Anne’s rush to get Ann away from Halifax
How Anne Lister protected Ann Walker one last time
In the first half of 1839, Ann Walker's health takes a turn for the worse and she once again slowly slips into depression. Anne Lister does her best to help her. They end up consulting the lawyers from York in order to try and protect Ann's properties but, when those efforts prove futile, their focus turns to their idea of going abroad again. They leave Shibden Hall under the cover of darkness on the 20th of June 1839. Only Ann Walker would return alive from this adventure.
The Story, as Chronicled by Anne Lister
A series of events led Ann Walker into a depressive period in the first quarter of 1839. She had been under a lot of stress due to her Aunt’s failing health, mistakes from her subordinates that ended up being costly, and various other estate affairs. Anne Lister, whose days are packed with estate management, colliery troubles, and renovations, at first dismisses Ann's moods and overall lowness as “temper”. One of such cases can be read in the coded entry of the 3rd of January 1839:
However, as the weeks pass and Ann’s state doesn’t seem to improve, Anne tries harder to help Ann and cheer her up. Ann had a tendency to not eat properly while going through a depressive period. Knowing this, Anne encourages her to eat when she notices Ann’s appetite gone once more. However, when these efforts prove futile, Anne changes her routine to try and help Ann. She starts to sit with Ann at her luncheon more often than not, but Anne is not there for the conversation alone. Her idea is to have a bite of some food and then persuade Ann to eat hers and finish Anne’s:
Anne notes, in a coded passage on the journal entry of the 21st of March 1839, that she hopes Ann isn’t slipping into depression. It is also in this passage that Anne mentions going abroad with Ann again:
Ann’s struggle with lowness is obvious enough for it to be noticed by other people. When a tearful Ann seeks Anne and tells her that she doesn't want to face one of her Rawson cousins, this strengthens Anne’s conviction that they must go abroad:
What’s quite interesting is that Anne’s decision to go abroad at this time is not solely based on her desire to travel. She had thought of running away from her money troubles on other occasions and had even considered leaving Ann when the money troubles took a turn for the worse in late December 1838. However, Ann’s health ended up being the deciding factor that finally pushed them into going abroad in 1839. As for possible travel destinations, Ann had her own preferences:
Though Anne decided that it was a good idea to bring Ann away from Halifax for the time being, she didn’t plan to be abroad for a long time initially. This is mentioned in the coded passage of the journal entry of the 28th of March 1839:
On that same day, Anne has another curious coded passage:
Chancery, in this context, refers to the Court of Chancery. This court handled all sorts of cases that dealt with equity (lunacy cases were within the scope of this court too). It’s important to note that, at the time, melancholia was enough to have someone deemed a lunatic and that legal process was designed with few recourses for the individual being accused of lunacy.
By March 1839, Ann’s lowness had been present for months and didn’t seem to be getting better. If a member of Ann’s family started to take more notice, they could write to Elizabeth, who was Ann’s next of kin, and persuade her to take the necessary steps to put Ann under medical care. Anne wouldn’t be able to prevent this, because her union with Ann didn’t provide the same legal protections that a traditional marriage conferred to husband and wife.
In case Ann happened to be deemed a person of unsound mind, Anne couldn’t do much to try and prevent her from being removed from Shibden. After the necessary inquiries and a Commission and an Inquisition of Lunacy to ascertain her soundness of mind, Ann and her property would be assigned “tutors”, whose job would be to ensure that Ann’s necessities were met and that her estate was properly managed. Some or all of her estate could be placed under the protection of Chancery and all or selected parts could be placed under the care of the “tutor” in charge of managing her estate. Anne’s idea to move all or some of Ann’s property to her name would, she thought, ensure that it would be safely away from Ann’s family and from Chancery.
Their routine of busy days remains unchanged, though they do spend more time together, talk more often, and even sleep in the same bed again.
On Easter Sunday 1839, Ann is in a low mood again and the topic of moving property to Anne’s name is once again discussed:
Despite her lowness, Ann maintains a somewhat normal routine. Her days are spent handling her own estate matters, writing to her sister, reading, riding to Cliff Hill in the afternoon, etc. She had done her best to manage her estate for years. It’s not uncommon to find passages in Anne’s journals in which Anne is a silent observer and Ann decides everything as it suits her. It’s also not uncommon to have Ann summon Anne so she advises or offers her opinion regarding a specific matter.
In April 1839, it is noticeable that Anne seems to be keeping an eye on Ann more frequently and ensures that she eats and exercises. She also writes copies of Ann’s letters more frequently and acts as buffer when Ann isn’t feeling well enough to receive tenants or other visitors. One of such occasions can be read on the journal entry of the 4th of April:
The men from Stainland wanted a donation that would go towards a Methodist church. Anne ended up donating £20 to the cause on Ann’s behalf:
By the 7th of April 1839, Ann seems to have decided to move her property to Anne’s name:
Russia is now also mentioned as their possible destination in the summer:
Ann’s low moods are still a cause of concern for Anne:
On the 8th of April, Anne writes a note to Dr. Jubb asking him to visit Shibden that afternoon. After he examines Ann, he prescribes her some medication:
The medication prescribed by Dr. Jubb makes Ann sick:
By the 14th of April, Ann is still taking the pills prescribed by Mr. Jubb, her lowness is quite obvious, and Anne is providing comfort as best as she can during her busy days:
In a coded entry dated of the same day, Anne muses about the reason for Ann’s current lowness. She thinks that the underlying reason is Ann’s decision to give up her Sunday School. The decision itself was made in December 1838 and, after that, Anne had helped Ann with the school account books.
Both Russia and France are now considered possible destinations for their upcoming sojourn abroad.
On the 15th of April, Anne once again tries to cheer Ann up:
Dr. Jubb visits Shibden again that afternoon. He thinks Ann is better and changes her medication again:
Anne, however, isn’t so sure that Ann will be keen to take that medication:
It’s interesting that Anne’s urgency to take Ann away from Halifax grows as Ann’s low moods become more frequent. It’s obvious that Ann’s state of mind was a great concern to her.
When Ann comes to Anne on the 16th of April 1839, it’s clear that prayers aren’t helping Ann either:
Then, on the 17th of April, Ann’s state is still not improving and she begins to think that she might not move her property to Anne’s name:
In another coded entry of the same day, Anne notes that the sermon from the previous Sunday got Ann “wrong”:
The following morning, Anne’s frustration is evident:
That morning, Anne spends a while moving books to Shibden's West Tower and working on accounts. Ann comes to her to ask her to go downstairs:
They talk at lunch and Ann, once again, changes her mind regarding moving her property to Anne’s name:
Considering that Ann’s state isn’t improving and her low moods are frequent, her fears are definitely justified. So they end up planning a discrete visit to York to speak with William Gray (solicitor). The 19th of April is spent amid preparations for their visit to York. They leave on the 20th and stay at the George Inn.
On the 21st of April, the first order of business is to get Dr. Steph Belcombe to visit so he can advise Ann as to what she should be doing to right her bowels. He does question Ann about her complaint, but Anne suspects that Dr. Belcombe might’ve noticed Ann’s “nervous lowness”. Dr. Belcombe visited again the following day and diagnosed Ann with “liver and digestive organs slightly deranged”.
Anne finally summons Mr. William Gray on the 23rd of April. They discuss money matters and Anne instructs Gray to prepare a little codicil to her will, which gives Mr. Gray and Ann power (as executors and trustees) to sell her property in Halifax and pay off the mortgage and debts. Anne and Ann then decide to visit Marian in North Cave, near Market Weighton and stay there overnight.
They return to York on the 24th of April and Anne writes to Mr. Gray to inform him that she would like to see him the following morning. When Anne goes to get their wills so Mr. Gray can review them, Ann mentions to Gray her intention to move property to Anne’s name.
Anne apparently didn’t expect that Ann would mention the subject to Gray so soon:
Anne’s idea is to find a way to protect Ann from interference from anyone:
Gray’s opinion on the matter is, however, quite straightforward:
It’s important to note that Ann’s father’s will protected large portions of her Estate against fortune hunters, which meant that it was likely that she could only transfer to Anne the unentailed property. However, Ann’s will already gave Anne significant power over her estate:
In a similar fashion, Anne had also entrusted Ann with significant power:
Unfortunately for them, Ann transferring property to Anne would not be seen the same way as what happened when a woman married a man. Their union wasn’t recognized or known so, to prevent other people from getting their hands on Ann’s estate, they had to use a different strategy.
William Gray suggests that Ann sell the properties to Anne, which would then guarantee that the decision couldn’t be reversed:
Gray’s logic makes sense in light of a potential Commission to ascertain Ann’s mental faculties. If the property was moved to Anne’s name and Ann was proven to have been of “unsound mind” before such date, then the transfer would probably be liable to be reverted. Ann would still end up with her property being managed by Chancery and by her "tutors" and Anne wouldn’t be able to do anything to prevent it or to help Ann.
After William Gray explains this, Anne muses that he must think that she is trying to take advantage of Ann, but she lets the idea go:
The priority becomes helping Ann and going away as soon as possible, as Ann’s state still isn’t improving. Anne wonders how she will manage to get everything done as she also cares for Ann:
On the 3rd of May 1839, Ann tells Anne that she wishes she was under care:
Despite all this, Anne and Ann continue to go about their lives. Their time is spent in their usual activities of managing their estates, reading, walking or riding to places, and handling business with tenants and servants. Ann’s lowness isn’t abating and, on the 6th of May, Anne once again coaxes her into eating her lunch:
The following day, Anne’s urgency to get Ann away from Halifax is palpable:
Despite this, Ann still rides to Cliff Hill as usual. At dinner, they share a bottle of the champagne they bought on their last trip to France. Ann gets a bit tipsy and Anne ensures that she’s comfortable:
On the 8th of May, Ann’s appetite is back and she seems to be feeling better:
By the 10th of May, Ann seems to have improved a bit:
Anne’s sister Marian’s visit to Shibden Hall gives Anne a small respite. While Marian is at Shibden and keeping an eye on Ann, Anne can then focus on preparing for their upcoming trip and on estate management. Then, on the 19th of May, Anne gets so worried about Ann that she doesn’t leave her out of her sight:
On the 20th of May, the situation isn’t improving and Anne resolves to be off on the following Saturday:
The following week goes by amidst estate management and preparations for the upcoming trip. Anne and Ann are obliged to delay their departure and Anne informs her sister that they should still be at Shibden for another week. Then, on the 28th of May, Ann’s lowness has Anne helping her getting dressed:
It is also on this date that Anne writes to Hammersley’s and Co. to ask them to write to the Foreign Office and get her and Ann’s passport. Ann is described as Anne’s niece and their destination is finally fixed:
By the 1st of June, Anne starts to wonder if Ann is getting cold feet regarding their upcoming trip:
On the 2nd of June, Ann asks Anne not to mention their trip to her aunt:
That evening, Ann’s lowness is evident again, but this time Anne muses that maybe this is due to Ann wanting to go away sooner:
By the 6th of June, Anne is starting to feel a bit frustrated with the situation:
On the 9th of June, Anne finally mentions their upcoming trip to Ann’s aunt, Mrs. Ann Walker, but she remains vague as to their departure date so the old lady cannot interfere:
Anne and Ann start to pack for their trip on the 13th of June. During this period, Anne divides her time between finding and packing her belongings and Ann’s, managing the estate, and caring for Ann. It’s in the midst of all this work that, on the 16th of June, Anne finds herself once again frustrated at having to balance everything:
On the 18th of June, Anne’s presence is, apparently, comforting to Ann in some way:
Anne spends the 19th of June finishing packing and siding stuff. She never goes to bed. In the early hours of the 20th of June, Anne and Ann are ready to go on their adventure. They take their time having one last cup of tea at Shibden and then make a slight change to their plans:
Anne Lister, the mistress of Shibden Hall, had left her beloved estate under the cover of night with no idea that she would never lay eyes on it again. In the margin of the entry of the 20th of June, a solitary note written by Anne marks her departure: