• 5th April 1820

    [Mariana and I] came upstairs at 10-30 p.m. Sat up talking about my manners being too attentive; having too much of the civility of a well-bred gentleman – that I unintentionally spoilt people. Shewed her Emma Saltmarshe’s last note. She said it proved that I gave rise to an interest which people did not understand, or why they felt as they did. I promised to make my letters less attentive.

Anne Lister as estate owner and businesswoman

In 1826, following the death of her uncle, James Lister, Anne Lister inherited Shibden Hall and its estates. The challenge of managing the estate in such a way that it would both maximise her income and be passed on to her heirs in an improved condition was one which Anne took very seriously. Her entrepreneurial flair, her acquired knowledge, over the years, of mathematics, geology and engineering and her sharp negotiating skills with her male business rivals made her a formidable businesswoman in the newly-emerging world of industrialisation, as is indicated in the following exchange with her defeated rival in the fight for selling coal in the area.

Mr Rawson said he was never beaten but by ladies & I had beaten him. Said I gravely, ‘It is the intellectual part of us that makes a bargain & that has no sex, or ought to have none.’ [24.12.1832]

The estate produced income from its reserves of coal, water, stone and timber and, in addition to those extractive industries, there was an income stream from canal shares, Turnpike Road Trusts and pew rents. It was, however, the stable income, which rents from the farms and cottages on the estate generated, that gave Anne a firm base from which she could branch out into riskier investments.

In the 1830s, when she and her lover Ann Walker set up a joint household at Shibden Hall, Anne was able to avail herself of the Walker money to sink two coal-pits of her own rather than just leasing off the land to be exploited for coal by others. In 1837 one of her last speculative ventures involved transforming Northgate House into a casino.

Although Anne did not live long enough to enjoy the long-term prosperity which she had anticipated from all these ventures, there is no doubt that she left a greatly improved estate for her descendants to enjoy.