Anne Lister's and Ann Walker's Wills
Marlene OliveiraPublished on 20 November 2021 · Last updated on 2 June 2023
Testamentary papers offer a rare glimpse into their owners' finances and social connections and often highlight important familial links, friendships, and partnerships.
Anne Lister's and Ann Walker's respective wills have been known for quite some time and some of these documents' most interesting and peculiar provisions have been discussed occasionally. However, the decision-making process both women employed until they reached what would become the probate version of these wills has mostly been disregarded. Anne Lister took a long time to arrive at what would become the probate version of her will. Ann Walker was more constant with hers, often pondering changes which were not always applied, and seemed to be more consistent with the provisions she included. In the end, both documents highlight these women's commitment to each other, as well as their concern with keeping their estates in the hands of family.
In this article, we explore their decision-making process as they change their wills over the years to suit their needs and we also provide a few insights regarding some of the provisions included in these interesting legal documents.
Estimated reading time: 60 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.
A previous version of this article can be consulted here.
Wills and Prerogative Courts 101
In the 19th century, death was very much a common part of daily life. Testators would give their last wishes some thought and would make wills with specific provisions, in an attempt to ensure that their wishes were respected in case they died before their time. Sometimes, they considered their last wishes from an early age. People of means perhaps did so more often and in a more comprehensive manner than the less fortunate, given that they had an interest in securing whatever property they had. Land, houses, money, jewellery, plate, clothes, and other goods were often bequeathed to family and friends, and, in some cases, a part of the testator's estate could be sold to pay the debts they left behind. Thus, making a will was a matter of great importance and deserved careful reflection before the legal document was drafted and ultimately signed.
The Society of Genealogists defines a will as a legal document which includes a person’s wishes as to how their property is to be disposed of (Society of Genealogists 2021). The process of proving a will and disposing of the property of the deceased according to their wishes is known as probate (Society of Genealogists 2021). Wills proven for this purpose are referred to as “probate wills” and often include many interesting and useful details, such as the name of the testator, the names of their executors, and details about their property.
When a person died intestate (i.e. without leaving a valid will), the people interested in dealing with the deceased’s estate could apply to receive letters of administration, also referred to as grant of administration or grant of representation (Yap 2020). This legal document granted the authority to dispose of the deceased’s property to the people who applied to the court and were approved as administrators (ibid). Within the circle of the deceased, the person who stands to inherit the most is responsible for requesting the letters of administration (often the spouse of the deceased) (ibid). If the deceased doesn’t have a spouse, the responsibility of requesting the authority to deal with their estate falls to the person or people with the closest familial relationship to the deceased (children, grandchildren, parents) (ibid). In 1830, Frances Esther Walker (née Penfold), who was Ann Walker's sister-in-law, followed this process to request letters of administration after John Walker Jr. died. She was then granted permission to administer John's property, as well as pay his debts and funeral expenses. A copy of these letters of administration is part of the Crow Nest collection, held at the Calderdale office of the West Yorkshire Archive Service (CN:89/25).
In the 19th century, the church handled the disposal of property up to a specific amount. However, when the testator’s property surpassed this or they owned property in different dioceses, the matter was handled by Prerogative Courts (Wikipedia 2021). These were the courts with jurisdiction to handle the grants of probate or letters patent (ibid). Perhaps the most famous of these courts is the Prerogative Court of Canterbury, which fell under the authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and had jurisdiction over the south of England and Wales. This was the only court in the land dealing with wills and administrations from 1653 to 1660 and its archives hold many specimens of wills of people who died abroad and in England up to January 1858 (The National Archives, n.d.). Aside from this court, there was also the Prerogative Court of York, which also had jurisdiction over the disposal of the property of deceased persons.
In Anne Lister’s and Ann Walker’s time, these two Prerogative courts were part of a complex network of probate courts. Several Lister and Walker wills were proven at either or both courts.
Anne Lister's will
Lister family matters were of the utmost importance to Anne Lister, and the matter of inheritance was certainly no exception. Throughout the 1810s and 1820s, Anne advised several family members as to how they could make their wills and dispose of their property in a manner that seemed, to her, efficient and advantageous. Some examples of this are suggestions made to Joseph Lister in April 1817 (Lister 1817 Apr 24), James Lister in 1820 and 1822 (Lister 1820 Jul 21; Lister 1822 Mar 08), and Jeremy Lister in 1824 (Lister 1824 Mar 08), among others. Anne would also benefit from the wills of a few uncles and aunts, some of whom bequeathed her small sums of money¹. The largest and most important of these bequests was made by her uncle James Lister of Shibden Hall, who effectively ensured that she would inherit the Shibden Hall Estate, albeit with a few constraints until Anne’s father and aunt Anne Lister senior passed away (Prerogative Court of York 1826 May).
Anne Lister’s own will had many iterations, some of these coinciding with heartbreak, changes of station in life or commitment to a companion. One of the earliest versions of Anne’s will was created in 1822. In this iteration, Anne decided to leave money and annuities to her longtime lover Mariana Lawton. Anne had pondered this over the course of a few days and signed her will not long before she left Yorkshire for France, in what would prove to be a short-lived trip with Jeremy and Marian Lister.
By 1824, Anne Lister was sure that she would be the heir of Shibden Hall². Thus, she convinced her father to leave his whole estate to her sister Marian Lister (Lister 1824 Mar 08). From the Listers of Shibden Hall, Anne thought that Marian would only get a legacy of £100 (£50 + £50) from their uncle James Lister and their aunt Anne Lister, respectively (Lister 1824 Mar 11). Anne’s speculation regarding Marian Lister’s potential legacy from their uncle James proved to be wrong and Marian wasn’t named in James Lister’s probate will (Prerogative Court of York 1826 May).
James Lister of Shibden Hall died on the 26th of January 1826, which prompted Anne to rethink her own will. On the 28th of January, she had already determined that she would make a new will and would leave everything to her aunt Anne.
On the 30th of January, Anne writes a draft of her will. This time, Anne’s bequests benefited her father, her sister, and also several of her lovers. Mariana Lawton was still included in this version of Anne’s will, but the value of her legacy had been reduced to a mere £20. The main beneficiary and sole executor of Anne’s will would be her aunt, Anne Lister senior.
At the time, Anne was responsible for Shibden but didn’t have access to the full income the estate generated. Per James Lister’s will, dated the 3rd of August 1822 and proven on the 6th of May 1826, Anne was the sole executrix of her uncle’s will and would inherit all he owned (both real and personal estates) (Prerogative Court of York 1826 May). Her father would receive the rents and profits of Shibden Hall and her aunt Anne was to receive all rents and profits from Northgate³, along with James Lister’s shares and securities in the Calder and Hebble Navigation (ibid).
This version of Anne Lister’s will became a topic of conversation the following May, when Anne and Mariana Lawton discussed the Listers’ income. Anne was confident that she could provide for herself and her aunt. She was also confident that she could provide for Mariana, if she decided to live with Anne at Shibden Hall. As long as Mariana committed to living at Shibden with Anne and didn't marry again, Anne would revise the clauses of her will to ensure that Mariana received a larger bequest.
It is also during this conversation that Anne learns of Mariana's unhappiness with the small legacy Anne bequeathed her in that version of her will.
During this same conversation, Mariana Lawton tells Anne Lister that she has made her own will and bequeathed to Anne all she possessed, for as long as Anne should live (Lister 1826 May 01). This discussion with Mariana evolves into Anne considering several aspects of a possible new iteration of her will. For one, Mariana would get a larger legacy than she did in the January 1826 version of Anne’s will. Unless Mariana was named executor or guardian of Anne’s heir at law, Anne also pondered removing the clause regarding the forfeiture of the annuity in case Mariana remarried.
Anne's idea of making changes to her will was cemented and, by the end of June 1826, she was giving instructions to Jonathan Gray⁴ (Solicitor, York) to make a new version of her will. The alterations in this version included changes to the list of executors and trustees, and an annuity for Mariana Lawton.
Anne had also decided to consult Gray with regards to her intended heir at law:
In 1826, the “present John Lister of Swansea’s heir” was Dr. John Lister (1802-1867), who would meet Anne in Paris in 1830. It is important to note that, using Anne's description, the “unborn heir” would be John Lister, MA (1847-1933), who ultimately inherited the Shibden Hall estate after his father’s death in 1867.
By ensuring that the property would pass to this branch of the Lister family, Anne would be honouring a promise she made to her late uncle James, whose wish it was that the Listers of Swansea should inherit the estate (Lister 1831 Jul 08).
In the journal entry of the 1st of July 1826, Anne includes an encoded note regarding the instructions she gave to Jonathan Gray:
Anne’s alterations to her will provide a clear idea of the intended line of succession. The Listers of Wales would be the principal beneficiaries of this iteration of Anne’s will and would inherit, as intended by Anne’s uncle James, the Shibden Hall estate.
Years earlier, in 1821, Anne had spoken to her uncle James about his ideas for his own will. James had apparently considered giving Northgate to the Welsh Listers and ensuring that they got enough income to live there until the Shibden Hall estate eventually passed to them in full. The idea was explained to Anne Lister by her aunt Anne and, at the time, the thought didn’t please the young Miss Lister:
As we know, James Lister ultimately decided to bequeath the Shibden Hall estate to Anne herself, so this displeasure of Anne’s was instead replaced by an intent to honor the promise she made to her uncle and that is precisely what she ended up doing.
In the alterations Anne mentions on the 1st of July 1826, if the Listers of Wales passed without leaving heirs of their own, the property would then be Marian’s for life and then, on Marian's death, it would be passed along to Marian’s eldest child. Provided that Marian left no issue, Mariana Lawton would then have the estate for life and could lease it by will if she so wished, as long as she ultimately left it unconditionally to Anne Lister’s heir at law.
Both Marian Lister and Mariana Lawton would receive annuities. Marian Lister would receive £300 a year, paid after Jeremy Lister’s death, and Mariana Lawton was to receive £100 a year, paid after Anne Lister senior's death. Anne’s father and Aunt Anne were also not forgotten. Aunt Anne was to have full control of the estate and, in case he outlived his sister, Jeremy Lister would receive the rents and profits for life. Each of Anne Lister’s trustees was to receive £100.
In 1830, Anne was once again thinking about making changes to her will. In conversation with her aunt Anne, she mentions her intent to leave the estate to someone who is willing to make a similar commitment:
By the summer of 1831, Anne had made up her mind to change the terms of her will yet again. This time, she engaged a proctor from York, Mr Lawton⁵, to make her will. As had happened some years earlier with Jonathan Gray, Anne also gave clear instructions to Mr Lawton. These are included in the journal entry of the 7th of July 1831:
Here Anne makes it clear that Shibden Hall is not to be let, but kept in good repair and occupied by someone; if not the heir, then servants chosen by the Executors should live there. The specifics connected to the management of woods, collieries, and stone quarries were also explicitly detailed. When it came to heirs, Anne decided to leave the remainder to the heir at law of her great-grandfather. The sum bequeathed to the Executors was also upgraded from £100 to £500 each.
More details about this iteration of Anne’s will surfaced in conversation with her longtime friend and sometimes lover Isabella Norcliffe. On the 8th of July 1831, Anne writes:
Faced with Marian Lister’s rejection of the annuity of £300, Anne decides that the best course of action is to cut her off her will and do the same to her father. Anne’s decision to leave another annuity and legacies by codicil allowed her to make changes later, without needing to republish her will.
Having made up her mind about the clauses to be included or excluded in this iteration of the will, Anne gave more instructions to the proctor during the month of July 1831. On the 21st of July, the proctor sends Anne instructions for her will, which unfortunately had been travelling for days along with fish and the smell of the papers was offensive enough to encourage Anne to burn the envelope (Lister 1831 Jul 21). On the 23rd of July, Anne received a new letter from the proctor (Lister 1831 July 23), this time advising her to write her instructions by hand, and “shewing the will when made to clever counsel”. Anne would then meet Mr Lawton, the proctor from York, on the 29th of July 1831.
In August 1831, Anne is getting ready to travel again and she instructs Mr Lawton to expedite the process and send her the draft of the will as soon as possible:
In conversation with Mr John Waterhouse of Wellhead in September of 1831 (Lister 1831 Sep 06), Anne informs him that he is one of her executors, along with Mr William Priestley. However, this version of Anne’s will remained unsigned in February 1832 (Lister 1832 Feb 19). At the time, cholera was a very real threat to travellers and locals alike, and Anne, staying at Hastings with Vere Hobart, saw her plans to travel abroad still very much unsettled as her relationship with Vere continued to go through some turmoil. Anne made her uneasiness about her will known to her aunt and mentions a short will she had made as a backup:
At the end of April 1832, Anne was making her way back home from Hastings after Vere Hobart broke her heart. Along the way, she stops and calls on a few friends, including Mariana Lawton. During that visit, Anne and Mariana once again discuss the matter of Anne’s will. Unsurprisingly, Anne was inclined to make changes yet again. After deciding that Marian Lister would not get anything from her will of 1831, Anne had a change of heart and pondered what to bequeath to her sister.
An interesting detail captured in this passage from April 1832 is Anne’s intent to leave her estate for life to whomever chose to settle and live with her, whether it be Mariana Lawton or someone else entirely. The Listers of Wales would only inherit the estate after Anne’s companion’s death.
After a coolish reception at Lawton and a few days at Shibden, Anne travels to Croft Rectory, Croft-on-Tees (near Darlington, North Yorkshire), and spends some days with the Norcliffes and the Daltons. It’s in conversation with Tib that Anne mentions yet another decision that affects her will: she will not leave Mariana Lawton an annuity.
In June of 1832, Anne wrote to Mr Lawton, the proctor from York, and asked him to meet her. She intended to discuss the will Mr Lawton had written for her, barely a year earlier. In the meantime, Anne pondered the current state of her will and commented to Charlotte Norcliffe that she had made her peace with not including Mariana.
In October of 1832, Anne Lister had a new lover and new plans for her own will. As she courted Ann Walker, the topic of the alterations Anne Lister intended to make to Shibden Hall come into conversation as well as to whom the estate shall pass after Anne dies. The Listers from Wales are still Anne's intended heirs, but she proposes to offer Ann Walker the Shibden Hall estate for life, provided that Miss Walker settled with Anne.
At this point in the courtship of Miss Walker, Anne thought that she might finally have a companion for life. Ann Walker, who was in a very good position to meet the criteria of “value received or an equivalent settlement” mentioned by Anne in 1831, seemed to be inclined to commit to Anne Lister too. However, Anne Lister’s courtship of Ann Walker didn’t evolve into a more serious and formal commitment until the first months of 1834.
At the start of February 1833, Ann Walker would part ways with Anne Lister and travelled to Scotland to seek medical treatment and spend some time with her sister’s family (Choma 2019, 238). Anne Lister had decided to travel again and had her heart set on Denmark or, if circumstances permitted, a long-awaited adventure in Russia. Before she left for the Continent, Anne stopped at York and made new changes to her will. This time, Jonathan Gray would be in charge of ‘remodelling’ Anne’s will.
With the removal of the Trustees, Anne’s will would not include any mention of people connected to Vere Hobart⁶. Robert Parker, Anne’s solicitor from Halifax, would be included as Executor. This version of the will still did not include the codicil that stipulated to whom annuities and/or legacies would be paid. This is evident in a conversation with Mariana Lawton, on the 20th of June 1833:
Anne Lister would go to Denmark and have her adventures interrupted by a letter from Marian Lister informing her of their aunt Anne’s dire state of health (Choma 2019, 292). Convinced that her beloved aunt would die, Anne travelled back to Shibden Hall in a hurry. However, this proved to be a false alarm. Anne's aunt would live for another three years and Anne’s rushed return to Shibden Hall ensured that she would reconnect with Ann Walker at the end of 1833.
1834 brought Anne Lister the companion for life she had desired for long. That year, Anne and Ann Walker would eventually solemnize their union by taking the sacrament together in York, on the 30th of March 1834. With their union solemnized and rings exchanged, Anne Lister and Ann Walker discussed changes to their respective wills, which would grant specific privileges to each other.
In March of 1836, Anne and Ann gave instructions to Jonathan Gray to have new versions of their wills drafted. In this new version of Anne Lister’s will, Ann Walker was to become a trustee and to receive a life interest:
The death of John Lister senior (1771-1836) also meant that the entail in Anne’s will would require some adjustments. The Listers of Wales would continue to inherit the estate, as per James Lister’s wishes. Per Anne’s wishes, the property would then pass to Dr. John Lister (1802-1867) and, as we know, thence it would eventually pass to John Lister, MA (1847-1933).
The management of the Shibden Hall estate after Anne’s death is also one of her concerns, given that Aunt Anne was not in a state to do so and Anne herself feared that Marian Lister’s potential future husbands could meddle. Thus, she decided that Ann Walker should have the power to manage the Shibden Hall estate on Anne’s death. Miss Walker would also be charged with caring for Aunt Anne as Anne Lister herself would.
As we can see in the journal entry above, the clause to remove Ann Walker’s life estate and trust was an addition that both women agreed to. Furthermore, an identical clause existed in Ann Walker’s will to remove similar powers from Anne Lister if she were to marry after receiving a life estate and trust from Ann Walker. These clauses served a very specific purpose: to protect their estates from third parties who might attempt to make claims or to take over management of said estates.
In May of 1836, Anne and Ann were back in York to get their wills done for good. In this iteration of her will, Anne decides to choose an “entail general”, to include daughters as well as sons in the ‘line of succession’. The Listers of Wales are, once again, named Anne’s heirs. She once again refers to the inclusion of the clause that would give Ann Walker a life estate, accompanied by the clause that would divest Ann of this benefit if she married.
In April of 1839, Anne Lister added a new codicil to her will, but this wasn't the one that gave legacies and annuities to some of her loved ones. Instead, the new codicil's purpose was to handle the matter of Anne’s debts (Lister 1839 Apr 25). At the time, Anne was investing her income into several ventures, such as the renovations at Shibden Hall, the Shibden collieries, and the Northgate Hotel and Casino. These were considerable investments that made a serious dent in Anne’s finances and pushed her towards debt. While her investments didn't return sizable profits, Anne managed her affairs with the money received from rents and the sale of other assets (such as her canal shares) and was saved from possible bankruptcy at times by mortgages and loans from other people.
When faced with the very likely prospect of leaving sizable debts behind after her death, Anne decided to take action to preserve as much of her estate as possible and keep it away from creditors. Thus, she decided that a part of her estate should be sold if she died without leaving enough money to cover her debts.
This was the last change made to Anne Lister’s will. She would die almost a year and a half later, on the 22nd of September 1840, while she travelled in the Caucasus with Ann Walker. Her will was proven both in London (on the 17th of April 1841) and York (on the 13th of May 1841).
One such example is the sum of £20 bequeathed to Anne from her aunt Martha Lister of Shibden Hall (Board of Inland Revenue and predecessors 1809 Nov 29).
James Lister’s intent is clear in the journal entry of the 22nd of March 1822: “In talking things over after breakfast he said again he meant to leave my father only a life income and me the estate with the power of disposing of it and authorized me to tell my father so when I saw him next –” (Lister 1822 Mar 22). Then, on the 8th of May 1822, James executed his will: “Just before coming up to bed my aunt told me before my uncle that he had called at Mr. Wiglesworth’s and executed the will he made himself and brought him home with him on Saturday last — thank God for it — “ (Lister 1822 May 08).
Northgate House was formerly inhabited by Anne’s uncle Joseph Lister (1750-1817). There were some fields that were also part of the estate. These and the house were part of the Shibden Hall estate and, thus, fell under Anne’s control after she inherited it from her uncle James Lister. In the second half of the 1830s, Anne remodelled it and it became a hotel and casino.
Jonathan Gray (1779 - 1837) was a solicitor and Mayor of York. He was Anne Lister’s and Ann Walker’s solicitor in the mid-1830s and, among other things, assisted in the drafting of their wills. He was the first Hon. Treasurer of the Yorkshire Philosophical Society (Gray 1927, 108).
Note: This “Mr. Lawton” is not Charles Bourne Lawton, who was Mariana Lawton’s husband.
Lady Catherine Vere Louisa Cameron (1803 - 1888) (née Hobart) was the wife of Donald Cameron of Lochiel, 23rd Chief of Clan Cameron. Vere had met Anne Lister in 1829 and the two spent some time together in Paris and Hastings. Anne Lister was romantically interested in Vere, but the interest wasn’t mutual and eventually heartbreak ensued for Lister when Vere married Donald Cameron. Despite this, Anne and Vere remained friends for life.
Ann Walker's will
When it comes to Ann Walker’s will, it is important to remember that her estate is influenced by multiple different bequests that were attributed to her, in large part, long before she made her final will in 1841.
A portion of Ann Walker’s real estate was bequeathed to her by her father. This included several properties, both entailed and unentailed. When John Walker Jr. died intestate in 1830, it became necessary to understand who would inherit his real and personal estate. Unsurprisingly, Ann Walker would eventually inherit some of it when she became co-heiress of her brother’s estate. It is also important to acknowledge the division of property of 1835, which also influenced Ann’s right to dispose of specific properties. Furthermore, she also received a bequest of a few properties that belonged to her aunt Ann of Cliff Hill (Exchequer and Prerogative Court of York 1847 Dec 14).
A good example of bequests that add to Ann’s can be read in a compilation of instructions regarding the wishes of her aunt Mary Walker of Cliff Hill, who died in 1822. In one of these, Mary included the following note:
Her aunt Mary had also bequeathed to Ann Walker a legacy of £1000, which was paid, with interest, by Mary Walker’s executors in 1826 (CN:93/6).
From the executorship of her parent's estates, Ann received, among other things, considerable sums of money. When her mother died in 1823, it was Elizabeth Sutherland who requested and received the Letters of Administration to handle the disposal of her mother's estate (Prerogative Court of York 23 October 1824). At the time, Ann and John were both minors, which meant they couldn't act as administrators. Regardless, each of them received an equal sum of money from their mother's estate (£816.14.5, corresponding to a third of the total residue) (Stamp Office 23 October 1824).
From her father's estate and aside from bequests that included real estate or stocks held in trust, Ann Walker also received a considerable sum of money.
This sum of money was paid by the Executors of her father’s will, according to John Walker Senior’s wishes, from 1824 to 1829. It amounted to a total of £7796.4.0, including interest, and would be equivalent to around £1 095 042 in 2023. John Walker also added a codicil to his will stipulating that his daughters were to receive sums of £1000 from his stock in the Calder and Hebble Navigation Company:
Both bequests from Ann Walker’s father were specifically deemed to be for her sole use, which means that these sums of money would be out of the reach of any potential husbands.
Years later, Ann became executor and beneficiary of Mrs Ann Walker’s⁷ will (Exchequer and Prerogative Court of York 1847 Dec 14). From her aunt, she received a bequest of £1200, along with other sums in trust, and a bequest of household effects including:
As executrix of her aunt's will, it was Ann's responsibility to also pay debts, funeral expenses, probates, wills, legacies, legacy duty, etc, out of moieties coming from her aunt's personal estate and effects (ibid). However, when her aunt died in 1847, Ann was unlikely to be allowed to handle the disposal of her aunt’s estate due to having been deemed “a person of unsound mind” in 1843 and it was John Rawson, acting as Ann Walker's Committee of the Estate, who handled the probate of this will on her behalf (ibid). Thus, when Miss Walker had to decide which bequests to include in her will from 1841, she was neither lacking money nor real estate to dispose of.
The earliest example of Ann Walker's will is an unexecuted draft. Though the document is not dated, an estimate can be made using the names of the beneficiaries included in this draft will. At the time, Ann Walker was planning to bequeath portions of her estate to her Sutherland nieces and nephew, with the youngest named child being Elizabeth. Since the girl was born in October of 1832 and is the last child to be named in a bequest in this draft, it is likely that this document was produced sometime before autumn 1834 as the next Sutherland child (John) was born in September of that year and is not named in the document. Furthermore, before she left for the Continent with Anne Lister in 1834, Miss Walker deposited a will at Hammersleys and Co. (Lister 1834 Jun 12). Such a document had to be executed to be valid, so this draft is unlikely to be the same will that was deposited at Hammersley’s.
This draft version of Ann Walker's will is very different from her probate will (created in 1841) and many of the bequests and legacies from it are either altered or altogether absent from the probate. Furthermore, this document includes a few pencil notes that illustrate her decision-making as she perfected the bequests to better suit her wishes.
Similarly to what happens in her probate, Ann wanted to bequeath the majority of her real estate to her oldest nephew, George Sackville Sutherland. The boy was to inherit the vast majority of lands, tenements, and moieties in other real estate that were property of his aunt (Walker [19th century]). To her niece Mary Sutherland, Ann bequeathed a few moieties near Huddersfield (namely, her moiety of real estate in Golcar and Slaithwaite), as well as some other moieties of real estate located in Southowram, Greetland, Stainland, and Scammondere (ibid).
Nevertheless, Ann Walker had more things to consider:
The disposal of Ann's personal estate seems to have required some reflection from the testatrix. Ann initially seems to have considered leaving this in trust until Sackville came of age (Walker [19th century]; Walker n.d.). However, the question was not if he should inherit this, but how much he should pay by way of legacy to his sister Elizabeth when she became of age. Thus, Ann Walker considered a legacy of £500 or £1000 for her niece Elizabeth, which she intended to be paid by her nephew George Sackville on Elizabeth's 21st birthday (ibid). In a pencil note, Ann writes only "£1000", which seems to denote her decision regarding this legacy.
To her beloved niece Mary, Ann Walker ponders leaving her shares in the Calder and Hebble Navigation Company:
Mary was also to receive Ann's shares in the Halifax Theatre, as well as Ann's moieties of a few pews in the Halifax Parish Church (two pews in the middle aisle and pew no. 39, located in the south aisle) (Walker [19th century]).
Furthermore, Ann ponders the management of her estate and considers possible candidates to do it. Initially, she wonders if the management of her estate can be solely invested in her sister Elizabeth. Captain Sutherland is also considered and Ann thinks it might be advisable to bequeath him a sum of money or a life estate, to possibly be given by codicil (Walker n.d.). However, in the event that all the Sutherland children and her sister died and left no heirs, she thought the property would descend to William Priestley (ibid).
Another interesting part of this draft deals with intended legacies to family, friends, servants and workmen.
As we can see above, Ann's sister Elizabeth would receive £1000 on Ann Walker's decease. Ann's cousins Charlotte and Lucy Atkinson, daughters of Sam Atkinson of Huddersfield, would receive £600, Jane and Isabella Chapman would receive £200, Ann Plowes was to receive £100, and Ann's goddaughter (Henrietta Plowes) would get £300. The servants would receive £15 each, with the exception of old Mr Washington, who was supposed to get £50 on account of his "faithful services for upwards of 30 years" (Walker 19th century). These legacies, as well as a few others, amounted to a total of £2429.19.0 or the equivalent of around £347 963.80 in 2023.
The entail of this draft will is not too dissimilar from the one included in Miss Walker’s probate. It is shorter and not as detailed, but it entails most of the property to George Sackville Sutherland⁸ or to his heirs and, in the absence of such, the property would pass to his brothers and sisters and issue who may reside at Crow Nest (Walker 19th century). If all Sutherland children died underage or without issue, Ann's sister Elizabeth would inherit and, on Elizabeth's death, William Priestley would succeed her (ibid). From then on, Ann names a few other people who may inherit some parts of the estate in case everyone else before them is dead. These include John Priestley, his daughter Elizabeth and issue, Mary Rawson (the wife of William Henry Rawson), among others (ibid).
After Anne Lister and Ann Walker reconnected again at the end of 1833, their romantic relationship continued to evolve. In early 1834, Anne's and Ann's conversation about commitment to each other evolved, and the matter of their respective wills and bequests they could make to each other became an important topic.
On the 7th of January 1834, Ann discusses with Anne Lister some terms she intends to include in her will:
When Anne and Ann are in York on the 22nd of January 1834, Anne has a private discussion with Dr Henry Stephens Belcombe⁹ regarding Ann's competence to make a valid will. At the time, Ann was in need of some medical attention to handle some of her nervous ailments and the two women were preparing for Ann's stay at Heworth Grange, where she'd be privately and discreetly treated by Dr Belcombe.
While Ann is undergoing treatment at Heworth Grange, Anne Lister keeps an eye on both estates. Anne also keeps an eye on Mrs Ann Walker of Cliff Hill, who appeared to be somewhat suspicious of the circumstances that had her niece spending some time away from home (Lister 1834 Feb 05).
On the 28th of January 1834, Anne Lister calls on Mrs Ann Walker of Cliff Hill and they talk about Ann’s decision of making a will. However, on hearing about her niece’s intention to make a will and having Anne Lister as a possible executor, Mrs Ann Walker wonders if Ann’s will would be deemed valid, given her predicament.
It is not clear if Ann ended up making a will in the first months of 1834, but she did deposit a will at Hammersleys and Co. (Bankers, London) before she left for the Continent with Anne Lister.
In March of 1835, and amidst the division of property of the Walkers, Ann mentions to Mrs Ann Walker how her sister signed her property to Captain Sutherland (Lister 1835 Mar 13). During this visit, Ann also learns about Mrs Ann Walker’s will. It is during this conversation that Ann realizes that a misunderstanding had caused her aunt to intend to cut her off her will because she thought Ann had left everything she owned to Anne Lister. However, Ann explains that she bequeathed everything to her nephew George Sackville Sutherland and that she might leave a life interest to Anne Lister, in the event she didn’t marry and stayed with Anne.
In early 1836, Ann Walker’s will is once again subject of discussion. At the time, she felt it was worth republishing her will from 1834 in order to correct a few mistakes and to account for the division of property. Thus, on the 18th of March 1836, she would give Jonathan Gray (Solicitor, York) instructions for a new will:
It’s worth noting that Miss Walker had apparently erroneously kept the bequest that gave Mary Sutherland the moieties of her properties in Golcar and Stainland. Such bequests were curiously also part of her unexecuted draft will (Walker [19th century]). Ann also intended to make changes to the entail, ensuring now that the Sutherland boys had priority over their sisters, so the property would only pass to Mary Sutherland if all the Sutherland boys had died without issue.
Anne Lister would also receive more power to sell properties or make investments. She would also become a trustee and receive a life estate:
This is also the version of Ann Walker’s will that would include the clause that forfeited Anne Lister’s life estate and trust if she were to marry. As was mentioned previously, this clause was agreed to by both women when they gave instructions to Jonathan Gray regarding their new wills from 1836 (Lister 1836 Mar 18).
Besides the bequests and the entails she wanted to reformulate, Ann Walker had another concern: to ensure that Anne Lister would be the person managing her and her estate in case she was otherwise unable to do so.
It is important to note here that lunacy proceedings are an example of a legal procedure that could remove a person’s right to manage themselves and their estate. In case this happened, the people who would manage the alleged lunatic and their estate (Committees of the Person and Estate, respectively) would need to be approved by the Court of Chancery and confirmed by a Grant of Custody (Elmer 1844, 28).
As a potential compromise, Jonathan Gray proposed a deed:
The two women were to consider this option until Mr Gray called on them again the following day.
On the 19th of March 1836, Jonathan Gray calls on Anne Lister and Ann Walker again and brings with him the notes regarding their instructions for their wills. The matter of the deed discussed the day before is also talked about and Gray makes some notes, which he then gives the two women. This potential deed gives Anne some food for thought.
Having the matter of the deed to ponder until they made a final decision, Anne and Ann eventually leave York and will only return when this version of their new wills is ready.
In May of 1836, Ann would make more changes to this new version of her will. Some of the changes were mentioned by Anne Lister in her journal.
As Anne explains, changing from an “entail male” to an “entail general” ensured that daughters were also considered in the “line of succession” to inherit the estate of the testatrix. In Ann Walker’s case, the principal beneficiaries were the Sutherland children and their descendants. By applying this simple correction to the entail as she had considered in March of 1836, Ann ensured that her nephew Sackville and his descendants (male and female) would be beneficiaries before her nephew Evan Charles and his descendants, respectively. However, Ann’s nieces were not as privileged by the order Ann chose, given that they and their descendants would only be the next in line to inherit the estate in case their brothers died without leaving heirs.
Another important detail has to do with the constraints regarding life interests and what happened in case the beneficiary married. In the probate version of Ann Walker’s will from 1854, this provision is not present (Prerogative Court of Canterbury 1854 May 12). However, per Anne Lister’s commentary regarding the wills made in May 1836, this constraint was indeed accounted for (Lister 1836 May 04).
This version of Ann Walker’s will was signed on the 9th of May 1836, which meant it would be valid from then on. However, at the end of 1836, Anne and Ann discussed a republication of Ann’s will.
But Ann would, nonetheless, republish her will later that day:
In April of 1839, Anne and Ann went to York with the intent to speak with their solicitor, William Gray Jr.¹⁰, and secure some of Ann’s unentailed property to Anne Lister. That meeting with their solicitor served also to handle other legal and financial matters that Anne Lister wished to discuss.
In the morning of the 25th of April, William Gray analyzes Anne Lister’s and Ann Walker’s wills.
When Anne left the room to get their wills, Ann explained to Mr Gray what she intended to do.
It’s important to note here the mention of the “Lord Chancellor”, which hints at interference coming from a potential ruling connected to lunacy proceedings. People deemed to be lunatics or otherwise not in full possession of their mental faculties to manage themselves and their property would have a person or people appointed by the Court of Chancery to manage their affairs (Elmer 1844, 60). If Ann had succeeded in signing some properties to Anne Lister in 1839, this could be reversed if it was proven that, at that date, Ann's mental faculties weren’t sufficient for the management of her estate.
After taking some time to ponder the matter, William Gray would then conclude that such a voluntary transfer wasn’t advisable because it could be reversed. In his opinion, a sale would be a much better option, given that Ann would only need to dispose of the money.
After Anne Lister’s death, Ann Walker would arrive in Halifax in February of 1841 (Court of Chancery 1839 - 1840). By May of the same year, Ann was ready to change her will once again. Thus, she travelled to York and met William Gray Jr. at the Black Swan, and the matter was resolved (West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale 1840 - 1847). From Anne Lister's commentary and the version of Ann Walker’s will that was proven after her death in 1854, it is clear that Ann removed the sections of her will that benefited Anne Lister and named her as executor. Instead, Ann kept William Gray Jr. as the sole executor of her will.
7. Mrs. Ann Walker (1757-1847) was Ann’s aunt, who lived at Cliff Hill. She died in October of 1847.
8. George Sackville Sutherland (1831 - 1843) was the eldest son of Captain George Mackay Sutherland and Elizabeth Sutherland (née Walker) of Udale, Fortrose, Scotland.
9. Dr Henry Stephens Belcombe (1790 - 1856) was the only son of Dr William Belcombe of York. He was Mariana Lawton’s brother and Anne Lister’s trusted medical man. He inherited his father’s business and ran Clifton Green well into the second half of the 19th century.
10. William Gray Jr. became Anne’s and Ann’s solicitor after the death of his father, Jonathan Gray, in 1837.
Curiosities from Anne’s and Ann’s wills
The probate versions of Anne Lister’s and Ann Walker’s wills tell us the story of their decision-making process as they moved from an initial idea to what then became the probate version of these documents. Some of these decisions were preserved over the years but, as we have seen, many of the initial ideas were abandoned.
In Anne Lister’s case, the version of the will standing as probate was that of May 1836, which had three codicils attached, the last one being from April 1839. In this final version of her will, Anne kept the clause regarding Ann losing her life interest if she married.
At first glance, and without having the context of Anne’s decision-making process until she reached this final iteration, one might think that she did this to, in some way, ‘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 (Wikipedia 2021). Under this doctrine, married women had less autonomy to manage their estate if they married, because the wife and the husband became, in the eyes of the law, a sole entity (MacDonagh 2017, 16). Whatever value women brought to marriage would likely be controlled by their husbands, except if agreements were made in order to ensure that brides kept their property as their own after marriage and so retained their legal rights to those properties (MacDonagh 2017, 21). If a married woman inherited property during the course of her marriage, her husband would benefit from it, unless the bequest that conferred that property specified that this was for the benefit of the wife alone (MacDonagh 2017, 21). This eventually changed with the Married Women’s Property Act of 1882, which gave married women more power over their own property (“Married Women's Property Act 1882”, n.d.; Loudermelk, n.d.).
Considering that both Mariana Lawton and Marian Lister had, at one point, been the beneficiaries of similar bequests with similar constraints (losing said benefit if they married) and taking into account the journal entry of the 18th of March 1836 in which Anne mentions her concern with the management of the Shibden Hall estate, it is clear that the constraint Anne Lister added had more to do with a desire to protect the Shibden Hall estate rather than binding her sister or her companion to her person. If either of these women married after receiving the life interest in the Shibden Hall estate from Anne, their husbands would likely handle the estate and its profits themselves, which also meant that these men would have the power to leave their wives penniless. Whereas, if the women remained single, they'd retain their status of feme sole in the eyes of the law and, thus, would also retain their rights to manage the estate. Having a provision ensuring that the life interest is revoked in case of marriage ensured that the person whom Anne chose as beneficiary would never see the profits from this bequest being taken by a spouse. Thus, provided that that beneficiary never married, Anne's will ensured that the person she intended to benefit from the life estate would always have access to the safety net afforded by the extra income.
Notably, Anne Lister never added a codicil regarding the other bequests she intended to make (legacies and annuities) and which would benefit people close to her, such as Mariana Lawton and Marian Lister. Interestingly enough, in May of 1841, Ann Walker added to her own will a few bequests benefitting some people who were closer to Anne Lister than to herself. To Marian Lister and her assigns, Ann bequeathed an annuity of £300 for as long as Marian remained unmarried.
Despite not leaving a legacy to her own goddaughter, Ann Walker bequeathed a legacy to both Mariana Percy Belcombe¹¹ and Sibbella Cameron¹², who were Anne Lister's goddaughters.
These bequests are particularly interesting in light of Anne Lister’s decision-making process regarding her own will. As was mentioned in one of the previous sections, Anne had intended to bequeath to Marian Lister an annuity of the same sum (Lister 1826 Jul 01). To Mariana Percy Belcombe, Anne had at some point thought to bequeath a book (Lister 1822 Aug 25). When it comes to Sibbella Cameron, Anne congratulated Lady Vere Cameron on the birth of this child when she became aware of it (Lister 1838 Apr 10). Anne also kept a somewhat regular correspondence with Lady Vere Cameron and, on occasion, received in return an account of the little Camerons but, so far, confirmation that Anne attended Sibbella’s christening remains elusive and, considering Anne's travels during 1838 and 1839, it's unlikely that she had the opportunity to attend. However, it was possible for a third party to stand as “godmother by proxy” to a child (for example, Sibbella Maclean of Coll stood as godmother by proxy once¹³), which would be a possibility in this case. When it comes to bequests, no proof has emerged from Anne’s journals, so far, that indicates a clear intent to leave a bequest to little Sibbella Cameron, who was only two years old at the time of Anne Lister’s death. Since no proof has emerged to clarify if these bequests in Ann Walker’s will were a last request from Anne Lister herself, it is impossible to say what motivated Ann Walker to include them in the last iteration of her will.
As Anne Lister intended, the Listers of Wales inherited the Shibden Hall estate after Ann Walker died in February of 1854. However, in Ann Walker’s will, Dr John Lister is also a beneficiary. Ann bequeathed to him pew number one in the North Chapel (also referred to as the Rokeby Chapel) of the Halifax Parish Church. This pew was to be attached to the Shibden Hall estate and its ownership was subjected to the same terms as stipulated for the Shibden Hall estate in Anne Lister’s will.
The entails general both Anne Lister and Ann Walker used while determining the 'line of succession' in their wills also ensured that female heirs would be eligible to get their estates. At the time, male heirs were preferred to female heirs, given that the property bequeathed to them would be safe from the constraints of coverture (MacDonagh 2017, 16). Female heirs were less likely to inherit property, given that, as was mentioned previously, they were likely to lose their rights to manage such property after marriage (ibid, 16). Thus, women were more likely to inherit mobile property (furniture, plate, jewellery, etc) (ibid, 16). By clearly stating that female heirs were to inherit property solely for their own use, Anne and Ann ensured that these female heirs' rights to manage the property were preserved and the estates would be kept out of reach of these heirs' husbands (ibid, 21).
Aside from bequests to family and friends, Ann Walker’s will also included charity works. Ann instructed her executors to use her personal estate to acquire 3% of annuities in order to produce a profit of £10 per year. The dividends of these investments were to be paid to the owner of the Upper Crow Nest estate, as long as they were a Walker, and this person was to distribute the money among the poor at Lightcliffe Chapel (today’s Old St. Matthews Church) on Christmas day.
Though some of Ann’s ancestors left similar charity bequests, Ann explicitly mentions that this was a continuation of a similar bequest made by her uncle, the late William Walker of Crow Nest (d. 1809). In his last will and testament, William Walker had included the following bequest:
However, William Walker’s charity was apparently discontinued (Halifax County Borough 1896, 266). Ann Walker’s probate then established a similar charity:
After her death in 1854, Ann Walker’s sole executor carried on with her wishes:
The dividends from this were paid regularly to Ann’s surviving nephew, Evan Charles Sutherland-Walker, who inherited the Walker estate from his mother and aunt. He applied the funds according to Ann Walker’s wishes until 1867, which was when he sold the Crow Nest estates (Halifax County Borough 1896, 267). The dividends were then remitted by the Official Trustees to the Vicar and Churchwardens of St. Matthews Church, nowadays Old St. Matthews. After the conversion of Consols in 1888, these dividends amounted to £9.3.4 per annum or the equivalent of around £1 546.53 in 2023. The Christmas Day offertory would supplement this sum to make up the original £10 and would be distributed on Christmas Day in Lightcliffe Church in varying sums amounting from 2 to 5 shillings (ibid).
Finally, let us consider the executors of Anne’s and Ann’s wills. When Anne Lister died, only two of her three named executors (Ann Walker, Jonathan Gray, and William Gray Jr.) were alive. Thus, Ann and William Gray Jr. were the people in charge of disposing of Anne’s property. Some months after Ann Walker was deemed a “person of unsound mind”, Captain George Mackay Sutherland was named Committee of the Estate for Ann Walker (The National Archives 1843). This position of Committee of the Estate conferred to Captain Sutherland the authority to manage Ann Walker's money and estate (Elmer 1844, 60), including the interest on the Shibden Hall estate bequeathed to her by Anne Lister. When Captain Sutherland died in 1847, John Rawson was named the new Committee of Ann Walker’s Estate (West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale 1847 Nov 23) and carried on with similar responsibilities until her death in 1854. In the probate version of Ann Walker’s will (Prerogative Court of Canterbury 1854 May 12), only William Gray Jr. was named her executor and, thus, he alone was responsible for ensuring that Ann’s wishes were respected.
11. Mariana Percy Belcombe (1821 - 1901) was Dr. Henry Stephens Belcombe’s only daughter. She was Anne’s goddaughter, a responsibility Anne shared with Mariana Lawton. Her life partner, Elizabeth Hopkinson, dedicated a window to Percy (Smith 2020) at St. Olave’s Church, in York.
12. Sibbella Matilda Cameron (1838 - 1890) was Lady Vere Cameron’s third daughter. She was the youngest of Anne Lister’s goddaughters. Sibbella married Reverend Henry George John Veitch and had three children: Vere, Sybil, and George.
13. In 1828, Sibbella Maclean stood as “proxy Godmother” to Georgina Thackeray, the daughter of Colonel Frederick Rennell Thackeray and Elizabeth Margaret Carnegie. In a letter to Anne Lister, Sibbella wrote: “'The baby is to be christened tomorrow, I [stand] a proxy Godmother - go at night to Wood hall and return next day -' (Maclean 1828 Sep 23).
Annuity — a sum of money paid at regular intervals (yearly or otherwise regular intervals).
Bequest — money or property which a deceased person wishes to leave to people or persons, by will, after their death.
Codicil — a supplementary document to a will, which includes instructions to modify, add or remove those given in the original will. The codicils usually retain the date in which they’re formalized, but the addition of a codicil does not change the date of the original will.
Entail — in Law, it is a restriction by limiting an inheritance to the testator’s lineal descendant or to a specific class thereof.
Executor — the person who is in charge of ensuring that the instructions of a will are followed.
Feme Sole — an unmarried woman or a woman in an equivalent state in the eyes of the Law.
Feme Covert — the legal status of married women.
Intestate — a person who dies without leaving instructions as to how their property should be disposed of and whom they wish to have as beneficiaries.
Legacy — money or property that a person receives from someone after they die.
Legacy Duty — a tax charged when a will was executed, where any residue or share of residue surpassed £20.
Moiety — a portion or a share of something, especially when divided into two parts.
Prerogative Court — an ecclesiastical court which formerly had the power to exercise probate jurisdiction regarding wills and estates of deceased persons.
Probate — the process of proving to a court that a document is a person’s last will and testament.
Republish — a former re-execution of a will or a codicil pertaining to a will, which has the effect of confirming that same will. When a will is republished, it is dated as if it has been made at the date of republication.
Testator / Testatrix — a person who died and left a valid will in effect at the time of their death.
Will — A document in which a person appoints people or persons (executors) to administer their estate after they die. These documents usually direct the executors as to how the deceased’s property is to be disposed of among specific beneficiaries named in the document.
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I would like to thank everyone who assisted in gathering references for this article, especially: Adeline Lim, Jane Kendall, Kerstin Holzgraebe, Jenna Beyer, and Lynn Shouls. Thank you also to Chloe Nacci, Amanda Pryce, and Alex Pryce for assisting with proofreading and for providing editorial assistance and feedback. Special thanks to Shantel Smith for her assistance regarding Belcombe and Lawton family information and references to primary sources. Similarly, special thanks is owed to Kat Williams for her assistance and immense patience in answering all sorts of questions about the Camerons of Lochiel and the Macleans of Coll, and also for her assistance with locating references to primary sources. I wish to thank David Glover for taking the time to kindly answer a few questions about the Listers of Shibden Hall. Finally, I would like to thank the team at the Calderdale office of the West Yorkshire Archive Service for their assistance regarding copyright permissions.
On June 2, 2023
Updated introduction. Added details about Anne Lister's and Ann Walker's 1836 wills. Expanded the section about Ann Walker's will with details about an unexecuted draft will. Added images, quotes, and references.
On November 20, 2021
The original version of this article was published. It can be consulted here.
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