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Jill Liddington

Shibden Hall was built in the early fifteenth century, and in the sixteenth century the Listers’ predecessors there had been Lords of the Manor of Halifax. Particularly after she went to live at Shibden in 1815, Anne Lister grew acutely conscious of this ancient acreage and lineage. 1 And, especially after she returned from Europe in the early 1830s, she was proud to lay claim to it as ‘my own place where my family had lived between 2 & 3 centuries, I being the 15th possessor of my family and

in Female Fortune
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The Anne Lister Diaries, 1833–36 - Land, gender and authority
Author: Jill Liddington

"Female Fortune is the book which inspired Sally Wainwright to write Gentleman Jack, now a major drama series for the BBC and HBO.

Lesbian landowner Anne Lister inherited Shibden Hall in 1826. She was an impressive scholar, fearless traveller and successful businesswoman, even developing her own coalmines. Her extraordinary diaries, running to 4–5 million words, were partly written in her own secret code and recorded her love affairs with startling candour. The diaries were included on UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register in 2011.

Jill Liddington’s classic edition of the diaries tells the story of how Anne Lister wooed and seduced neighbouring heiress Ann Walker, who moved in to live with Anne and her family in 1834. Politically active, Anne Lister door-stepped her tenants at the 1835 Election to vote Tory. And socially very ambitious, she employed architects to redesign both the Hall and the estate.

Yet Ann Walker had an inconvenient number of local relatives, suspicious of exactly how Anne Lister could pay for all her grand improvements. Tensions grew to a melodramatic crescendo when news reached Shibden of the pair being burnt in effigy.

This 2022 edition includes a fascinating Afterword on the recent discovery of Ann Walker’s own diary. Female Fortune is essential reading for those who watched Gentleman Jack and want to know more about the extraordinary woman that was Anne Lister.

June 1835–September 1835
Jill Liddington

Shibden papers. Certainly Ann's letter to her brother-in-law reads as if it had been drafted by a legally-minded spouse. It set out the agreement of the division of the estate 3 and updated Captain Sutherland on the current whereabouts of the Walker deed-box. Shibden Hall Saturday 13 June 1835 My dear Captain Sutherland, I

in Female Fortune
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Jill Liddington

relationships: with her Aunt Anne, her sister Marian, her father and with the servants at Shibden Hall; with Ann Walker, of course, plus her key relatives—her ‘Cliff-hill’ aunt, and her Sutherland sister and brother-in-law; and with their relatives among the key Tory élite families—notably the Priestleys, Edwards and Rawsons; with crucial male professionals like her lawyers (Robert Parker in Halifax, the Grays in York) and other key skilled advisers, notably Samuel Washington her estate steward and James Holt her coal steward; with key tenants over her estate (though her

in Female Fortune
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Diarist and heiress
Jill Liddington

. Why do I so revere the pride of ancestry? Because how rarely, how very rarely we see nobility of mind among the lowly born!’  7 While with her cosmopolitan York friends she was able to be more open about her ‘oddity’, in provincial Halifax she had to be much more discreet. So how was her singularity perceived there? Now she was a Lister of Shibden Hall, her friends were increasingly drawn from the local élite: the ancient Waterhouse family; the Priestleys, old-established wool

in Female Fortune
Jill Liddington

If old-fashioned Shibden Hall, little changed since its sixteenth-century heyday, evoked the old manorial past, then Halifax's classical Georgian architecture conjured up the rising mercantile and manufacturing élite. Few local families epitomised this new commercial self-confidence more acutely than the Walkers. Ann Walker, born in 1803, grew up in one such house, visiting her relatives in others. The key architect was John Carr of York, whose magnificent mansions included Harewood House near Leeds and Wentworth Woodhouse near Sheffield. His

in Female Fortune
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Anne Lister and Ann Walker 1832-33
Jill Liddington

By August 1832, forty-one-year-old Anne was back living at Shibden with her elderly father and aunt, sister Marian and servants. It was a claustrophobic situation and Anne chafed to be independent. However much she presented herself to Halifax as the dignified owner of ancient Shibden Hall, her income remained insufficient for the life-style she desired, and she still sought a life-companion. Busy running the estate with the help of Samuel Washington, she embarked on modest improvements such as making a new ‘walk’ in her grounds. She continued

in Female Fortune
Town meets country
Jill Liddington

in the new sprawling West Riding county constituency. Lying just beyond the borough boundary, Shibden Hall and the bulk of the Lister estate was thus firmly identified as rural not urban. And this is how we can best understand Anne Lister in the 1830s: living on the very margins of the industrialising town—but distinctly not of it. Electoral politics further sharpened Anne's distance from Whiggish urban manufacturers like the Akroyds. Naturally at the December 1832 general election she supported Halifax borough's ‘Blue’ candidate, the

in Female Fortune
October 1835–February 1836
Jill Liddington

encouraged Anne and Ann to consider how best to exploit their commercial options—while not impairing the rural idyll visible from Shibden Hall. Although it was unlikely they would become directly involved in textiles, both women certainly became interested in mills as a profitable investment. Anne Lister calculated on Ann Walker's behalf: ‘If A– let him [Acquilla Green] a mill of 16 horse-steam-power…would leave her a clear annual rent of £ 184—certainly I should…not advise her to lay out money in mills for less interest than 10 per cent

in Female Fortune
Politics and Religion - December 1834–May 1835
Jill Liddington

last: ‘Same day, at the Parish Church H-x, Captain Tom Lister of Shibden Hall to Miss Ann Walker, late of Lidget, near the same place’. I smiled and said it was very good—read it aloud to A– who also smiled and then took up the paper and read the skit to my aunt, and on returning the paper to W– begged him to give it to us when he had done with it—he said he would and seemed agreeably surprised to find what was probably meant to annoy, taken so quietly and with such mere amusement—said not a word of it to my father and Marian, with them ½ hour till 8¼—then came

in Female Fortune