Anne Lister & Ann Walker: Their Coats of Arms and quest for Pedigree
Lynn ShoulsPublished on 18 December, 2020 · Last updated on 18 December, 2020
Anne Lister was acutely aware of her social status: many of her journal entries reveal both her standing in society and the relative rank or class of her contemporaries. Where did this sense of her standing come from? What did Anne know about her pedigree? And what did the family coat of arms mean to her?
When I visited Shibden Hall and Halifax in the autumn of 2019, I came across the Lister family coat of arms in several places. It seemed clear that the coat of arms was important to Anne, but I was left wondering why that was so, and what the design of the coat of arms signified. Research on this narrow point inevitably led to the consideration of Anne’s pedigree, and, from there, some reflection on her status and her sense of self.
Estimated reading time: 40 minutes.
This article describes active research and the facts and details included have and will continue to be updated as new information is uncovered. If you come across any other relevant information that can help clarify or expand the topics below, please get in touch.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Much has been written about Anne Lister’s character. She is known to have been highly intelligent and independent. She was a keen scholar, an astute and formidable businesswoman, an intrepid traveller, as well, of course, as being a prolific diarist and lesbian.
Anne was sent to school at the age of seven, where she was said by a school friend (as recorded in Anne’s journal) to be “a singular child, and singularly dressed, […] very quick and independent […] [she] whistled very well; a great favourite of Mrs Chettle”¹. From an early age, Anne was “different”.
Anne was acutely aware of, in her own words, her “oddity”. In the Regency and the subsequent era of George IV, upper-class women were expected to be genteel, quiet, passive, domesticated, graceful, feminine and decorous, and typically women did not benefit from a good education². Women rarely had any involvement in business, political, or legal affairs, and upon marriage, they typically transferred ownership of any property to their husband.
By contrast, Anne Lister was masculine in her appearance, her “gentlemanly” manners, her dress (always predominantly black³, unless strict propriety or occasion dictated otherwise), and her outlook. She was an extrovert, voluble, flamboyant, charismatic, energetic - all in all, somewhat striking. She was also highly educated and was well versed in classical and other languages, mathematics, medicine, anatomy, music, engineering, theology, law, and a wide range of other subjects. Anne was also actively involved in a web of business and other interests: coal mining, quarrying, estate management, road building, and investment (e.g., canals). Particularly in the 1830s, Anne was engaged in politics. She was conservative and religious, valuing social respectability, while at the same time rather unorthodox, for the period, in her conduct and her lesbian attachments. She was entirely confident in her sexuality and was determined never to marry⁴.
Anne was socially highly capable, entertaining, and - usually - a popular and welcome visitor. Social visits in and around Halifax formed an important part of Anne’s routine life whilst at home, and she called on the Rawsons of Stoney Royd, the Edwards of Pye Nest, the Walkers of Lightcliffe, and a tight circle of others. However, particularly once she inherited Shibden from her Uncle James in 1826, she felt keenly that her landed gentry status and her long family lineage afforded her a significant social advantage over these more newly monied companions who had acquired their wealth through industry and trade. She believed that she could “do better”.
Anne was highly attuned to her status in society, and, understanding the societal hierarchy of the day, sought to improve her connections and to move in aristocratic circles. Although her journals occasionally note some self-doubt about her manners and behaviour when mixing with such people⁵, self-elevation mattered a great deal to her, and her shrewdness, energy, and self-confidence equipped her to pursue such relationships with some considerable success, both in England and abroad.
So, where did this sense of self, and Anne’s self-esteem, originate from?
- “Miss Lister of Shibden Hall, Selected Letters 1800 - 1840”, Edited by Muriel M. Green
- Background reading: “Moving Between Worlds: Gender, Class, Politics, Sexuality and Women’s Networks in the Diaries of Anne Lister of Shibden Hall, Halifax, Yorkshire, 1830 - 1840”, by Catherine A. Euler
- "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”, Anne Lister, 2 September 1817.
- "Anne [Belcombe] sat by my bedside till 2. I talked about the feeling to which she gave rise. … Said I should never marry. Could not like men. Ought not to like women … made out a pitiful story altogether & roused poor Anne’s sympathy to tears.” (15 August 1816)
- “I felt myself, in reality, gauche, and besides, in a false position. I have difficulty enough in the usage of high society and feeling unknown, but I have ten times more on account of money … I will eventually hide my head somewhere or other … The mortification of feeling my gaucherie is wholesome.” (29 April 1832) via Gentleman Jack - The Real Anne Lister, by Anne Choma
From an early age, Anne was fiercely proud of her family’s landed background, and her lineage. Even when young, Anne was interested in her pedigree⁶, and she felt considerable pride in the family’s long-standing ownership of Shibden. Her landed gentry status, particularly after inheriting the Shibden estate in 1826, afforded her appreciable local importance, influence, prestige, and power.
Wishing to prove the continuation of her family’s pedigree, and, later, to update it, Anne wrote to the College of Arms in 1816, and corresponded with the herald from then until 1825, and later, in 1834, 1835, and 1838.
The College of Arms is the heraldic authority for England, Wales, Northern Ireland, and many Commonwealth countries. Founded in 1484 by King Richard III, to this day it grants coats of arms and maintains official registers of arms, family pedigrees, and genealogies.
The oldest of these registers dates back to the sixteenth century, and the registers are updated as new pedigrees are submitted for registration. In some cases, pedigrees are recorded to prove an inherited right, such as a peerage. But in many cases, pedigrees are placed on record simply to subject them to independent checking and to preserve them in a central register for the benefit of future generations.
Whilst staying at Lawton Hall, Anne wrote to the College of Arms on 13 June 1816, “being anxious to have my pedigree properly proved”. To have a pedigree placed on official record at the College of Arms one must engage the services of an officer of arms who will research and draft the pedigree in the required format and advise on the documentary evidence needed to support it. The officer, or herald, will then submit the documentary evidence to the Chapter of the College which will appoint two other officers of arms to examine it. The two examiners will each go through the pedigree in detail, calling for documentary proofs of each fact and relationship that is to be recorded. If the officer believes that aspects of the evidence are not satisfactorily proven, they may call for additional research to be undertaken. Once the examination is complete, the pedigree is scrivened into the pedigree registers and becomes part of the official records of the College.
Anne Lister went through precisely this process in 1816 and 1817. The College of Arms being extremely rigorous in requiring evidence of ancestral lines, Anne was obliged to produce a great many proofs of births, marriages, deaths, and familial lines, and extracts from parish records and local registers, to prove her lineage. In March 1817, the herald with whom Anne had been corresponding, Rouge Croix Pursuivant, William Radcliffe, confirmed that he had “the pleasure to report that the Pedigree of Your Family has passed the Ordeal of Probation, and received the Order of Chapter for its entry upon the Record. It is now in the Custody of Registrar waiting its Turn for that Purpose”, but that an important link was missing:
The only material statement in the course of the Pedigree not yet proved, is that Joseph Lister of Lower Brea was the son of Samuel Lister by Susan Drake, and the examiner’s note standing under his description at present is in these words “not yet proved to have been the son of Samuel Lister of Shibden Hall”.
Anne was given guidance on how to complete the chain, which she did, and in April 1817 the College wrote to Anne’s Uncle James, “I have the pleasure to transmit you herewith the Copy of the Pedigree of your Family from the record lately made thereof in this College and the hope it will meet your expectation…”.
In 1824 Anne wrote to Radcliffe, noting her understanding that he was working on an edition of “Dugdale’s Heraldic Visitation of Yorkshire, 1665-1666; together with considerable additions”, and offering to subscribe to this work. More research is needed to ascertain whether Anne did subscribe to that particular edition, and what entries, if any, noted her pedigree; but it is apparent that Anne wanted her pedigree to be publicly recorded in this work. In the early 20th century, J.W. Clay⁷ edited and republished “Dugdale’s Visitation of Yorkshire”, and the Lister family is captured in this edition.
The College of Arms’ record confirms that the pedigree was completed in 1817, with additions made in 1838, and was signed as true in November 1838 by “A Lister”. The records also include a painting of the crest and arms, beneath which the motto scroll reads “PROPOSIT TENAX”.
Correspondence between Anne (and her Uncle James) and the College of Arms forms part of the West Yorkshire Archive Service’s collection and is listed and described, and transcriptions of the Listers’ letters are available, under the heading “Timeline of Correspondence” immediately below.
Timeline of correspondence to and from the College of Arms
The following timeline tracks Anne’s known correspondence with The College of Arms. William Radcliffe was one of the heralds of The College of Arms and bore the title Rouge Croix. Whilst transcriptions are available below for Anne and her uncle’s letters, unfortunately transcriptions of those written by Rouge Croix are potentially subject to copyright restrictions.
13 June 1816 (WYAS - SH:7/ML/B/2 - transcription)
Letter from Anne Lister, dated Lawton, 13 June 1816, to William Radcliffe, Rouge Croix, College of Arms, London. Referring to Radcliffe’s/The College of Arms’ advertisement in one of the York papers, and “being anxious to have my own pedigree properly proved”, Anne enquires about the cost of the work involved. She is aware of the heralds’ visitation to Shibden in 1666, and of the blazon of the family’s coat of arms, and wishes to know how her branch of Listers came to bear the “canton gules” on the arms.
15 June 1816 (WYAS - SH:7/ML/B/3)
Letter from William Radcliffe dated London, 15 June 1816 to Anne Lister, at Lawton. The herald has mistaken Anne for a “Sir”. He estimates that the cost of proving and recording the continuation of Anne’s will be between seven and twelve pounds, and cautions that the precise figure will depend on how many wills and Parish registers will need to be assessed. He comments briefly on the probable origin of the canton gules.
3 July 1816 (WYAS - SH:7/ML/B/4 - transcription)
Letter from Anne Lister, dated Lawton, 3 July 1816 to William Radcliffe. Anne enquires what steps she needs to take for the herald to commence work, and briefly describes the lineage from Richard Lister in 1439 to Samuel Lister of Shibden Hall in 1666, and the descent of Anne’s branch of the family from Samuel’s second son, John.
30 July 1816 (WYAS - SH:7/ML/B/5/1 - transcription)
Letter from Anne Lister, dated Lawton, 30 July 1816, to William Radcliffe. Anne chases the herald for a response, as she hasn’t received a reply in “so long a period” as four weeks. She is “anxious to communicate [Radcliffe’s] instructions” to her uncle.
1 August 1816 (WYAS - SH:7/ML/B/6)
Letter from William Radcliffe, dated London, 1 August 1816, to Anne Lister, at Lawton. Radcliffe notifies Anne that he will need substantiated evidence of the existence of John Lister (son of Samuel Lister) and that he has therefore requested from York the necessary extract from Samuel Lister’s will. He asks that Anne collect evidence and dates of Lister births, marriages and burials, and any evidence of family settlements that may be available; and he suggests a visit to Shibden Hall in the autumn.
12 August 1816 (WYAS - SH:7/ML/B/7)
Letter from Jn. Dawson, dated York, 12 August 1816, to William Radcliffe, with which he encloses extracts from the will of Samuel Lister.
22 September 1816 (WYAS - SH:7/ML/B/8 - transcription)
Letter from Anne Lister, dated Shibden Hall, 22 September 1816, to William Radcliffe, Darley Hall, Barnsley. Anne acknowledges receipt of Radcliffe’s letter of 1 August and states that her uncle will be glad to see him at Shibden. She asks Radcliffe to let them know when they can expect him.
6 October 1816 (WYAS - SH:7/ML/B/9)
Letter from William Radcliffe, dated Darley Hall, Barnsley, 6 October 1816, to Anne Lister, at Shibden Hall, in which he says that he will be in the vicinity of Shibden Hall in about the next four days and that he will have pleasure in calling on Anne’s uncle or her (whom Radcliffe’s letters still address as “Sir”), “whichever may be in the way” (i.e. whichever of them will be available).
3 December 1816 (WYAS - SH:7/ML/B/10)
Letter from William Radcliffe, dated London, 3 December 1816, to Anne Lister, at Shibden Hall. Having met Anne, Radcliffe finally addresses her as “my dear Miss Lister”! He asks Anne to “pardon poor Rouge Croix” for his delay whilst he has attended to longer outstanding matters. He has outlined the head of Anne’s pedigree; however, having found the evidence that Anne has provided (in order to support the statements in the pedigree) to be “very inadequate”, he requests a long list of “Proofs Wanting”, such as evidence of marriages, deaths and burials, and family connections. He promises to return submitted papers “perfectly safe”. Finally, Radcliffe asks Anne to present his “kind remembrance to your Uncle and Aunt”.
5 December 1816 and 7 January 1817 (WYAS - SH:7/ML/B/11/1)
This document is a note of the “proofs wanting” - it may have been a working draft. At the beginning it bears the date 5 December 1816, and at the end are Anne’s initials and the date 7 January 1817.
25 January 1817 (WYAS - SH:7/ML/B/11/2)
This is a long document listing the proofs wanting and detailing the evidence that Anne has collated, dated Shibden Hall, 25 January 1817.
27 January 1817 (WYAS - SH:7/ML/B/12 - transcription)
Letter from Anne Lister, dated Shibden Hall, 27 January 1817, to William Radcliffe. In this letter, Anne explains that she hasn’t been able to get to Halifax to consult the registers because both she and Uncle James have been unwell, and confined to the house, for a few weeks. Although Anne fears that Radcliffe might be unable to do more than improve the “head” of the pedigree, she hopes to receive news of a favourable assessment.
12 March 1817 (WYAS - SH:7/ML/B/13)
Letter from William Radcliffe, dated London, 12 March 1817, to Anne Lister, at Shibden Hall. Radcliffe notifies Anne that two out of three stages for the pedigree to be entered in the College’s records have been completed: “the Pedigree of Your Family has passed the Ordeal of Probation, and received the Order of Chapter for its entry upon the Record. It is now in the Custody of Registrar waiting its Turn for that Purpose”. He stipulates one material and a handful of minor statements in the pedigree which remain to be proved. Radcliffe concludes with a request that his compliments be passed to Anne’s uncle and aunt and her sister Marian.
17 March 1817 (WYAS - SH:7/ML/B/14/1 - transcription)
Letter from Anne Lister, dated Shibden Hall, 17 March 1817, to William Radcliffe. Anne explains that she can provide ample evidence of a Joseph Lister being the son of Samuel Lister who moved to Shibden Hall in 1612, and dismisses the “minor statements” required to be proved as “of too little importance to be worth the trouble of further investigation”.
21 March 1817 (WYAS - SH:7/ML/B/15)
Letter from William Radcliffe, dated London, 21 March 1817, to Anne Lister, at Shibden Hall. Radcliffe informs Anne that her last letter was quite satisfactory and that the pedigree is in the process of being recorded. He encloses a bundle of papers, which he believes “may afford you some little amusement”.
25 March 1817 (WYAS - SH:7/ML/B/16/1 - transcription)
Letter from Anne Lister, dated Shibden Hall, 25 March 1817, to William Radcliffe of the College of Arms, London. Anne confirms receipt of Radcliffe’s letter and the bundle of papers and looks forward to the news that the record of the pedigree is completed. She would like to receive a copy of what is entered on the records, “officially drawn out with the arms emblazoned”. She mentions that the heralds’ visitation in 1666 noted the arms without a motto, and tells Radcliffe “we have taken Propositi Tenax”, and that she would like to have it added. Finally, she asks how much her uncle (!) owes for the work done.
23 April 1817 (WYAS - SH:7/ML/B/17)
Letter from William Radcliffe, dated London, 23 April 1817, to James Lister, at Shibden Hall. Radcliffe sends the family’s pedigree, copied from the record recently made at the College, and encloses a note of his fees.
29 April 1817 (WYAS - SH:7/ML/B/18/2 - transcription)
Letter from James Lister, dated Shibden Hall, 29 April 1817, to William Radcliffe. Uncle James confirms receipt of the pedigree, but lists a number of inaccuracies: as document SH:7/ML/B/18/3 is a draft of this letter in Anne’s handwriting, it likely was she who identified the errors. Uncle James ends by inviting Radcliffe to stay at Shibden Hall when he is in the area and mentions “the place as one of the most ancient in this neighbourhood”.
2 May 1817 (WYAS - SH:7/ML/B/19/1)
Letter from William Radcliffe, dated London, 2 May 1817, to James Lister, at Shibden Hall. Radcliffe apologises for the errors and requests the return of the paperwork and the provision of some further documentary evidence. He ends by saying that he had intended to write “a few words to my fair original Correspondant [sic] A Lister Esq.”, and begging his “best regards to the Ladies”.
6 May 1817 (WYAS - SH:7/ML/B/20/1 - transcription)
Letter from Anne Lister, dated Shibden Hall, 6 May 1817 to William Radcliffe. Anne asks about the use of the terms “Esq.” and “Gent.”, and gives some family examples of each; about Dr Whitaker’s Yorkshire; and about the importance of the family’s “first Richard’s” lands in Hipperholm being “in the graveship of Hipperholm, but the township of Northowram”.
6 May 1817 (WYAS - SH:7/ML/B/21 - transcription)
Letter from James Lister, dated Shibden Hall, 6 May 1817, to William Radcliffe. Uncle James encloses extracts from the Halifax register, and other documentary evidence, which are required to correct the errors identified, likely by Anne, in the pedigree produced in April; and requests that a copy of the record (pedigree) be contributed to Dr Whitaker’s Yorkshire.
15 May 1817 (WYAS - SH:7/ML/B/22)
Letter from William Radcliffe, dated London, 15 May 1817 to Anne Lister, at Shibden Hall. Radcliffe is unable to explain the “jumble” in the use of “Esquire and Gents”, other than that Anne’s father, Jeremy, is an Esquire due to his military commission. He agrees to remove the minor errors when he next visits Shibden when he will also try to help Anne with pursuing the pedigree further back in time.
20 May 1817 (WYAS - SH:7/ML/B/23/1 - transcription)
Letter from Anne Lister, dated Shibden Hall, 20 May 1817, to William Radcliffe. Anne’s uncle has asked her to confirm receipt of the roll of papers, that errors have been corrected, and that all is now as he wished.
8 June 1817 (WYAS - SH:7/ML/B/24/1 - transcription)
Letter from Anne Lister, dated Shibden Hall, 8 June 1817, to William Radcliffe. Anne apologises for missing a letter enclosed by Radcliffe with the papers he’d sent. She says that they will be happy to see him at Shibden over the summer and that she would dearly like to prove the family’s descent from the Craven family.
13 August 1824 (WYAS - SH:7/ML/B/25/1 - transcription)
Letter from Anne Lister, dated Shibden Hall, 13 Aug 1824 to William Radcliffe, at Barnsley. Anne notes her uncle’s wish to subscribe to Radcliffe’s proposed edition of “Dugdale’s Heraldic Visitation of Yorkshire, 1665-1666; together with considerable additions”; reminds Radcliffe that whilst he is researching Yorkshire genealogies in general, information on Anne’s line might occur to him; and tells him of the deaths of her mother, uncle Joseph, and his widow since 1817.
24 March 1825 (WYAS - SH:7/ML/B/26)
Letter from William Radcliffe, dated London, 24 March 1825, to Anne Lister at Shibden Hall. Radcliffe sends Anne a list of subscribers to his proposed edition of Dugdale.
13 April 1825 (WYAS - SH:7/ML/B/27/1)
This is a list of subscribers to Radcliffe’s proposed edition of Dugdale’s Heraldic Visitation of Yorkshire, and a printed page includes an entry for “James Lister, Esq. Shibden-hall”.
12 November 1825 (WYAS - SH:7/ML/B/28/1 - transcription)
Letter from Anne Lister, dated Shibden Hall, 12 November 1825, to William Radcliffe. This is a friendly letter. It includes a request that the deaths of Anne’s uncle Joseph, his widow, and Anne’s mother be inserted in the pedigree, and advises that Anne has so far gained no further information on the family’s descent from the Craven family.
1 December 1825 (WYAS - SH:7/ML/B/29)
Letter from William Radcliffe, dated Wakefield, 1 December 1825, to Anne Lister, at Shibden Hall. Radcliffe is optimistic that information on the early part of Anne’s pedigree will arise during his work in Yorkshire and promises to impart it if so.
Anne touched on the topic of her pedigree, her correspondence with the College of Arms, and her efforts to establish her familial lineage, in her journals from time to time from 1817 to 1838 (see Appendix: Timeline of journal entries). It is interesting, although perhaps not surprising, given Anne’s known tendency to rigour and accuracy in her record-keeping, to see how some of the correspondence and the journal entries correspond.
Anne's Coat of Arms
A coat of arms was the perfect status symbol, traditionally used to communicate the bearer’s wealth, standing and prowess. When Anne started work on completing her family pedigree in 1816, she was already familiar with her family having proved their “right to arms” in 1666. With the imagery and arcane terminology of heraldry, Anne writes in her letter to the College of Arms:
“I am not aware that any entries of my family have been made in your College since the last visitation in 1666, when the arms of Lister of Shibden Hall, near Halifax / Ermine, 3 mullets or on a fess sable, and a canton gules / were duly acknowledged and registered –”.
It is clear that her family coat of arms was of considerable interest to Anne, and the Lister coat of arms appears in several places at Shibden Hall and Halifax Minster.
The precise date of the building of Shibden Hall is unknown, but the deeds to the property¹ date back to 1420. The estate came into the Lister family by marriage in 1619. Anne Lister made many changes to the Hall and the estate, including improvement of the housebody (main hall) with a grand staircase, oak panelling, and carved figures, and adding her carved initials and the Lister motto, chosen by Anne, “justus propositi tenax” (“just and true of purpose”).
The newel post at the foot of the staircase, which was designed for Anne by the architect John Harper and carved by John Wolstenholme of York⁹, is the Lister lion holding a shield; this figure is made from Norwegian oak. A similar lion, holding the same shield, and carved in stone in (also commissioned by Anne, in 1837¹⁰), stands outside, by the gateway into the terraced gardens surrounding the house.
This shield is also painted onto the stone mantelpiece of the fireplace in the Red Room (this was done during the Lister family ownership¹¹), and the shield’s design forms the centrepiece of the funerary hatchment displayed in the corridor leading to Anne’s bedroom.
The full coat of arms appears, alongside others, in the ceiling of Halifax Minster. It is thought that it was placed there in memory of James Lister, who died in 1729, and there is a monument bearing his name and arms at the south-west corner of the church.
Interestingly, Muriel M. Green’s¹² “Miss Lister of Shibden Hall, Selected Letters 1800 to 1840” shows a picture of a bookplate that Anne had made, the design again based on the shield part of the family coat of arms. One of Anne’s bookplates is preserved in the West Yorkshire Archive Service collection of Anne Lister papers:
On close inspection of the bookplate, we can see that the golden mullets and the red canton are depicted in black and white hatchings, respectively, as follows:
These formal heraldic monochrome hatchings were devised in the early 17th century to denote colours which were expensive to print. Anne might herself have known about this formal system of colour representation but, if she did not, the designer and/or printer commissioned to prepare the bookplate did. Anne would certainly have wanted the work done properly.
And for a silver trowel to be given to Ann Walker on the occasion of Ann laying the first stone of the casino to be built at the Northgate Hotel in September 1835, Anne devised an inscription which included “an impression of my arms”:
The fact that Anne commissioned several objects bearing part of her coat of arms reveals a level of interest and pride in this image.
Lister Coat of Arms composition
A coat of arms comprises the crest and the arms. According to the records of the College of Arms, the (Anne) Lister family coat of arms is formally blazoned thus:
The Crest: Upon a Wreath of the Colours a Stag’s Head erased proper charged with a Trefoil Gules
The Arms: Ermine on a Fess Sable three Mullets Or a Canton Gules
The heraldic terms used here in bold text are described below. Here is a reminder of the coat of arms, and a stylised version, clearer to decipher, created by Biljana Popovic.
The Wreath is the twisted band, typically of two colours, just underneath the stag’s head
The Colours are the principal colours of the arms
The Stag is thought to represent wisdom and long life
The Stag’s Head erased means that the stag’s neck is depicted with a ragged edge, as if torn from the body
The term proper refers to the natural, or lifelike, colour of the thing depicted. Here, the stag’s head is coloured brown, the typical colouration of a stag
Charges are emblems added (or charged) to a shield or background
A Trefoil is a three-leaved plant. This emblem is not visible on the photograph taken from the ceiling of Halifax Minster, but it might have looked like this symbol:
Ermine is the winter fur, white with black tips, of a stoat
Fess is the horizontal band across the centre of the shield
Sable is the colour black
Mullet is a five-pointed star
Or is the colour gold
Canton Gules: Canton means a square shape, and Gules means the colour red, so Canton Gules is the red square at the top left of the shield. This symbol is used to distinguish Anne’s branch of the Lister family from the arms of other Lister families.
Anne was interested in this “canton gules” – her letter of 13 June 1816 to the College of Arms asked:
“Perhaps you may have some record, shewing how and when we came to bear the canton – We certainly did not bear it originally, nor for many years after we branched off from the Listers of Gisburme, and settled near Halifax at Ovendeyne, nor Ovenden, near Halifax, about the year 1399; but might possibly become entitled to it, as a mark of difference, when Samuel Lister, who is mentioned in Dugdale, first settled at Shibden Hall in 1612, and became the immediate ancestor of the present possessor”.
According to a note of The Halifax Antiquarian Society¹³, the canton (and the trefoil) were added to indicate that the Listers of Shibden Hall were not direct descendants of the Lister to whom the crest and arms were first allowed.
Symbols and their meaning
My initial curiosity, on finding Anne’s family’s coat of arms around Shibden and in Halifax, was about the meaning or significance of its design and components. As it turned out, the College of Arms advised me that the meaning behind the designs of armorial bearings is rarely recorded, if there was ever any meaning at all. The earliest and simplest coats of arms were devised purely for visual recognition, for example on the battlefield or in sporting tournaments, and usually bore no more meaning than a jockey's colours or a football player’s shirt do today. This does not necessarily suggest that there was no rationale behind the choice of design and the component parts, but only that it has not been recorded, at least not by the College of Arms.
Ann Walker's Coat of Arms
Anne Lister’s courtship of Ann Walker, and the course of their life together, are well documented elsewhere¹⁴.
Over time, Ann became interested in heraldry and applied to the College of Arms for registration of her coat of arms. Although it is not known whether Anne Lister engendered this interest in Ann, we do know that Ann worked on her pedigree and contacted the College of Arms in 1838 (see Appendix: Timeline of journal entries), even meeting with the herald Blue Mantle in London in May of that year. Given Anne’s class consciousness, and her awareness that, in committing to Ann by a “marriage”, Anne was, in the context of the period, “marrying down”¹⁵, it is possible that she encouraged Ann to elevate her standing by establishing a pedigree and coat of arms of her own.
According to records of The Halifax Antiquarian Society¹⁶, the coat of arms pictured below (and rendered artistically by Biljana Popovic) was granted to “Miss Ann Walker, of Cliffe Hill and Crow Nest, Lightcliffe”, in about 1842.
The brass plaque, a monument to Ann Walker’s ancestors, can be found in the Halifax Minster.
Also, as visitors may notice, Halifax Minster’s ceiling is adorned with several panels displaying coats of arms. However, the Walker coat of arms is not one of these. Many of the panels were painted in the 17th and 18th centuries, and Ann Walker’s coat of arms was not even granted until 1842: the College of Arms holds a copy of Letters Patent dated 9 December 1842, declaring the grant of arms and crest to Ann Walker of Cliffe Hill in the parish of Halifax, a spinster, youngest daughter, of the late John Walker and sister and coheir of his son, also John, of Crow Nest.
The College of Arms’ records also note that Ann had petitioned for the authorised arms and crest to be granted, in order to properly use them on a monument to her late father, and for them to be borne by his descendants. The text which accompanied the grant of arms to Ann Walker stated that the arms and crest previously borne by the family had not been registered with the College as belonging to them. This may mean that the family had borne the rightful arms of another Walker family from whom they could not prove their descent.
According to the records of the College of Arms, this coat of arms is formally blazoned thus:
The Crest: On a wreath of the colours a greyhound passant argent semy of mullets and gorged with a collar gemel sable
The Arms: Argent on a chevron nebuly between three crescents sable as many mullets or
The Motto is Per ardua virtus, meaning “virtue through difficulties”
The Wreath is the twisted band, typically of two colours, just underneath the greyhound
The Colours are the principal colours of the arms, here argent and sable
The Greyhound is said to denote courage, swiftness and loyalty, and was representative of nobility. More generally, a dog is said to represent fidelity and reliability
Passant describes the stance of a beast walking past, usually with the right forepaw raised, and typically facing to dexter
Argent is the colour silver
Semy means strewn over with several images
Mullet is a five-pointed star
Gorged means “having a collar”
Collar Gemel means two narrow collars
Sable is the colour black
Argent is the colour silver
Chevron is an inverted V-shaped band
Nebuly refers to wavy or undulating edges
Crescent is a half-moon shape with the points uppermost
Sable is the colour black
Mullet is a five-pointed star
Or is the colour gold
The overall arms can therefore be described as a white background, with a black chevron with nebuly (cloudy/wavy) edges, between three black crescents. On the chevron are three gold mullets.
Following Ann Walker’s death in 1854, her nephew, Evan Charles Sutherland, inherited the Walker estate. As a condition to the inheritance, as stipulated by Ann Walker’s will, and in order to be authorised to use the Walker coat of arms, Evan added “Walker” to his name, obtaining this right by royal licence. This royal licence also granted the right to bear the arms of Walker “quarterly in the first quarter”, and such arms were required to be first exemplified and recorded in the Herald’s Office. In 1883, Evan Charles and his son, William Tudor, gave formal notice that they wished to discontinue use of the name Walker, and presumably, therefore, lost the right to use this coat of arms.
The Coat of Arms of Miss Lister & Miss Walker upon their union
Anne Lister noted in her journal on 12 February 1834 that she and Ann Walker were to exchange rings as a symbol of their union, and they did so on 27 February 1834. They took communion together at the Holy Trinity Church, Goodramgate, York on Easter Sunday, 30 March 1834, to seal their union and to solemnise their commitment to one another.
In 1834, there was no recognition of same-sex marriage. However, we can consider first, how the coats of arms might have been treated, upon marriage, had one of the parties been male and, second, how the coats of arms of two same-sex people might appear, on marriage, today.
In 1834, the rules on “combining" the coats of arms of the parties (male and female) on marriage were (and still are) as follows: if an 'armigerous' man (i.e. a man who bears arms) married the daughter of another armigerous man, then the usual way to represent their arms together was to divide a shield in two with a vertical line, and place the husband's arms on the dexter (the viewer's left) and the wife's on the sinister (the viewer's right). The couple's issue would inherit only their father's arms since arms normally descend down the male line only.
An exception to this was if the wife of the couple had been granted arms herself, or, as was more likely in 1834, had no surviving brothers or any surviving nephews by deceased brothers. At this point, the woman became the representative of her father's blood, as did equally any sisters she had. She was known as a heraldic heiress. Instead of combining her arms with her husband's by splitting the shield in two, as described above, a heraldic heiress placed her arms on a smaller shield which sat in the middle of her husband's arms.
Today, a woman who contracts a same-sex marriage may bear arms on a shield divided vertically in two, with half of each party’s arms on either side (or, if either party is a heraldic heiress, by placing her arms in the centre of those her wife).
Anne Lister and Ann Walker’s marriage was not legally recognised, and their coats of arms were never combined. However, thanks to the talent of Biljana Popovic, we can picture how Anne and Ann might have chosen to reinterpret and combine their coats of arms upon their marriage:
Anne Lister’s life was – to us, today – extraordinary, and remarkable for its unconventionality. At the same time, despite her unorthodox manners and behaviours, she wanted, somehow, to fit in and to be socially accepted (both locally and amongst the aristocratic circles she sought to enter). One way in which she established a sense of herself, at least, involved going down the highly traditional and rarefied route of proving her pedigree through the College of Arms. And yet, even in doing this, she pushed the boundaries: it seems likely that the College of Arms did not, at the time, typically receive enquiries from women.
Furthermore, displaying a coat of arms was a rather traditional visual means of seeking to influence how others should perceive her. For all of Anne’s pride in her heritage and her apparent self-confidence, she still had something to prove, both to herself and to others.
Appendix: timeline of journal entries
28 December 1816 (WYAS - SH:7/ML/E/26/3/0014)
“My uncle and I went to Mr. Wilmot’s (in the square) to consult the registers - Got there a little after 11 and staid till near 3.”
3 January 1817 (index entry) (WYAS - SH:7/ML/E/26/3/0024)
“Went to consult registers.”
7 January 1817 (WYAS - SH:7/ML/E/26/3/0015)
“My uncle and I got to Mr. Wilmot’s soon after 11, and staid looking over the registers till after 4 in the afternoon.”
8 January 1817 (index entry) (WYAS - SH:7/ML/E/26/3/0024)
“My uncle paid Mr. Wilmot.”
13 January 1817 (index entry) (WYAS - SH:7/ML/E/26/3/0024)
“Writing an answer to R.C-’s [Rouge Croix’s] 22 queries.”
20 January 1817 (index entry) (WYAS - SH:7/ML/E/26/3/0024)
“Finished my answer to R.C-’s 22 queries.”
27 January 1817 (index entry) (WYAS - SH:7/ML/E/26/3/0024)
“Sent the letter to R.C- answering his 22 queries.”
15 March 1817 (WYAS - SH:7/ML/E/26/3/0024)
“but wrote the rough draft of a letter to Rouge Croix.”
16 March 1817 (WYAS - SH:7/ML/E/26/3/0024)
“In the afternoon wrote my letter to Rouge Croix.”
17 March 1817 (WYAS - SH:7/ML/E/26/3/0024)
“My aunt … took my letters to the post - one to R.C. Herald’s College and one to M-”
24 March 1817 (WYAS - SH:7/ML/E/1/0003)
"Wrote the copy of a letter to Rouge Croix Herald’s College in answer to one from him this morning - to say the court rolls were sent by the mail - they arrived safe this afternoon."
25 March 1817 (WYAS - SH:7/ML/E/1/0003)
“My uncle took to the post my letter to the R.C. Herald’s College Chose Propositi tenax for the family motto.”
26 April 1817 (WYAS - SH:7/ML/E/1/0007)
“Got back to tea, and brought home with me the tin case (just arrived by the Manchester coach from London) containing the official copy of the record of our pedigree as it is entered in the college. We are all much pleased with it and the whole expense is but 27-18-0 - all which Rouge Croix seems to have paid in fees and other expenses, except 5-5-0, his own fee for his trouble of compilation etc”
29 April 1817 (WYAS - SH:7/ML/E/1/0007)
“spent the rest of the morning in looking over the pedigree sent by Rouge Croix and in copying out a letter for my uncle to write to Rouge Croix acknowledging the receipt of the thing on Saturday and enclosing a draught for 28 pounds. There are 7 trifling inaccuracies in the roll, otherwise it is perfectly well done and well worth the draft for £28. In the afternoon took my uncle’s letter to Rouge Croix, College of Arms, London, and after seeing it marked in the office, gave it to the boy who was just setting off on horseback with the London post”
4 May 1817 (WYAS - SH:7/ML/E/1/0009)
“Mrs Bagnold sent up a letter from Rouge Croix (London) in a frank directed to me, but he, being in a hurry, had only time to write to my uncle to acknowledge the receipt of his letter and draft sent on Tuesday - to say he had got the errors mentioned corrected in the college records (except that of Thomas Lister and Mary Ramsden being children of Thomas Lister by his 2nd wife Phoebe (Wood) instead of Sibill (Hemingway) which having been wrong entered by Edward Hanson at the visitation of 1666 would require extracts from the registers and any other evidence we might have, to prove the error before it could be corrected) and to desire the roll might be sent back, the mistakes might be amended as handsomely as possible”
6 May 1817 (WYAS - SH:7/ML/E/1/0009)
“Wrote a letter for my uncle to write to Rouge Croix - After breakfast wrote a longish note to Rouge Croix and kept a copy - as also a copy of the letter my uncle wrote - My uncle sent off the roll, and our 2 letters enclosed, to Rouge Croix College of Arms, London, this morning by the mail -”
19 May 1817 (WYAS - SH:7/ML/E/1/0012)
Received from London the pedigree roll, corrected by Rouge Croix - no letter inclosed - Everything done right, except in the instance of our 1st Richard - where it is said that ‘Hipperholm is a graveship in the township of Northowram.’ It ought to have been, as I expressly mentioned in my note to Rouge Croix, Northowram a township in the graveship of Hipperholm - Spent the afternoon in look[in]g over the pedigree and making notes - Some from Volume 2, Leland’s life of Philip, dated Shibden Hall, Monday 12 May 1817’.”
20 May 1817 (WYAS - SH:7/ML/E/1/0012)
“Wrote a few lines to Rouge Croix to acknowledge the receipt of the roll yesterday - … Sent my letter to Rouge Croix in the afternoon in time for today’s post -”
5 June 1817 (WYAS - SH:7/ML/E/1/0016)
“My uncle Lister in shewing him the pedigree and entirely unrolling it, discovered a letter to me from Rouge Croix, dated 15 May, but which we did not find before in consequence of its being enclosed in the 1st fold of the parchment - of course Rouge Croix would think my very brief acknowledgement of the receipt of the parcel and my making no mention of his letter somewhat odd I shall therefore write tomorrow or Sunday and explain the thing”
8 June 1817 (WYAS - SH:7/ML/E/1/0016)
“Before breakfast wrote a letter (and took a copy of it) to Rouge Croix”
9 June 1817 (WYAS - SH:7/ML/E/1/0016)
“My uncle took my letter to Rouge Croix to the post in the morning”
26 April 1822 (WYAS - SH:7/ML/E/5/0123)
“At 12 1/4 went to Mr. Buckle’s office in the minster yard wanting to look at some old wills in hope of finding [some] that might throw some light upon our pedigree – … n[ea]rly two hours there, and after reading over 11 wills, found nothing satisfactory”
12 August 1824 (WYAS - SH:7/ML/E/8/0030)
“Then wrote the copy of a letter to Mr Radclyfffe late Rouge Croix”
13 August 1824 (WYAS - SH:7/ML/E/8/0031)
“Wrote about one page to Mr Radclyffe, late Rouge Croix, to say my uncle desired to give his compliments and he beg he would take an early opportunity of inserting his (my uncle’s) name on his list of subscribers to his proposed work “Dugdale’s Heraldic Visitation of Yorkshire 1665 - 1666””
16 March 1834 (WYAS - SH:7/ML/E/17/0008)
“civil note from Mr Waterhouse with the catalogue of Mr. Radcliffe’s (quondam Rouge Croix) catalogue of MSS and letters etc.”
16 May 1834 (Female Fortune by Jill Liddington)
“In a letter to Mariana Lawton: [Shibden is] my own place where my family had lived between 2 & 3 centuries, I being the 15th possessor of my family and name”
2 June 1834 (WYAS - SH:7/ML/E/17/0040)
“wrote (and sent) note to Lowe the tailor as from my father ordering 1/2 gross large crested buttons … and an undress suit of livery … - sent at the same time my uncle’s crest die for the buttons”
19 January 1835 (WYAS - SH:7/ML/E/17/0148)
“Then looking at the pedigree and setting Ann to copy the arms till 11 5/..”
6 August 1835 (WYAS - SH:7/ML/E/18/0075)
“then drove to the Herald’s college … 2 officers of the college there ready to answer inquiries … the one who was chief speaker who gave his address … was Mr. G. H. Rogers Harrison … began by asking to see my own pedigree hoped that mr. Radcliffe, then rouge croix had done all right … asked Mr. Harrison to make out the connection with the Ribblesdales and any other connection he could … then asked about the arms of Walker, and set A- to work - the arms borne by the W-s of Walterclough argent a chevron sable charged with 3 garbs or not be found under the name of W- but of the Crownest W- arms evidently the original arms of W- varied in many ways - A- to make out what she can, and send it to Mr Harrison - thought she can connect herself with a Thomas W- registered in the college as having purchased arms being of Bow near Stratford Middlesex in 1714 - arms granted… that year - ”
26 September 1835 (WYAS - SH:7/ML/E/18/0104)
“Said I would send him the trowel tonight with the copy of the inscription and an impression of my arms … I wrote out the following inscription for the trowel -
To Miss Ann Walker the younger,
of Cliff Hill, Yorkshire
For laying the first stone of the Casino, to be annexed to the Northgate Hotel,
at Halifax …”
19 December 1835 (WYAS - SH:7/ML/E/18/0147)
“Letter tonight from the Herald’s college from Mr George H Rogers Harrison fearing that, as I had said in August last when at the college I would in a month send the family pedigree to have some additions made - either there was some mistake or if the roll had been sent it might be lost”
30 December 1835 (WYAS - SH:7/ML/E/18/0152)
“the by 3 40/.. had written sealed and directed and copied into my business letter book Letter to “George H Rogers Harrison Esquire Blue Mantle Herald’s College London post paid Wednesday 30 December” … my letter to Bluemantle thanks for his of the 18th instant - on my return in August last, my being in London soon again seemed probable so kept the pedigree roll to put it into his hands myself -”
13 January 1836 (WYAS - SH:7/ML/E/18/0160)
“then set with Ann reading the 1st 45 pages of Brydons Heraldry that came this afternoon from the library by George - ”
26 April 1836 (WYAS - SH:7/ML/E/19/0033)
“A- sat copying out of Robson’s British Herald the different coats of arms borne by the different families of Walker -”
1-2 May 1838 (WYAS - SH:7/ML/E/21/0089)
“… then began to pack. Ann had done hers and now sat working at, and finishing her pedigree for Mr Harrison, Blue Mantle, which took her till near 3 on Wednesday morning … then at 4 looked into my journals for the deaths to be entered into my pedigree by Mr Harrison”
4 May 1838 (WYAS - SH:7/ML/E/21/0090)
“… then to the Herald’s college … Mr Harrison Bluemantle came at 11 and waited 10 minutes or more - then staid 1/2 hour - took away with him Ann’s sketch of pedigree which she had done very neatly, and took my pedigree to enter the deaths”
Glossary of terms
Arms - the part of a coat of arms which is in the shape of a shield.
Blazon - A conventional formal description of heraldic arms.
Coat of arms - A hereditary device, typically borne upon a shield, these are colourful trappings of medieval chivalry, shrouded in obscure terminology and arcane meanings. This system of arms developed in Northern Europe in the mid-12th century for the purpose of identification on the battlefield and in sporting tournaments such as jousting. Heraldic devices are inheritable, passing from, typically, father to son, like lands and titles, and thus serve as an identifier of a specific lineage. Different branches of a family could be distinguished by adding small symbols onto the shield.
Dexter - The left-hand side of an object when viewing it.
Funerary hatchment - A diamond-shaped tablet, with black border and background, displaying the coat of arms of a dead person. Funerary hatchments were usually used only by the nobility or gentry who bore arms and were usually hung outside the deceased’s house for a year before being moved to the parish church. The last resident of Shibden, John Lister, had three Lister hatchments returned from the parish church to Shibden. According to an article by Rowland Bretton published in the Halifax Daily Courier and Guardian of 7 June 1952, it is not known with absolute certainty that the hatchment displayed at Shibden today was that of Anne Lister. It is possible that it is that of Anne’s aunt, also Anne Lister.
Herald - An official who oversees the use of coats of arms and other armorial bearings. It was the role of the herald to know, recognise, and record these coats of arms and, later, grant and regulate them. “Herald” is a colloquial term for the title of one of the thirteen Officers of the College of Arms. The official titles are somewhat arcane and colourful, and the herald with whom Anne shared protracted correspondence had the title “Rouge Croix Pursuivant”.
Heralds visited each county in England from 1530 to 1687, roughly every generation, in order to oversee the use of arms and to record pedigrees of the gentry. Heralds visited Yorkshire in 1666. At Shibden Hall, they recorded a pedigree going back four generations of Listers and confirmed the arms to the Listers around that time. Anne refers to this visit in her letter dated 13 June 1816 to “Rouge Croix”.
Heraldry The formal system that records and regulates the use and display of hereditary symbols used to distinguish individuals, armies, and institutions.
Pedigree - The recorded ancestry or lineage of a person or family.
Scriven - Written.
Sinister - the right-hand side of an object when viewing it.
Tincture - Colour. A very limited range of colours is used in heraldry.
Gentleman Jack - The Real Anne Lister, by Anne Choma
Anne Lister and The Split Self (1791 - 1840) - A Critical Study of Her Diaries, by Anne Choma
Female Fortune - Land, Gender and Authority, The Anne Lister Diaries and Other Writings, 1833 - 1836, by Jill Liddington
Miss Lister of Shibden Hall, Selected Letters 1800 to 1840, edited by Muriel M. Green
Moving Between Worlds: Gender, Class, Politics, Sexuality and Women’s Networks in the Diaries of Anne Lister of Shibden Hall, Halifax, Yorkshire, 1830 - 1840, by Catherine A. Euler
The Halifax Antiquarian Society, “Local Heraldry”, by Rowland Bretton, 1929
The Heraldic Panels in the Halifax Parish Church, by Rowland Bretton, 1936
The London Gazette, No. 21833, 1 January 1856
The College of Arms website
Shibden Hall, Halifax, West Yorkshire - Calderdale Council
See also the author's talk about the Lister's Coat of Arms at the Anne Lister Research Summit from 27 September, 2020:
The completion of this article involved significant contributions by others, and I am enormously grateful to the following:
Marlene Oliveira, who has most generously shared a range of articles, transcriptions, research materials, and her wide knowledge, and has patiently given of her time and technical expertise.
Dr Helen M. Parkins for her review of the composition of this article.
Jude Dobson, for her research on Ann Walker’s coat of arms, and for sharing it.
Biljana Popovic, for her creative, artistic, and technical skills, and for permitting me to use her stunning visual interpretations of the coats of arms.
West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale, for giving their permission to include transcriptions of letters written by Anne and Jeremy Lister.
Jennifer Briasco, for transcribing so much correspondence between Anne Lister, and James Lister, and the College of Arms, and for sharing the transcripts and permitting me to use them.
Lynne Miller, for sharing interesting and amusing findings on heraldry.
Tiffany April and Leila Straub, for sharing transcriptions and directing me to journal entries.