First of all, let’s address that word “anchorite”. It does not, as you might very reasonably have supposed, derive from the fact that an anchorite was “anchored” to the building: it derives from Greek and means one who has withdrawn from the world.
I suppose we are quite familiar with the concept of recluses and hermits. John the Baptist was, perhaps, the most famous. Anchorites, however, had no freedom of movement and were effectively walled up within a building - nearly but not quite always a church - for the rest of their lives. There was no backing out. When Christine Carpenter the anchorite at nearby Shere Church absconded from her immuration she returned on pain of excommunication. To someone sufficiently pious to be an anchorite in the first place, denial of the sacraments would have meant the prospect of eternal damnation and torment. Equally, however, you could not just decide to be an anchorite. Your withdrawal could only be sanctioned by a Bishop who would need to be convinced of your motives, your piety and even that there was the means for you subsistence. Shere Church, again, actually possesses the documents authorising Christine Carpenter’s immuration - and her subsequent return to her cell. There were formalities to be observed and there were special rites to be observed at the point of immuration.
The concept of withdrawal is a familiar one within the Christian belief system. Withdrawal from earthly comforts and pleasures allows one to “know” God more clearly. The same principle applies to monks and nuns. There was, for example, an inordinate number of monasteries in Lincolnshire and this is explained by the wide availability in mediaeval times of bleak, undrained and inhospitable sites suitable for escaping the joys and temptations of normal life. The life of an anchorite, however, called for a level of self-sacrifice way beyond the monastic norm..
The majority of anchorites were women and I think this rather explains the fact that most of the literature is written my women! The descendants of Eve, it seems, were regarded as having further to “fall”.
There is an excellent synopsis of the anchorite world by Mari Hughes-Edwards accessible by this link.
I’m not going to paraphrase it but I will mention some important points. Firstly that isolation was relative and not absolute. Anchorites did have contact with people on a limited basis and were sometimes consulted for spiritual guidance. Mari says that there are even documented cases of anchorites being temporarily removed from their cells at royal request. An anchorite was a local celebrity, not an object of pity. One might wonder how the poor parish priest coped with this interloper within his domain! Indeed, if anchorites at Compton had access to the upper sanctuary (I am dubious personally!) it is separated from the rest of the church only by a wooden rail.
Secondly, anchorites were not necessarily dirt poor in origins. The anchorite at Iffley in Oxfordshire, for example, was of good family. An anchorite might have “servants” to ease her life, although I confess to being ignorant as to precisely what that means.
The literature is limited and much of it out of print. I think, though, as with so much pertaining to mediaeval churches it would be a grave mistake to make sweeping generalisations. It seems likely that the conditions under which anchorites lived, their “accommodation”, their degree of isolation and privation and their motives were likely to be many and varied between individuals ands locations. The one thing anchorites surely shared was remarkable piety.