Catalogue Finding NumberSH:7/ML
Office record is held atCalderdale, West Yorkshire Archive Service
TitleAnne Lister - correspondence, diaries, etc
DescriptionCorrespondence with family and friends 1800-1840, Eliza Raine c1806-1814, Lister correspondence with the College of Arms 1812-1825, Business letters 1826-1838, correspondence with John Harper about the Northgate Hotel 1835-1839, diaries (partly in code) 1806-1840, school books and notebooks 1805-1833, extracts of books read 1814-1838, account books and day books 1815-1840, travel notes 1827-1839, lecture notes 1829-1831, miscellaneous notes, poems, address book, passport, catalogue of books, autograph album, inventory and French books c1811-c1840
Extent1400 items
Access ConditionsMicrofilm copies to be used in preference to the originals
AdminHistoryAnne Lister was born on 3 Apr 1791 in Halifax, the daughter of Captain Jeremy Lister and Rebecca Battle. She lived at Market Weighton in the East Riding for most of her childhood, but paid frequent visits to Shibden Hall, the Lister family home just outside Halifax. She attended the Manor School in York from the age of 14 and in 1815, she went to live permanently with her uncle and aunt at Shibden Hall. From 1826 she was the co-owner, finally inheriting the Hall in 1836. She was a great traveller, and indeed she died whilst on her most adventurous and arduous journey - a trip through Russia and over the Caucasian mountains into Persia. She was bitten by a fever-carrying tick and she died in Georgia on the 22 Sep 1840. Her body was brought back to Halifax by Ann Walker, the wealthy local heiress with whom she had shared her life and a household at Shibden Hall since 1832. The journey lasted some 7 months, and she was buried in Halifax Parish Church.

From the age of 15, Anne began to keep a diary, and this habit grew into what could be called an obsession in adulthood. The diaries consist of 27 volumes, 6600 pages or almost 4 million words. In comparison the more famous diaries of Samuel Pepys run to just 1.25 million. About a sixth of the journals are written in an esoteric code, devised by Anne, to conceal her unorthodox sexuality and to record in detail, and with extraordinary frankness, her diverse affairs with women. These diaries, together with over a 1000 letters, accounts and other records, are held in the Calderdale Office of the West Yorkshire Archive Service, and together they are a wealth of information about politics, business, estate management, coal mining, religion, education, science, travel, local events, medicine, health, food and commerce. They also include information on national events - royal events such as the "insanity" of George 111, the death of the Princess Charlotte, and the coronations of George 1V and Queen Victoria; and political events such as the Peterloo Massacre in Manchester and the reform movement. Events overseas are also included such as the eye-witness account of the death, lying-in-state and funeral of Louis XVIII in Paris in 1824, and life in Tsarist Russia 1839-1840.

Although Anne Lived an obscure life by contrast to better known contemporary diarists, her journals are invaluable as a primary source of information on many levels: for the development of an important area of Yorkshire during the period of the Industrial Revolution; as a fascinating viewpoint on national and European events and influences; and, uniquely, in the secret history of Anne's personal life, the hidden life-within-a-life contained in the labyrinths of Anne's coded passages.

Researchers have long been interested in her life and sexuality. A day school held at Leeds University in Nov 1998 entitled "Coming Out?" attracted students and academics from both sides of the Atlantic, and various articles and books have been written on aspects of her life. There was also a television programme transmitted in 1994 as part of the BBC Television Features Bristol series "A Skirt through History" a drama-documentary series recapturing the lives of extraordinary women.

One of Anne's relatives, John Lister (the last Lister to own Shibden Hall), discovered her diaries hidden behind one of the wooden panels in Shibden Hall. John and a fellow antiquarian friend were able to crack the code and read the diaries. At that time (1890s) the detail of Anne's sexuality was shocking and John was not willing for the diaries to be made public. John's friend advised burning all of the diaries...instead John put the diaries back behind the wooden panels and continued to keep them secret. It was not until after John's death (1933), when the ownership of Shibden Hall had passed to the Halifax Borough, that they were once again discovered and slowly other researchers were allowed to see the diaries and once again crack Anne's code.
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