• From Anne’s diary, Friday 10th August 1832 (age 42)

    [The first time that Anne Lister put her thoughts in writing about the possibility of courting Ann Walker, the young heiress who lived at Lidgate in the neighbourhood of Shibden.]

    ‘… Thought I, as I have several times done of late, shall I try & make up to her?’

  • From Anne’s diary, Sunday 5th January 1834 (age 43)

    [After eighteen months of an on-and-off courtship, Anne was unsure about whether or not there could be a permanent relationship between them.]

    ‘…Miss W[alker] talks as if she would be glad to take me – then if I say anything decisive she hesitates to. I tell her it is all her money which is in the way. The fact is, she is as she was before [i.e. indecisive], but determined to get away from the Sutherlands and feels the want of me. But [I need to] take someone with more mind and less money. Steph [Belcombe – i.e. Mariana’s brother] is right: she would be a great pother [sic]. [I] have nothing serious to say to her – she wants better manning than I can manage.’

    [See also Jill Liddington’s Female Fortune. Rivers Oram Press. 1998. p.85.]

Helena’s Stories from Shibden Hall

In March 2019, Helena was kind enough to come to Shibden Hall, where she walked through the amazingly preserved rooms of Anne Lister’s home and regaled the small audience with stories about Anne Lister, gleaned from over 30 years of immersive research into Anne’s world and psyche. Enjoy these stories as only Helena can tell them!

The Red Bedroom

We began our tour in the Red Bedroom, which is arguably one of the most fascinating! Here’s why…

The death of Anne’s Uncle James:

Anne Walker’s demise:

Decoding the diaries:

Helena talks about the history of Anne Lister’s diaries, how many people knew about them before she found them, and how she started the process of decoding the “crypthand,” or Anne’s secret coded language. Helena ultimately decoded millions of words to uncover the rich story of Anne Lister’s life.

The Great Hall

Anne’s views on men

Helena describes Anne’s thoughts and opinions of men, including how they treated her, who she respected and didn’t respect, and her fearlessness in her own identity.

The Writing Parlour

In this room, Helena regaled us with details of Anne’s complicated love life, including how she used symbols in the margin of her diaries to mark significant events, and all about Anne’s passionate, years-long love affair with Mariana Belcombe.

It took Helena a while of working with Anne’s diaries before she was able to decipher the meaning of the curious symbols that appeared in the margins of Anne Lister’s diaries, in addition to the secret crypthand coded words …

When Anne met Mariana …

How they carried on their love affair while Mariana was married to Charles Lawton …

And the rather tragic end to their love story …