This year marks the 230th anniversary of the birthday of Anne Lister of Shibden Hall. We’d like to join together and wish her a happy birthday and remember all the wonderful things her life meant not just for little old Halifax but far and beyond Calderdale.
The lady herself
Anne Lister was a remarkable, pioneering woman, ahead of her time. She had the courage to live an unapologetic life according to her choices, away from society’s expectations.
Her persona has received recognition due to the HBO acclaimed series Gentleman Jack based on her character and life.
Anne Lister was a prolific journalist. She had been keeping detailed diaries since very early in her life, a lot of it written in code. Those diaries provide valuable insight of life during her time in Halifax and places she visited, highlighting some of the issues around travelling, especially for women not escorted by male companions.
Most of her coded entries express her thoughts about her lesbianism, which she wholly accepts, even though she kept discreet. To this day, her journals are the source of much of the modern UK Gender Studies and Women’s History.
Anne Lister has the first confirmed same sex marriage. She had wed her wife, Ann Walker and had taken the sacrament with her in Yorkminster. An honourary blue plaque commemorating this is erected in her name in the Holy Trinity Church in York.
At a time when women had a secondary role in society, before they even had a vote, Anne Lister managed her own estate of Shibden Hall. She maintained the grounds and the buildings and financed them by running her own business.
Anne Lister held investments in the then singularly man-controlled markets of mining, canals and rail roads. A lot of her income came from rent from tenants of the Shibden estate and properties she held in Halifax.
Traveller / blogger
Anne Lister was also well known for her travels, far and wide in Europe and beyond. Her expeditions ranged from cosmopolitan cities of Europe to the challenging mountain ranges of the Pyrinees. She wrote extensive accounts of her travels, making her one of the earliest bloggers, long before the web or Youtube.
Some of her entries speak of profound loneliness and it may be believed that she felt alone and unappreciated. Perhaps she was disliked for her lifestyle choices or perhaps she was frowned upon as one of her lovers ended up becoming committed to a mental asylum, citing Anne Lister as the reason.
We must still acknowledge that she was a woman of formidable intellect, courageous and brave, who set the benchmark.
Though she may not have intentionally chosen to challenge the world, by being true to herself, she has paved the way forward instigating improvements and changes that we now take for granted.
One of her journal’s entries reads “How sweet the thought that there is (still) another & better & happier world than this.”
I wonder what would she think of our world, knowing that she has helped shaped it. In this day and age, she probably wouldn’t turn as many heads or raise as many eyebrows but if she had a Facebook page and a Youtube channel with her thoughts and travels, I expect she’d have a lot of subscribers.
Anne, who lived from 1791 to 1840, was a remarkable woman: a diarist, landowner, entrepreneur, mountaineer, scholar, traveller and lesbian. Anne’s story inspired Sally Wainwright’s BBC/HBO hit TV show ‘Gentleman Jack’, which was filmed here in Calderdale.
We’ll celebrate Anne Lister’s extraordinary life with a series of online events – and we’ll be encouraging people to post short videos about what Anne means to them. Get involved! Find out more.
Much loved Yorkshire folk duo Belinda O’Hooley and Heidi Tidow have suddenly been propelled into newfound fame for penning the theme tune for Sally Wainwright’s hit BBC1/HBO drama ‘Gentleman Jack’, earning them global admiration, appearances on TV, and Radio 4 Woman’s Hour.
Matthew Harrison-Lord, Brighouse Arts Festival Director, said “I cannot believe we have managed to book O’Hooley & Tidow for their 10 year celebration concert as they gain international fame from the Gentleman Jack series. Once again, we have managed to bring huge acts to Brighouse – a town that normally gets forgotten about when it comes to the big artists and acts”
Belinda and Heidi’s boundless songwriting has been described by The Guardian as ‘exceptional’ and The Independent as ‘defiant, robust, northern, poetical, political folk music for the times we live in.’ From an emotionally charged song about an elephant orphanage in Nairobi, to a joyous celebration of the Leeds cycling champion Beryl Burton, they explore, consider and connect subjects and stories in a distinctive, inventive and memorable way.
John Buxton, Arts for Brighouse Charity Trustee, said “We know and love their work as local Calderdale artists, it’s great to see them catapult into fame because of Anne Lister and Shibden Hall’s history. Brighouse’s direct connection is that Anne Walker is buried at Lightcliffe, part of Brighouse and Lower Calderdale”
Having the originality and skill to invite comparison with the most celebrated harmony duos, from early Simon and Garfunkel to the iconic Kate and Anna McGarrigle, 6 Music’s Tom Robinson says ‘They sing together in the way families do. Normally, you only get that closeness in the voices with family bands like TheCoppers or The Watersons.’
10 Years of O’Hooley & Tidow, Friday 2nd October 2020, 7:30pm, St Martins Parish Church, Brighouse, Calderdale, West Yorkshire. £20.
‘I have just listened to your track, ‘Beryl’, with tears in my eyes! It’s beautiful and brilliant.’ Maxine Peake
A MOJO MAGAZINE TOP 10 FOLK ALBUM
Nominated four times for BBC Radio 2 Folk Awards ‘Best Duo’.
‘England’s answer to the McGarrigles.’ * * * * * The Guardian
‘Brave, beautiful and full of love.’ Martin Simpson
‘Insightful, determinedly left-field angles on the human experience.’
* * * * MOJO Folk Album of the Month
‘Have Belinda and Heidi done it again? Certainly.’
* * * * * R2
‘Dense, complex, beautifully performed.’
* * * * Songlines
Festival website: www.brighouseartsfestival.co.uk
Online Tickets: www.ticketsource.co.uk/brighouseartsfestival
The plaque will be unveiled on a very special day – Wednesday 3 April 2019 – which is the diarist’s 229th birthday.
A blue plaque is a permanent sign installed in a public place to commemorate a link between the location and a famous person, event or former building on the site.
Anne Lister (1791 – 1840) lived at and eventually owned and managed Shibden Hall and Estate. She recorded her life in great detail from 1806 to 1840 in diaries consisting of over five million words, some of which are in secret code.
The story of this remarkable scholar, traveller, business woman, landowner and lesbian, along with the distinctive Shibden Hall and surrounding areas, will be showcased in the BBC and HBO drama, Gentleman Jack, which is coming soon.
Calderdale Council will jointly host a blue plaque unveiling and celebration event with Halifax Civic Trust, who organised the plaque and its wording. Everyone is welcome and attendees will include the Mayor of Calderdale, the Deputy Lieutenant of West Yorkshire and biographers Helena Whitbread and Jill Liddington.
Helena Whitbread – historian, biographer and editor of Anne Lister’s diaries – began studying the journals over 30 years ago. She published the first volume in 1988 and the second volume in 1993. Jill Liddington, Honorary Research Fellow at Leeds University, wrote the books Female Fortune and Nature’s Domain, which inspired the Gentleman Jack series.
On Wednesday 3 April, 3:30pm the event will start with a free talk by Helena and Jill in Shibden Hall’s Aisled Barn. Places are limited so advance booking is essential through Eventbrite.
At 4.30pm the blue plaque unveiling will take place outside the front entrance to the Hall by the lawn. This is also free to attend. The Mayor of Calderdale, Cllr Marcus Thompson, will officially unveil the plaque.
Richard Macfarlane, Calderdale Council’s Museums Manager, said:
“Anne Lister left a remarkable legacy and played a key role in shaping the Shibden Hall and Estate that we know and love today. Having a blue plaque there is a fitting tribute. It’s especially poignant that the unveiling takes place on Anne’s birthday and in the run-up to the new Gentleman Jack series going on air. We look forward to welcoming people to this exciting event, and it’s also the perfect chance to visit the museum before it appears on our TV screens.”
Halifax Civic Trust’s blue plaques co-ordinator, David Hanson, said:
“The Trust was delighted to promote a blue plaque commemorating Anne Lister in her home town. As businesswoman, landowner, international traveller and famously as ‘the first modern lesbian’, Anne Lister was ahead of her time. With the rediscovery of her diaries and current interest, home and abroad, she is set to become perhaps Halifax’s best known personality.”
Shibden Hall will be open as normal on Wednesday 3 April, from 10am to 5pm, and the usual entry charges apply.
The Hall hosts regular Anne Lister based tours and for the third year, will hold private guided tours of Shibden Hall on Anne’s birthday. Always popular, this year’s birthday tours are now fully booked, but look out for more events at www.calderdale.gov.uk/museums