Fact Checker

Published on 19 May 2020 · Last updated on 11 March 2024
Cover image by Marlene Oliveira

All historical research is prone to inaccuracies and errors due to lack of detail at the time of writing, which may be rectified or clarified when new information comes to light. 

The following are statements known to have issues, omissions or cause controversy, and are sometimes found in research references or commonly pop up in online discussions about Anne Lister. The goal is to highlight inaccuracies or problems from dubious interpretation while promoting verifiable sources. 

Note: sometimes printing mistakes or typos happen. See Errata at the bottom of this page for those.

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The known source or sources of the statement and the issue(s) it may contain are noted along with a reference to a historical document or other concrete evidence of correct or corroborating information. As is the case with all other content presented on this site, as new information emerges, entries may be updated. 

The following indicators serve as a short-hand assessment of the extent to which the statement can be considered truthful:


The statement can’t be confirmed or refuted due to lack of reliable source of factual information.


The statement is not accurate relative to a verifiable and reliable source of facts.
Partially true


The statement is partly accurate but leaves out important details or takes things out of context.


The statement is accurate relative to a verifiable and reliable source of facts and no significant detail is missing.
Partially true

Anne Lister started to dress in black to mourn Mariana Belcombe’s marriage

This statement is partially true. 

In the television series Gentleman Jack, the Queen of Denmark asks Anne “Do you always wear black?” to which she replies that she began this practice after an engagement went awry, and that person married someone else. The implication is that this would be referring to Anne’s former lover Mariana (née Belcombe) Lawton who is also portrayed in the series. [1]

At one point Anne Lister did document her intentions to always wear black. On 2 September 1817 (more than a year after Mariana’s marriage on 17 August 1816) she wrote about beginning this trend.

“as soon as I was dressed went to drink tea with the Miss Walkers of Cliff-hill – went in black silk – the 1st time (to an evening visit) I have entered upon my plan of always wearing black ” [2]

In 1821, she explained the practice to Miss Hall: 

"one of Mrs. Milne’s frills stuck on over my cravat, for she told them I should look better with one – thanked her for being thus interested about me – said what a bad figure I had and explained a little my difficulties in dressing myself to look at all well – told her for this reason I always wore black" [3]

Her choice was well known by friends, as Sibbella Maclean commented on Anne’s style of dress when making recommendations for what to bring on a visit in 1828:

“Lately, in Edinburgh, the dress of ladies is absurdly extravagant. Come as you chose. Steamboats destroy any good dress, therefore bring your worst for that. As you say you are to come in your garb of former days. I would recommend you bring one morning and one evening gown. As you wear nothing but black this will be quite sufficient.” [4]

And when questioned by Comtesse Zamoyska about whether she wore black in mourning , Anne wrote:

“no! but I had worn black 15 or 16 years - ah! comme vous êtes constante [ah! how constant you are]”[5]

However, Anne didn’t strictly wear black. There are examples, like the Queen of Denmark’s birthday ball (as also presented in episode 8 of Gentleman Jack) where she was obliged to ‘throw off’ the black to suit the occasion. 

Eugenie making me a white satin for the Queen’s birthday ball on Wednesday – impossible to go to a birthday in black merely throw it off for the night” [6]

Additionally, there are mentions of some items of clothing she wore which would have been patterned or had some color in addition to black.

“A-[Ann] and I sat out of doors, she mending my Maclean tartan cloak" [7]

“asked for nightcaps – A-[Ann] bought 1 for Captain Sutherland white with red horizontal stripes 2/20 and I a black with ditto ditto 2/50 both cotton" [8]

Therefore, it is true that Anne Lister did wear mostly black for a significant portion of her life. However there is no evidence to date that this decision was motivated by grief over Mariana Belcombe’s marriage to Charles Lawton.

[1] Gentleman Jack (2018) Episode 8, “Are You Still Talking?” 

[2] Anne Lister’s journal, 2 September 1817 (SH:7/ML/E/1/0036)

[3] Anne Lister’s journal, 29 September 1821 (SH:7/ML/E/5/0067)

[4] Letter from Sibbella Maclean, 7 May 1828 (SH:7/ML/251)

[5] Anne Lister’s journal, 17 November 1829 (SH:7/ML/E/12/0119)

[6] Anne Lister’s journal, 26 October 1833 (SH:7/ML/E/16/0127)

[7] Anne Lister’s journal, 3 September 1838 (SH:7/ML/E/22/0010)

[8] Anne Lister’s journal, 5 March 1840 (SH:7/ML/E/24/0033)

Fact check by Steph Gallaway, Marlene Oliveira, and Amanda Pryce. Updated on 23 December 2020


Anne asked for her part of her father's inheritance to be given to Marian 

This statement is true. 

Per Jeremy Lister’s will, dated of December 1823, he bequeathed all his Estate to Marian. Per his will [1], this was done at Anne Lister’s request.

“I Jeremy Lister of Halifax in the West Riding of the County of York do make this my Last Will and Testament in manner following, that is to say, at the particular request and desire of my Daughter Anne Lister I do give and bequeath to my Daughter Marian Lister her Heirs Executors Administrators or Assigns for ever all my Estates (...)”

On 8 March 1824, Anne writes:

“Wrote over again my note to Mr. D– [Duffin] and with considerable additions made a letter of it, 3 pages and the ends – Mentioned to Mr. D – [Duffin] – my father’s having made a will at my request, and left all to Marian.” [2]

Anne repeated this to Mrs. William Priestley, and received confirmation that Jeremy had done so in a letter from Mr. Squibb later in March of 1824.

“Said Marian would have nothing to do with Shibden nor had she more to expect from my uncle or aunt than a small legacy of fifty pounds from each, that I had persuade[d] my father to make a will and leave her all he had.” [3]

“My letter from Squibb – My father had made his will at my request, and left Marian all he had – etc” [4]

Thus, it is true that Jeremy Lister left all his to Marian after Anne’s request that her part of the inheritance be given to her sister.

[1] Jeremy Lister’s will (DDBD/93/140)

[2] Anne Lister’s diary 8 March 1824 (SH:7/ML/E/7/0110)

[3] Anne Lister’s journal 11 March 1824 (SH:7/ML/E/7/0111)

[4] Anne Lister’s journal 18 March 1824 (SH:7/ML/E/7/0113

Fact check by Marlene Oliveira. Updated on 23 December 2020

The Miss Walkers of Cliff Hill are Ann and Elizabeth Walker

This statement is false. 

Reading excerpts from Anne Lister’s diaries written pre-1832, it’s easy to assume that the Miss Walkers of Cliff Hill are Ann and Elizabeth visiting their Aunt Ann. In fact, the ladies Anne is referring to are none other than Ann’s aunts, Miss Ann Walker and Miss Mary Walker.

Here’s Anne having tea with them in September 1817:

Spent the whole of the morning in vamping up a pair of old black chamois shoes & getting my things ready to go & drink tea at Cliff-hill. As soon as I was dressed, went to drink tea with the Miss Walkers of Cliff-hill. Went in black silk, the 1st time to an evening visit. I have entered upon my plan of always wearing black.” [1] 

Another example from September 1819: 

“From Lightcliffe to Cliff-hill. Sat ½ hour with the 2 Miss Walkers. I half promised to go & drink tea some time soon in a free way as I do at Lightcliffe.” [1

Ann’s father, John Walker, moved with his family to Crow Nest after he inherited the estate from his brother [2], Mr. William Walker. Thus, both Ann and Elizabeth would be known as “Miss Walker of Crow Nest”. Anne makes this distinction in her diary.

Here’s an example from May 1820:

“All sitting quietly downstairs when (a few minutes before 10) we were roused by a loud rapping & screaming of female voices at the door. In came Mrs Walker of Crow Nest & her 2 daughters, the former almost fainting, & all ½ dead with fright, having just been overturned into the field in taking the sharp turn at the top of the lane.” [1

After Miss Mary Walker of Cliff Hill died, there would be only one Miss Walker of Cliff Hill (Mrs. Ann Walker). Later in her life, Ann would also be referred to as “Miss Walker from Cliff Hill”. Here’s an example from March 1840:

“Madame Lister de Shibden Hall dans la Conté de York d’Angleterre, et Mademoiselle Walker de Cliff Hill dans la même Conté, rendent mille grâces à Monsieur le Prince Cerbedjab, Prince Souverain des Calmoucs de Tumen” (Translation: Mrs. Lister of Shibden Hall in the County of York England, and Miss Walker of Cliff Hill in the same County, give a thousand thanks to Mr. Prince Cerbedjab, Sovereign Prince of the Calmoucs of Tumen.)[3] 

All things considered, it’s safe to say that when Anne mentions the Misses Walker of Cliff Hill in earlier years, she’s very likely referring to Ann’s aunts and not Ann and her sister.

[1] Lister, Anne. The Secret Diaries Of Miss Anne Lister: Vol. 1: I Know My Own Heart: The Inspiration for Gentleman Jack (pp. 24, 115, 138). Little, Brown Book Group. Kindle edition. 

[2] Lister, Anne, and Jill Liddington. Female fortune: land, gender, and authority: the Anne Lister diaries and other writings, 1833-36. Rivers Oram Pr, 1998.

[3] Lister, Anne. Anne Lister’s diary. Vol. 24. (SH:7/ML/E/24/0043)

Fact check by Marlene Oliveira. Updated on 23 December 2020

Anne, Tib, & Mariana were school friends at the Manor School in York. 

This statement is unverifiable. 

In her book, The Early Life of Miss Anne Lister and the Curious Tale of Miss Eliza Raine (2014), Patricia Hughes states that Tib, Mariana, and Anne were school friends at the Manor School in York. However, there is no known evidence as of yet that the three women would have attended school together.  The letters referenced in the book do not point to letters that contain any mention of the women attending school together. The age difference between the three women make it highly unlikely that they would have attended the Manor School in York at the same time. 

According to a letter from Tib to Anne dated August 7, 1810, Anne had not yet met Mariana (SH:7/ML/31). If they had not met by 1810, they could not have been school friends on or before 1805. 

“I had a letter this morning from my darling & utmost adored Mariana, who is quite well, & is enjoying herself very much; most sincerely do I wish you knew more of her; in my opinion it would be impossible for you not to like her”. 

In 1805, Anne Lister is listed as a pupil at the Manor School in York (SH:7/ML/13) and by 1807 she has left the Manor School and is tutored by Mr. Knight in Halifax (SH:7/ML/E/26/1). In 1805 Anne would have been 14, Mariana 17, and Tib 20 years of age. 

Tib Born 9 November 1785

Mariana Born 5 February 1788

Anne Born 3 April 1791

Monday 5th July, 1819 Anne writes that Tib and her sisters had a governess in the past, Miss Fryer. A governess served as a live-in tutor for children whose family could afford such a luxury.  Although not impossible that they would have attended the Manor School at some point , it is unlikely without verification. 

“Isabel, having seen in the Leeds Intelligenc[ier?] the advertisement of Kean’s performing there in 4 of his principal characters. Determined to go to [Leeds?] for the time to Miss Fryer, who has a flourishing school there, and was formerly governess to Isabel, [Charlotte?] and Mary.” 

Fact check by Shantel Smith. Updated on 23 December 2020

The door of the Red Room was taken down to remove Ann from Shibden Hall

This statement is false. This quote implies Ann Walker locked herself in the room to avoid removal and that she was forcibly removed after the doors were taken down from the hinges. There is no evidence of either occurrence, so where does this idea come from?

In her 2017 book, Gentleman Jack: A Biography of Anne Lister, Angela Steidele states:

“On 9 September 1843, the Sutherlands, the doctor and the lawyer broke into Shibden Hall along with the constable of Halifax. Ann fled to the Red Room on the top floor, locking the door behind her. Stephen Belcombe and Rober Parker told the constable to open it which he did by taking it off the Hinges [...]”

This statement is not consistent with the documented evidence of how Ann Walker was removed from Shibden Hall, which exists in the form of letters and memoranda from Robert Parker, the Halifax solicitor employed by Captain Sutherland.

According to his memorandum (transcript) dated 9 September 1843 describing what he witnessed at Shibden Hall, Ann Walker had already left when he arrived at 10:30 in the morning with Captain Sutherland. 

Captain Sutherland wished me to accompany him as his Solicitor to Shibden Hall – We took a fly and arrived there about half past Ten o’clock [...] I found from Mr. Short the surgeon that Miss Walker had been removed that morning in a carriage to the neighbourhood of York under the direction of Dr. Belcombe.

Captain Sutherland left Shibden for Pye Nest and returned with his wife Elizabeth (Ann’s sister). After hearing about Ann's removal earlier in the day, they decided to enter the Red Room (Ann’s room). Most rooms in the house were locked (including Ann's room) so they asked Jennings, the constable of Southowram, to remove the hinges, which he did.

Found every room in the house locked except the little dining room, the hall, the kitchen, and butler’s pantrys. [...] Captain Sutherland after waiting about half an hour took the fly for Mrs. Sutherland to Pye Nest, who returned with him to Shibden Hall – that after hearing all particulars of Miss Walker’s departure from Shibden Mrs. Sutherland and the Captain in order to obtain requisite [wearing] Apparel proceeded to Miss Walker’s Red Room which they found locked, and and not finding any key that would open the door, they directed Jennings the Constable to open it which he did by taking it off the hinges. 

In conclusion, no doors were taken down to remove Ann Walker away from her home.  While doors needed to be taken down at Shibden Hall to access locked rooms for which keys were not available, both events are unrelated.

Fact check by Livia Labate and Marlene Oliveira. Updated on 18 May 2020

Ann Walker was taken to Dr Belcombe’s asylum after she was removed from Shibden Hall

This statement is false. 

In her 2017 book, Gentleman Jack: A Biography of Anne Lister, Angela Steidele writes:

“With Ann requiring urgent medical attention, as he allegedly saw it, she was put straight into Stephen Belcombe’s asylum.”

There is no evidence that Ann Walker was taken to Dr. Belcombe’s asylum, Clifton House (or Clifton Green as it is often referred to). There is evidence, however, of her whereabouts at different points in time and clues as to where she might have been. Let’s take a look:

Ann had been at Shibden Hall, Halifax until 9 September 1843, when she was taken to York in the morning, as Robert Parker confirms in his memorandum (transcription). 

Doctor Belcombe had written a letter (transcript) to Parker a week prior informing the lawyer that he was thinking of lodgings for Ann:

“I also consider that lodgings should be a preliminary step - afterwards a House, or whatever might be further thought more advisable -”

On the 8th of September, the day before Ann’s removal, Dr. Belcombe tells Parker in a letter (transcription), that he has decided to take Ann to Terrace House, which was run by Mrs. Tose in Osbaldwick:

“I have been balancing in my mind lodgings and Osbaldwick I am decided in my preference of the latter, and I also believe that if a case can be effected, it is more likely I’d be wrought there, than in temporary lodgings.”

Later records containing Terrace House’s list of patients show Ann being admitted on the 12th of September. No other evidence has emerged yet proving Ann’s actual whereabouts from the 9th to the 12th of September, but Osbalwick is the likely location given Dr. Belcombe’s documented decision.

For a patient to be admitted, two medical certificates are required. One was provided by Dr. Short at the time of Ann’s removal from York on the 9th (see Parker’s memo), and the second was provided by Dr. Goldie (as shown in the list of patients) on the 12th.

It is possible Dr. Goldie wasn’t available to provide the certificate until the 12th or some other reason that caused the delay, but given all available evidence, Ann Walker was most likely at Terrace House in Osbaldwick.

In conclusion, there is no evidence Ann Walker went to Clifton House after she was removed from Shibden Hall.

Fact check by Marlene Oliveira and Livia Labate. Updated on 20 July 2020

Charles outlived Mariana

This statement is false.  In her 2017 book, Gentleman Jack: A Biography of Anne Lister, Angela Steidele states:

“Mariana Lawton lived until 1868, passing away before her husband Charles [Lawton], whose death had once been the stuff of dreams for her and Anne."

This is not consistent with the information in Charles' death records. 

According to the England & Wales, Civil Registration Death Index information via FreeBMD/ (paid access), Charles Bourne Lawton died on 7 February 1860 at Lawton Hall, in Cheshire, while Mariana Lawton (née Belcombe), died at Belsize Park, London over 8 years later, on 31 October 1868.

In short, Mariana outlived Charles, not the other way around. Both outlived Anne Lister (who died while traveling in Russia in 22 September 1840) by two decades.

Fact check by Shantel Smith. Updated on 19 May 2020

Marian Lister died in poverty

This statement is false.

In her 2017 book, Gentleman Jack: A Biography of Anne Lister, Angela Steidele states:

“Marian lived another forty-one years in poverty, dying in 1882.” 

Marian Lister died on the 6th of August 1882. At the time of her death, she was living with her cousins, the Inmans (with servants), at 20 St. Pauls-square York, where she was listed as an Annuitant on the 1881 census. Formerly, Marian had lived in Scarborough. The entry about her probate will in the Index of Wills and Administrations of 1882 reads as follows: 

LISTER Marian. 

Personal Estate £2,152 11s. 9d. 

14 September. The Will of Marian Lister formerly of Scarborough in the County of York but late of 20 St. Paul’s-square in the City of York Spinster who died 6 August 1882 at 20 St. Paul’s-square was proved at the Principal Registry by Escricke John Inman of 20 St. Paul’s-square and George Edward Emment of 2 Harrison-road Halifax to the said County Gentleman the Executors.

Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v 3.0

As we see above, Marian’s Probate is dated the 14th of September 1882 and states that her personal estate was valued at £2,151 11s. 9d. According to the CPI Inflation Calculator, this is equivalent to £301,110.36 today. According to CPAG, the poverty line is 60% of the median income and, per the Office of National Statistics, in 2021 the median family income was £31,400.

According to Rowntree (1901), there were two types of poverty in England in the late 19th century, primary poverty and secondary poverty. Primary poverty occurs when a family/person lacked the earnings sufficient to obtain even the minimum necessities and secondary poverty occurs when a family/person had some means to support themselves but whose money was being spent on other things that may or may not have been helpful to their daily living. There is no evidence that Marian was experiencing what was known at the time as primary or secondary poverty. 

Habitat for Humanity Great Britain describes poverty in modern terms as relative or absolute. “Absolute poverty is when household income is below a certain level, which makes it impossible for the person or family to meet basic needs of life including food, shelter, safe drinking water, education, healthcare, etc.“ Relative poverty is described as “when households receive 50% less than average household incomes, so they do have some money but still not enough money to afford anything above the basics.” 

Marian’s probate records, being listed as an annuitant and living in Micklegate on St. Pauls-square with servants all lend evidence that she did not die in poverty according to either definition.


Principal Probate Registry. Calendar of the Grants of Probate and Letters of Administration made in the Probate Registries of the High Court of Justice in England. London, England © Crown copyright.

Poverty : a study of town life / by B. Seebohm Rowntree. Wellcome Collection. In copyright

Fact check by Shantel Smith. Updated on 3 July 2022 


Anne Lister was born in Halifax

This statement is true.

Occasionally, the question of the location of Anne’s birth is raised in online discussions. Though there seems to be a consensus among authors and researchers regarding this matter, there are still some publications that seem to disagree that Anne was born in Halifax and, instead, place her birth in Welton. An example of this can be read in Muriel Green’s book:

“Anne Lister born at Welton, South Cave, in the East Riding of Yorkshire, the second child of Captain Jeremy Lister (who fought in the American War of Independence) and Rebecca Lister (née Battle).” [1]

Green’s conclusion that Anne was born in Welton is likely to have its origin in a misinterpretation of a letter from Jeremy Lister to his brother James Lister of Shibden Hall. In this letter, Jeremy mentions Anne's birth:

"I had the pleasure of your favor of the 4th instant last Monday, by which I am happy to find Mrs. Lister has got her Bed of a Daughter, and with her little one is likely to do so well, she will soon I hope get abroad again” [2]

Green likely interpreted this as Jeremy informing James Lister of Anne’s birth. However, Jeremy clearly states he “had the pleasure of your favor of the 4th instant last Monday”, which indicates he has learned about Anne’s birth from his brother James (a “favor” in this context is a synonym for “letter”). A confirmation of Anne’s place of birth can be obtained from James Lister’s notes:

"Anne, daughter of Jeremy Lister of Halifax [born] 3 April [baptized] 12 September" [3]

"Anne Lister Daughter of Jeremy Lister born at Halifax April 3rd 1791 [and] baptized Sept[embe]r 12th 1791. Self. Sisters Martha and Anne, [sureties]" [3]

Thus, taking into account James Lister's pedigree notes along with Jeremy’s letter, we can say that Rebecca Lister was in Halifax in April of 1791 and Anne was definitely born in Halifax and not Welton.


[1] Green, Muriel (ed.). Miss Lister of Shibden Hall [Halifax]: selected letters (1800-1840). BG The Book Guild, 1992.

[2] Lister, Jeremy. 15 April 1791. Letter from Jeremy Lister (Galway) to James Lister (Shibden Hall), SH:7/JL/101 - Jeremy Lister's papers. West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale.

[3] Lister, James. n.d. Miscellaneous notes on the Lister family and pedigree, SH:7/ML/B/30. West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale.

Fact check by Marlene Oliveira. Updated on 6 July 2022

The Lister Family Vault is located in the Holdsworth Chapel of the Halifax Minster

This statement is false.

Based on multiple sources and information shared throughout the years, the Lister family vault was believed to be located in the Holdsworth Chapel of the Halifax Minster. The verbiage used by Anne in her own journal could have been the source of the original assumption. Anne wrote: 

“our burying place is in the south chapel at the west end next to the Constables' pew” 

(3 February 1826 [1])

At the time, the Constable’s pew was located towards the western end of the pews on the south side of the church.

Two plans were found, the 1836 plan [2] and an early 19th-century plan [3], and both include the same markings for Lister graves in the south aisle, next to the Constable’s pew. Annotated images of both plans can be viewed in the article entitled ‘Where is Anne Lister?’. Given Anne’s description of the approximate location of the Lister vault and the cluster of Lister graves in the area of the south aisle nearest to the Constable’s pew, we can say these are probably what Anne referred to as the “family burial place”. 

It is possible she simply referenced the chapel as a way to indicate the side of the church relative to the middle aisle in which the Lister vault was located and used the mention “next to the Constable’s pew” to refer to the vault as being in line with the row in which this pew is located. It is also possible that Anne accidentally made a mistake and, instead of writing “south aisle”, wrote “south chapel”.

Therefore, considering the evidence at hand, it seems improbable that the Lister ‘family vault’ is located in the Holdsworth Chapel.


[1] Lister, Anne. 3 February 1826. Journal entry of 3 February 1826, SH:7/ML/E/9/0055-0056. West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale.

[2] Plan of interior of Halifax Parish Church, SH:2/M/14 - Copies for Miss [Anne] Lister of Shibden Hall from a plan made by the sexton. 1836. West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale.

[3] Seating plan of Halifax Parish Church, MISC:333/47. 19th century. West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale.

Fact check by Shantel Smith. Updated on 19 October 2021

Anne Lister passed her venereal disease to Ann Walker

This statement is unverifiable. 

We know Anne suffered from a venereal disease in the early 1820s, which she got from Mariana and then passed to Isabella Norcliffe. It is sometimes speculated that she could've passed this venereal disease to Ann Walker. 

In 1834, Anne Lister wonders if she has indeed infected Miss Walker:

"Poor girl I fear how it is and when she complained of enlargement this day week and uncomfortableness in walking it was that something coming in which I have unfortunately given her and which [Pi- Mariana] gave me in 18 hundred and twenty two and which she would only laugh to think I had given poor Miss Walker, as she did on my giving it to Isabella. Well this will indeed set me against [Pi – Mariana] I shall say nothing but never never go near her again indeed without this added bar between my faith to Miss Walker would have been enough this punishment is come to qualify my happiness and I deserve it why had I anything to do with [Pi – Mariana] when another mans wife she has been bane enough to me –" 

(Anne Lister, 13 April 1834 [1])

However, Anne's fears were proven unfounded just a few days later:

"Thank god a false alarm it was merely a feeling of weakness within and pain in her back that Steph told me might occur several times before her cousin returned properly not to think anything of it –" 

(Anne Lister, 15 April 1834 [2])

It isn't possible to say that Anne didn't accidentally infect Ann Walker on a different occasion, but it also isn't possible to prove that she did. Thus this isn't verifiable.


[1] Lister, Anne. 1834. Journal entry of 13 April 1834, SH:7/ML/E/17/0019. West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale.

[2] Lister, Anne. 1834. Journal entry of 15 April 1834, SH:7/ML/E/17/0020. West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale.

Fact check by Marlene Oliveira. Updated on 9 July 2022

Anne Lister was temporarily buried in Moscow and then moved to Halifax

This statement is false.

In her 2017 book, Gentleman Jack: A Biography of Anne Lister, Angela Steidele states:

“Needing to wait for the end of winter before continuing her journey, Ann had Anne’s coffin buried temporarily, according to Phyllis Ramsden.”

However, though Ann Walker did indeed return to Moscow, she didn't have permission to transport Anne's remains across Russia. This is stated in a letter to General Espejo, Commander of Kutaisi when Anne died [2]. The letter was written by the aide of the governor of the Caucasus, General Golovin and the relevant passage reads as follows:

"His Excellency is quite willing not to oppose the transfer of the body of the deceased to Tiflis in case her desire is that of being buried in this town, or that it is the intention of the Miss Walker her travel companion; however, Mr. General-in-Chief desires to inform the lady that it is impossible to permit the transport of the remains of Mrs. Lister from Tiflis to the interior of Russia without a superior authorization. [Nevertheless], I was recommended to ask your Excellency to try to persuade Miss Walker to bury the corpse of her friend at Koutais or to embark it at Redout Kale for whatever destination she thinks adequate." 

Furthermore, a copy of a schedule included in a bill of answers in Walker v Gray [1] clearly indicates that Anne's remains were shipped from Trebizond:

“Freight of the body of deceased to England from Trebizond . . 57.16.9” 

Anne Lister was then buried at the Halifax Parish Church, as reported in the Halifax Guardian from the 1st of May 1841 [3]:

“The Late Mrs. Lister - The remains of this lady (who our readers will remember died at Koutais, in Imerethi, on the 22nd of September last) arrived at Shibden Hall late on Saturday night, and were interred in the parish church, on Thursday morning.” 

Considering the evidence at hand, Anne Lister did not return to Moscow after leaving in February 1840 and she certainly wasn't buried there temporarily or otherwise.


[1] Court of Chancery. 1846. William Gray Answers, C 14/619/W106 - Walker v Gray. The National Archives.  

[2] Letter from General Golovin’s aide to General Espejo, N1076 - Fond N11. September 1841. National Archives of the Republic of Georgia.

[3] The Halifax Guardian. 1841. “The Late Mrs. Lister” Halifax Guardian, May 01, 1841. 

Fact check by Marlene Oliveira. Updated on 24 July 2022

Anne Lister’s coffin travelled with Ann Walker back to England

This statement is false.

For a long time, it was thought that Anne Lister’s remains had travelled back home with Ann Walker. This is likely due to what is reported in an article published in the Halifax Guardian on the 31st of October 1840 [4] and reproduced in the Blackburn Standard on the 4th of November 1840 [6], which reads as follows:

Local Intelligence

The late Miss Lister, of Shibden Hall.

In our obituary this week we regret to record the name of this respected and lamented lady, whose benefactions to our charitable and religious institutions will long be remembered, and whose public spirit in the improvement of our town and neighbourhood is attested by lasting memorials. In mental energy and courage she resembled Lady Mary Wortley Montague and Lady Hester Stanhope; and, like those celebrated women, after exploring Europe, she extended her researches to those oriental regions, where her career has been so prematurely terminated. We are informed that the remains of this distinguished lady have been embalmed, and that her friend and companion, Miss Walker, is bringing them home by way of Constantinople, for interment in the family vault. She died near Tefliz, but within the Circassian border. Miss Lister was descended from an ancient family in Lancashire, the main branch of which is represented by the noble line of Ribblesdale.

After Anne Lister's death, Ann Walker sought permission from the Governor of the Caucasus to transport Anne's remains through Russia [3]. That was denied, but she was informed that she could choose to bury Anne in Georgia or ship her anywhere she'd like from a nearby Black Sea port. Ann apparently chose the latter. The evidence that proves Anne’s remains were shipped from a port in the Black Sea (Trebizond) is part of the answers of the Walker v Gray case of 1846 [2]. In these answers, William Gray Jr. (Anne’s and Ann’s solicitor) includes a copy of a schedule, in which the following payment is listed:

“Freight of the body of deceased to England from Trebizond . . 57.16.9”

Ann Walker returned to Moscow [7] and from there travelled back to England, ultimately arriving in Halifax around the 19th of February 1841 [1]. Anne Lister's remains reached Shibden Hall a few months later, on the night of the 24th of April 1841, and she was buried in the Halifax Parish Church on the 29th of April 1841 [5].


[1] Gratrix, James. 29 March 1841. Letter to Robert Parker, C 106/60 - Evidence in the Walker v Gray case f 1846.

[2] Court of Chancery. 1846. William Gray Answers, C 14/619/W106 - Walker v Gray. The National Archives.

[3] Letter from General Golovin’s aide to General Espejo, N1076 - Fond N11. September 1841. National Archives of the Republic of Georgia.

[4] Whitbread, Helena. "The secret diaries of Miss Anne Lister." London: Virago (2010).

[5] The Leeds Intelligencer. 1841. “Funeral of Miss Lister.” Leeds Intelligencer, May 01, 1841.

[6] Blackburn Standard. 1840. “The Late Miss Lister, of Shibden Hall” Blackburn Standard, November 04, 1840.

[7] Walker, Ann. 17 December 1840. Letter to David Booth, SH:7/LL/406. West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale. 

Fact check by Marlene Oliveira. Updated on 4 July 2022

Ann Walker climbed Mt. Vignemale with Anne Lister

This statement is false.

In his book "Cent Ans Aux Pyrenees", Henri Beraldi includes the comments from the son of Henri Cazaux, who had been one of Anne Lister's mountain guides for the ascent of Vignemale [1]. Beraldi quotes Cazaux Jr., by then an octogenarian, who still remembered Anne:

"Alors vient l’acte le plus notable accompli par la femme dans le pyrénéisme. La première ascension de touristes du Vignemale, par lady Lister et son amie avec Cazaux." [1]

Translation: "Then comes the most notable act accomplished by women in Pyreneism.  The first tourist ascent of Vignemale, by Lady Lister and her friend with Cazaux."

As we read above, Cazaux Jr. states that both Anne Lister and Ann Walker climbed Vignemale. This is not correct, as Anne Lister's journal can attest. 

On the 4th of August 1838, Anne states:

"settled to go the Cabane 2 hours beyond Gavarnie tomorrow and to ascend the Vignemale si cela m’est possible, on Monday sleep at the Bains de Penticouse return on Tuesday to Gavarnie, and home on Wednesday – A-[Ann] will have taken both the guides –" [2]

The plan continues to develop on the 5th of August 1838:

"told A-[Ann] the plan of Charles’s brother in law going to the Cabane to bring back the 3 horses which would be here on the 2[2nd] day [and] he would accompany her to Bouchero to meet me on the 3d[3rd] and go to Torla and return by the Port de Pinède –" [3]

On the 6th of August, Anne adds more detail regarding what their plans are:

"at last fixed to go this afternoon – to leave here at 3 p.m. for the Cabane – all 3 mounted, and take Charles brother-in-law to bring back the horses and bring A-[Ann] and then to meet us at Bouchero at 4 p.m. on Wednesday –" [4]

That day, Anne and Ann part at Gavarnie as Anne makes her way to Vignemale with her guides:

“I was lightly equipped and my heart was light but for the thought that I had left poor Ann dull and perhaps anxious about me for my own and what I was going to attempt – she thought perhaps that I had not been free from biliousness and vertiges for many days, and perhaps she fidgeted about me – but Charles’ brother-in-law is to be back with the horses and see her tomorrow evening, and bring her to meet me at Bouchero on Wednesday –” [4]

The two Yorkshire ladies would reunite in the morning of the 8th of August 1838, as Anne reports:

"Cazos left us to go to Gèdre, and we turned, right, to Gavarnie – there at 1 1/4 – got a little warm water to take the chill off the eau fraiche drank about a glass of this and having shaken my clothes and washed my feet &c. got into bed at 2 1/2 a.m. comfortable bed – slept well – A-[Ann] arrived at 9 – breakfast – off at 11 50/’’ –" [5]

Anne's comments about their plans, her notes regarding the climb and its aftermath serve as proof that Ann Walker didn't climb Vignemale, but instead joined Anne on the day after. The two women and their guides then embarked on a short trip to Spain. Their travels in the Pyrenees lasted until the first days of October 1838.


[1] Béraldi, Henri. Cent ans aux Pyrénées. Vol. 7. 1904.

[2] Lister, Anne. 4 August 1838. Journal entry of 4 August 1838, SH:7/ML/E/21/0159. West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale.

[3] Lister, Anne. 5 August 1838. Journal entry of 5 August 1838, SH:7/ML/E/21/0159. West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale.

[4] Lister, Anne. 6 August 1838. Journal entry of 6 August 1838, SH:7/ML/E/21/0160. West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale.

[5] Lister, Anne. 8 August 1838. Journal entry of 8 August 1838, SH:7/ML/E/21/0161. West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale.

Fact check by Marlene Oliveira. Updated on 15 July 2022


If she married, Ann Walker would lose the life interest from Anne Lister’s bequest

This statement is true.

When Anne Lister republished her will in 1836, she added some changes to benefit Ann Walker as part of their commitment to each other.

One such clause is the following:

"Provided lastly and I do hereby declare that in case of the marriage of the said Ann Walker all and singular the trust estates monies and premises and all the trusts powers and authorities whatsoever hereinbefore given to or reposed in her shall thenceforth cease and determine in the same manner to all intents constructions and purposes as if the said Ann Walker should have then departed this life" [1]

The National Archives, PROB 11/1944/273. © Crown copyright.  Licensed under the Open Government Licence v 3.0

The passage above clearly states that Ann Walker would lose her life interest if she married. This has often been interpreted to imply that Anne Lister intended, in some capacity, to ‘bind’ Ann Walker to her. However, such an assumption is dangerous, especially considering the legal doctrine of coverture (or couverture, as it sometimes is referred to), which was in effect at the time of Anne's death [3]. At the time, the laws of coverture [3] granted the husband privileges to access and administer the wife's estate. In the eyes of the Law, the couple became a single entity [2]. 

In this case, Anne is very clearly stating that Ann would lose her right to the life interest in the Shibden Hall Estate if she married, which means the property and profits intended for her sole use would be out of the reach of prospective husbands. A similar clause had previously been considered by Anne Lister in order to secure similar bequests to Marian Lister and Mariana Lawton, but these ideas were eventually abandoned [5].

It is important to note, however, that such a clause doesn't impact access to these monies after a lunacy verdict, because that doesn't equal marriage and, instead, the lunatic's property is administered by a Committee of the Estate [4]. It is in this role that Captain Sutherland came to administer Ann Walker's estate after she was deemed a person of unsound mind and thus could manage whatever benefits Ann had access to thanks to Anne's bequest. However, Sutherland wasn’t allowed to use these funds for his own benefit.

Anne Lister's bequest to Ann Walker ceased to be in effect after Walker's death in 1854.


[1] Prerogative Court of Canterbury. 17 April 1841. “Will of Ann Lister, Spinster of Halifax, Yorkshire,” PROB 11/1944/273. The National Archives.

[2] MacDonagh, Briony. 2017. “Chapter 2 Women, land and property.” In Elite Women and the Agricultural Landscape, 1700 - 1830, 15 - 38. N.p.: Routledge. 10.26530/OAPEN_1005051.

[3] Wikipedia. 2021. “Coverture.”

[4] Elmer, Joseph. 1844. An outline of the practice in Lunacy under Commissions in the nature of Writs de Lunatico inquirendo. With an appendix containing forms and costs. London: V. & R. Stevens and G. R. Norton.

[5] Oliveira, Marlene. 2021. “Anne Lister's and Ann Walker's Wills.” Packed with Potential. (accessed March 12, 2023).

Fact check by Marlene Oliveira. Updated on 15 March 2023 

Ann Walker did not have a valid will at the time of her death 

This statement is false.

In the past, the notion that Ann Walker didn’t leave a valid will was at times presented as fact. However, this is false. Ann Walker left a valid will, which dates from the 15th of May 1841:

"THIS IS THE LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT of Ann Walker of Shibden Hall in the Parish of Halifax in the county of York spinster made the fifteenth day of May in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and forty one" [1]

The National Archives, PROB 11/2192/68. © Crown copyright.  Licensed under the Open Government Licence v 3.0

Coincidentally, this is also the year in which her alleged unsoundness of mind started, which may cause some confusion. Per Ann Walker's inquisition of lunacy:

"[Ann Walker] is not sufficient for the government of herself her manors messuages lands tenements goods and chattels and that she the said Ann Walker hath been in the same state of unsoundness of mind from the fifteenth day of October in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and forty one but how or by what means she the said Ann Walker so became of unsound mind the Jurors aforesaid known not unless by the visitation of God" [2]

The National Archives, C 211/28/W249. © Crown copyright.  Licensed under the Open Government Licence v 3.0 

To invalidate this will, it would be necessary to prove that Ann Walker wasn't competent to make a will in May of 1841. However, there doesn't seem to be any evidence that such an assessment happened at the time and, with the Inquisition of Lunacy pointing to October 1841, that is not sufficient to invalidate this will either.

Thus, Ann's will was proven in May of 1854:

"PROVED at London the 12th May 1854 before The Judge by the oath of William Gray (heretofore the younger) the sole Executor to whom Admon was granted having been first sworn by Comon duly to administer." [1]

The National Archives, PROB 11/2192/68. © Crown copyright.  Licensed under the Open Government Licence v 3.0

The probate process is defined as "the legal process of deciding if a person's will has been made correctly and if the information it contains is correct" [4]. Since Ann Walker’s will was probate, it means that it was considered correct and valid at the time it was verified.


[1] Prerogative Court of Canterbury. 1854 May 12. “Will of Ann Walker,” PROB 11/2192/68 - Will of Ann Walker, Spinster of Halifax, Yorkshire. The National Archives.

[2] Court of Chancery. 1843 Nov 2. “Ann Walker, spinster of Shibden Hall, Halifax in the West Riding, Yorkshire: commission and inquisition of lunacy, into her state of mind and her property.” C 211/28/W249. The National Archives.

[3] Oliveira, Marlene. 2021. “Anne Lister's and Ann Walker's Wills.” Packed with Potential. (accessed March 12, 2023).

[4] Cambridge Dictionary. 2023. “PROBATE | English meaning - Cambridge Dictionary.” Cambridge Dictionary.

Fact check by Marlene Oliveira. Updated on 15 March 2023 

Anne Lister taught the flute to Miss Alexander

This statement is false.

In her book “The Early Life of Miss Anne Lister and the Curious Tale of Miss Eliza Raine”, Patricia Hughes states that Anne ‘began giving flute lessons to unmarried Miss Maria Alexander.’ [1, p. 37]…..and later that ‘On October 21st she went there to teach the flute and took Eliza with her.’ [Ibid, p. 38].

If we look at the original journal entries for 1808, we see that Anne records the fact that she began teaching Miss Alexander ‘music’ but does not state what form that takes:

“……Monday Feb[rua]ry 1st Miss A- began music Tuesday – 2d – Miss A- a lesson Wednesday 3d Miss A- a lesson.” [2] 

This then becomes a regular and frequent occurrence:

“Monday 8th began a quadratic Give Miss A- a lesson regularly – Monday Wednes[day] Friday” [3] 

Patricia’s understandable assumption seems to be that because Anne Lister is commonly known to have played the flute, this must be the subject of her teaching, but there are a number of factors that point to this being untrue. The most significant of these is that Anne tells us in April of the same year:

“Friday 22d Miss A- missed her lesson in consequence of Mr Stopford tuning the instrument”[4] 

Mr. Stopford was a notable Halifax organist and musical figure who was giving Anne keyboard lessons as he had done for her Aunts Martha and Anne. He would also have been engaged to tune keyboard instruments in the homes of local people as he appears to be doing here. He would certainly not have been engaged to tune a flute which doesn’t need that sort of attention. So, their lesson was canceled here because a keyboard instrument was unavailable.

In addition, the evidence seems to show that Anne did not take up the flute until later as we see from her journal of 1816:

“October Tuesday 1 Wrote to Mrs. H.S.B. and Anne jointly – 1st mention of playing the flute” [5] 

The flute was a radical choice for a woman. Earlier conduct books such as the catchily titled, ‘The Young Ladies Conduct: Or, Rules for Education…with Instructions Upon Dress….and Advice to Young Wives,’ by renowned choreographer and author John Essex, state that the instrument is, ‘unbecoming the Fair Sex’. 

Primarily, music was a ‘female accomplishment’ desired by the middle and upper classes as an asset that made young women more marriageable. Playing an instrument was a way of ‘exhibiting’ your elegant form and choices such as the piano, harp, guitar or singing did that well. The flute, in contrast, had the obvious phallic connotations and you had to contort your face in order to play it. You only have to look at contemporary portraits to see the popular choices of instruments for women and it is nearly impossible to find ones that include the flute.

There is every likelihood that Anne began to play as her father had learnt and there was an instrument at home. In typical Anne Lister fashion, she most probably chose it because she enjoyed it and ignored social convention. However, she is never to be found performing it in public as she is with singing, for example. 

To show just how unusual a choice it was, we can look at the diary of a contemporary society figure and very enthusiastic amateur musician, John Courtney of Beverley in April 1805:

“……called lately to see the Lt. Col. Brackenberry, & he & his Wife & 3 of his daughters drank Tea with us one afternoon, & played on Harpsichord & sung, they are all musical & the youngest daughter play’d on the German Flute very prettily – I never saw a Lady play on the Flute before.”

I would say there was no likelihood of Miss Alexander wanting or being allowed to play such an instrument and certainly no indication that Anne would have obliged with lessons.

Finally, in my research on the two volumes of music owned by Anne and dating from 1806 and 1807, her clear passion is for keyboard music and singing. These collections are individual sheets that she would have chosen personally and clearly reflect her focus at the time. There is only one significant piece for the flute and any others that include the instrument are optional accompaniments. All of her pencil annotations, of which there are many, appear on those pieces she played often and those don’t include the flute.  


[1] Hughes, Patricia. 2019. Gentleman Jack: The Early Life of Miss Anne Lister and the Curious Tale of Miss Eliza Raine. N.p.:

[2] Lister, Anne. 1 February 1808. Journal entry of 1 February 1808, Diary page - SH:7/ML/E/26/1/22. West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale.

[3] Lister, Anne. 8 February 1808. Journal entry 8 February 1808, Diary page - SH:7/ML/E/26/1/22. West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale.

[4] Lister, Anne. 22 April 1808. Journal entry 6 May 1808, Diary page - SH:7/ML/E/26/1/25. West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale.

[5] Lister, Anne. 1 October 1816. Entry of 1 October 1816, Index of journal volume - SH:7/ML/E/26/2/8. West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale.

Fact check by Lisa Timbs B.A.(Hons), F.I.S.M. Updated on 10 March 2024