularly close to her mother, who was her only support during a long inheritance battle. She erected a further monument to her mother in Appleby Church. The family had owned land in Westmorland since the 13th century, including the castles of Appleby and Brougham (an English Heritage site). Lady Anne was born in 1590 at Skipton Castle and was the only surviving child of George Clifford, the 3rd Earl of Cumberland. When her father died his estate went to her uncle, but Anne believed the land was rightly hers. She refused to compromise, and after 29 long years of legal wrangling she was eventually victorious in 1643. A highly educated and intelligent woman, she had a love of literature, history, the classics, and religious works, and was a diarist. She was taught the lute by composer Jack (John) Jenkins and danced in masques at James I's court. Even John Donne expressed his admiration: 'she knew well how to discourse of all things, from predestination to slea-silk'. She died in 1676 at Brougham Castle.

The pillar consists of an octagonal shaft capped by a square block and finial. The block has an inscribed brass tablet which describes Anne's wishes for money to be given to the poor of the parish in remembrance of her mother. A flat stone, where these alms were distributed on the anniversary of their final meeting lies nearby. Several mason's marks can be seen on the pillar. One belongs to Jonathon Gledall; the other is unknown. The block has the Clifford arms and sundials on three faces. The pillar is enclosed by 20th century iron railings. It was restored in 1986 by English Heritage.

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Further information about monuments may be obtained by contacting Archive Services, through the Historic England website.