Shibden & Anne Lister

Located just one mile outside Halifax town centre, the spectacular Grade II Listed 15th Century Shibden Hall and Park dating from 1420 has been closely associated with the Lister family for around 300 years, particularly Anne Lister (1791-1840) and her famous covert diary. Shibden has been added to and redesigned through the centuries, most famously when Anne Lister opened the house up to the roof and installed the ornate staircase and panelling more befitting of the Georgian Jacobethan style.

The old house is full of oak panelled walls and some fine pieces of Yorkshire furniture most of which originates from Shibden. A highlight is the beautifully carved four poster dark wooden bed which dates from 1630 when the Listers first arrived here. Various events and celebrations take place within the stunning park surrounding Shibden Hall. Attractions and facilities within the park include a boating lake, a pitch and putt course and a miniature railway – all great for kids. There is also a cafe and lots of picnic space.

Anne Lister of Shibden Hall Halifax (1791-1840)

Anne Lister’s diaries and letters, thanks to dedicated researchers such as Helena Whitbread, Muriel Green, Phyllis Ramsden and Jill Liddington, offer an invaluable insight into not only her family, friendships, her business acumen, her political relationships and her lesbian affairs – they also document in incredible detail her running of the estate at Shibden. You can now view her diaries online.

Anne Lister began her now famous diaries in 1806 when she was 15. By 1817 she was recording her life daily in her diaries, much of which was in secret code containing details of her lesbian relationships. She kept this diary, producing volumes of records, until her death in 1840 in Russia. She also wrote numerous letters which have also been preserved.

Anne was a social climber and educated herself in estate management, making sure that she was ready when she finally inherited Shibden Hall in Halifax in 1826. Anne had ‘aristocratic ambitions’, she travelled extensively, had a wide network of friends and managed her affairs, making money from leasing or selling land, and selling coal and stone. Anne’s politics were ‘high-Tory’. Although she had some sympathy for reformers in Halifax in the first half of the 19th century, she saw herself very much part of the landed gentry class, and spoke with disdain of the ‘new money’ of the industrialists who were gaining power in Halifax.

Anne and her lesbian network managed to avoid detection because of their discretion and gentry class credentials. Victorian patriarchy was taking hold and women entrepreneurs were being frowned upon as contrary to the Victorian ideas of respectable femininity. Nobody would dare challenge Anne Lister, a well-travelled independent businesswoman, except occasionally in times of crisis such as the 1835 Halifax election when the Tory candidate won by a very thin margin. These moments were used by opportunists seeking to use Anne’s unofficial lesbian marriage to Ann Walker as a way to potentially erode her very effective competition in coal mining.

Michelle is an experienced travel writer with iknow and has travelled extensively across the UK, Spain, Portugal and the USA. When she’s not busy writing for iknow she enjoys spending time touring museums and art galleries and seeking out the best independent shops in Manchester and Leeds.