Anne Lister's and Ann Walker's Wills

Marlene Oliveira

Published on 20 November, 2021 · Last updated on 20 November, 2021
Cover photo by Marie Bellando-Mitjans

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 on occasion. However, the decision-making process both women employed until they reached what would become the probate version of their wills has mostly been disregarded. Anne Lister took a long time to arrive at what would become the probate version of her will. After handling some indecisions, Ann Walker, though seldom making changes to her will, seemed to be more consistent with the provisions she included. In the end, both documents highlight these women's concern with keeping their estates in the hands of family and also their commitment to each other.

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: 50 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.
Content updates are noted at the end of this article.

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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 make wills with specific provisions, 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, 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 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 (Yap 2020), also referred to as grant of administration or grant of representation. 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 (Yap 2020). 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) (Yap 2020). 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 family relationship to the deceased (children, grandchildren, parents) (Yap 2020).

In the 19th century, the church handled the disposal of property up to a specific amount but, 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 (Wikipedia 2021). 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 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 some 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.

"wrote a will giving M-[Mariana] the whole of the £250 3 per cent consols (...) then went down to dinner and sat with my uncle and aunt till near 9 - they both witnessed my will in favour of M-[Mariana] my aunt very low - my uncle carried it off better than I expected, but I fear they will be dull and somewhat desolate at first - I made the best I could of it - but the thought of my father's affairs and 1 thing or other made me sick enough at heart -"

29 August 1822 - SH:7/ML/E/6/0044

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).

James Lister of Shibden Hall died on the 26th of January 1826, which prompted Anne Lister to rethink her own will. On the 28th of January, Anne had already determined that she would make a new will and she would leave everything to her aunt Anne.

"my aunt and I having both resolved to make each a will to suit our present circumstances, she has just made hers this afternoon to be signed tonight, and I shall, I hope, make mine tomorrow or Monday - She leaves all to me, making me her sole executor legacies to my father Marian and Cordingley - I shall do the same to my aunt -"

28 January 1826 - SH:7/ML/E/9/0054

On the 30th of January, Anne writes a draft of her will. This time, Anne’s bequests benefited her father and her sister, but 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.

"then wrote the rough draft of my will - brought it downstairs, and read it to my aunt - leave all to her and make her my sole executrix, giving £100 to my father the same to Marian and £20 each to Mr. D-[Duffin] IN [Isabella Norcliffe] M-[Mariana], Miss [Sibbella] Maclean, Mrs. [Maria] Barlow and Miss Marsh - wrote out my will on one page of foolscap paper the signing and sealing on the 2nd page - dressed dinner at 6 5/60 - afterwards signed my will in the presence of Cordingley, Charles Howarth junior, John Booth, and George Playforth who all signed as witnesses (George made his mark) -"

30 January 1826 - SH:7/ML/E/9/0054

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 (Prerogative Court of York 1826 May), 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). 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.

"we shall have a clear thousand a year after all from this I got on the subject of making my will said that if she lived with me I would provide for her I would leave her so much (did not say what) so long as she did not marry again but should she do this all was to be forfeited she was annoyed at this had rather I left her nothing would not take if it was the very way to make her wish to marry again it was not fair would seem as if I had no confidence in her said if she married again she ought to have a man who could keep her but that I would not leave her without a sufficient provision if she had nothing from L-[Charles Lawton] it would make a difference she said this was acting like her mother I disclaimed the charge said I was not going to cajole her out of her inheritance or leave her in the least uncertainty"

1 May 1826 - SH:7/ML/E/9/0094

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.

"she said that when I read her the will I had already made she would not say anything at the time but she could not bear it thus to be classed with Miss Maclean Mrs Barlow etc when I left the room for a moment she had looked to see if my will was uppermost in the drawer I had left open and if it had she should have crossed her name out she would have some distinction made between her and the rest anything to distinguish had rather I did not mention her at all or left her the least if I only added that I loved her best said how this astonished me for she herself had taught me to make no apparent distinction for she could not bear anything in her present situation with L-[Charles Lawton] that could at all mark her connection with me at least so she had written to me on the occasion of my letter to her mother that she would not let me send in January last but I should be glad to understand her differently and make any distinction she liked"

1 May 1826 - SH:7/ML/E/9/0094

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 for 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.

"asked what she thought I ought to leave her now she at last said fifty pounds for she had before begged me merely to leave her her own no said I will take care you have this without paying legacy duty I will not seem to give what I do not give in reality she said I was ambitious of leaving all I could to my heir at law and this was my first consideration I used not to think so much of this was changed since my uncle’s death did not say much to confirm or contradict this asked what annuity she thought I ought to leave her supposing her to be living with me she said three hundred a year asked her to guess what I myself thought she guessed downwards to fifty pounds a year I said no I thought of more but her guessing lower and had struck me forcibly we became gradually affectionate I said she had persuaded me that what she said would be right in her own case and I would make no condition of forfeiture in case she married again but she had agreed that if I left her executor or guardian of my heir at law it was quite right all this power should then cease-"

1 May 1826 - SH:7/ML/E/9/0095

Anne's idea of making changes to her will was cemented and, by the end of June 1826, she was giving instructions to Jonathan Gray (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.

"Jonathan Gray was making my will by which appointed Mr Duffin L-[Charles Lawton] and William Priestley young Matt Marsh and Cecil Dalton executors and left [Pi - Mariana] a hundred a year she should not feel the want of what she had signed away it was double this as much as it seemed right for me to leave her under present circumstances but if she was really living with me I would provide accordingly at all rates"

29 June 1826 - SH:7/ML/E/8/0115

Anne had also decided to consult Gray with regards to her intended heir at law:

"On returning home this morning a note from Mr. Jonathan Gray to say there was no legal objection to my making my will as I wished in favour of the unborn heir of the present John Lister of Swansea's heir -"

29 June 1826 - SH:7/ML/E/8/0115

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.

a family tree with black and white pictures

A small section of the Lister family tree, showing John Lister, MA’s immediate family. All photos in the composite tree courtesy of the Calderdale Museums Service. Background image courtesy of the British Library.

By ensuring that the property would pass to this branch of the Lister family, Anne would be honoring 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:

"to entail the property on the oldest male or female issue of John Ls[Lister’s] oldest son or daughter if none from this this stock becomes entailed to the estate to give it to Marian for life and then intrust her oldest son or daughter if Marian leaves no issue [Pi - Mariana] to have it for life and a power to lease it by will as she thinks proper provided she leaves it to my right heir at law and if she make no will at all the right heir to have it unconditionally my aunt to have it to do as she likes with but if she does not revoke my will it is to stand good if my father survives her he is to have the rents and profits for life Marians three hundred a year to commence after his death [Pi - Mariana]s hundred a year to commence from my aunts death the new trustees to have a hundred each -"

01 July 1826 - SH:7/ML/E/9/0116

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:

“talking to my aunt about my uncles will and the Welsh Listers she said he once thought of bringing to and fixing them at Northgate and giving enough to live there that they might not be strangers etc. to the estate I replied I thought this was injudicious and would not answer the property was not large enough t[o] bear it — I mused on this afterwards it made me feel out of humour and I said to myself if he does do so I will make what I can of what he gives me but they may live here if they like for I will cut them and the place too that is they shall have my part of the estate whether entailed or not as heirs at law but I will give them nothing more however I am resolved to name this subject no more let it take its chance”

19 June 1821 - SH:7/ML/E/5/0035

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 were 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:

"talked to my aunt about her going to Shibden the summer after next – about my father and Marian etc. etc. and about setting the estate for life on anyone from whom I had value received or an equivalent settlement"

20 March 1830 - SH:7/ML/E/13/0015

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. Lawton, 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:

"wrote the following note to Mr Lawton the proctor of further instruction for my will - ‘Sir it is so desirable (dated at the top ‘Micklegate Thursday 7 July 1831’) to keep the will as ‘clear as possible, perhaps it will be best to give the annuity as well as the legacies by codicil - I am anxious ‘to provide that the mansion house (Shibden Hall) should not be let, but kept in good and sufficient repair and occupied for this purpose by such servants as the Executors shall think fit – the Executors should also have a discretionary power to make what allowance they think fit, but not at any time exceeding three hundred a year, for the education of the heir apparent to the property – I wish to bar the opening of any new coal mines, or stone-quarries, and the selling any privileges respecting the loosing or getting any beds or veins of coal not belonging to the estate, and to bar the cutting down of all timber except such as, in the estimation of an experienced woodman, it may be necessary to remove for the good growth of the rest – Instead of leaving the remainder to the heir at law of my late uncle James L-[Lister], I particularly wish it to be left to the heir at law of my great grandfather James Lister of Shibden hall – Tho’ I have only added to the length and difficulty of the business, I feel confident that you will manage it with all the skill and care required – I am, Sir, etc. etc. etc. A Lister the Executors to have five ‘hundred pounds each’ –"

07 July 1831 - SH:7/ML/E/14/0084

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:

“Mentioned being making my will, and told her for the first time in my life the real story about Marian and her not having the property. Said my aunt, of course, knew all about it, and I should tell Mariana. Mentioned the wish my uncle had expressed, which was as binding as a house full of entails, and that it was a point of conscience with him that as my grandfather’s older brother had been disinherited, his descendants should now come in eventually for the property. But I thought myself at liberty to provide for life for anyone of my own generation if I should marry. Tib caught at this. Told of my having raved of Mrs. Anne, and this satisfied her. Named Marian’s rejection of the three hundred a year, and that in my present will, I should not mention my father or sister, and mentioned my promise to Marian never to interfere with her and to be out of her way on anything happening to my father if I could, with any sort of decency, all which Tib really took very well, wishing me to say something on the subject to her mother, which I said was my intention.”

8 July 1831 - SH:7/ML/E/14/0085

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.

"Mr. Lawton the Proctor came about 8 ¾ - Gave him the instructions for my will to be drawn up in proper form, and then shewn and examined by Mr. Menel - Such a will in London would cost 20 guineas; here about 1/2 that sum - Mr. Menel might charge 5 guineas and Mr. Lawton 2 or 3"

29 July 1831 - SH:7/ML/E/14/0092

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:

"then wrote to Mr Lawton to tell him to make all the haste he could in sending me the draft of my will so written out that on getting it properly executed it would be sufficient to stand good – I could not be here more than 6 or seven days – lastly wrote ‘I shall be here till the 30th’ -"

24 August 1831 - SH:7/ML/E/14/0100

The draft of Anne’s will arrived on the 26th of August 1831.

"Letter from Mr Lawton, Proctor, York with draft of my will – read it all over 15 sheets – not exactly what I intended, but it will do – I will fill up the blanks, and this draft shall be executed – gave the will to my aunt to read – she thinks it will do –"

26 August 1831 - SH:7/ML/E/14/0102

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:

"Somehow or other, I have not yet had resolution to execute the will made by Lawton the proctor, and that you read over - The thing is, it is not, as I told you at the moment, exactly what I intended; but I hardly know how to mend it just now - it would be far better than no will, and I think of executing it - or I may have some alterations made in London - If anything happens to me in the mean time, I am satisfied to think, there is a short will properly executed, in the middle drawer of the deal chest in the blue room, leaving everything I have to you -"

19 February 1832 - SH:7/ML/556 and SH:7/ML/E/15/0028

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.

"[Pi - Mariana] asked when and to whom Miss H-[Hobart] was to be married I got off answering said how I meant to make my will if she lived with me to her or to whomsoever did and made me comfortable I would leave all I had for life doubted what to do about my sister should perhaps leave her a contingent life interest in the estate with impeachment for waste or leave her three hundred a year out of it but at any rate would not let any of the Welsh Listers be in possession during her life - the annuity of a hundred a year to [Pi - Mariana] took up two pages in the will Lawton of York made looked odd when no notice was taken of my sister and as [Pi - Mariana] was not living with me thought of shortening the thing and leaving [Pi - Mariana] a legacy of five hundred pounds this to include my debt to her of a hundred and fifty with which [Pi - Mariana] seemed satisfied -"

30 April 1832 - SH:7/ML/E/15/0062

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.

"came to my room at 10 25/'' and IN [Isabella Norcliffe] staid with me till near 12 - told her the long history of the Percivals being at Hastings and all about [Pi-Mariana] as it last passed at Lawton my altering my will not to leave her annuity etc etc"

23 May 1832 - SH:7/ML/E/15/0072

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.

"told Charlotte I could not leave Marian the estate – more and more reconciled about [Pi - Mariana] satisfied to be off if anything happened to me [Pi - Mariana] being not mentioned in my will"

21 June 1832 - SH:7/ML/E/15/0082

When Anne finally meets Mr. Lawton again, on the 25th of June 1832, she once again makes some small alterations to the document.

"Had Mr. Lawton about the will he made me, filling it up and making some little alterations above 1/2 hour – it might have been so done as to be executed could I have staid 2 hours longer – declined this thinking I could write the whole over myself at home –"

25 June 1832 - SH:7/ML/E/15/0083

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.

"Told her as we got to talking more and more as if we should be together that I thought of taking down the kitchen part castellating the new part and the lodge from the Godley road and changing the name to Shibden Castle that if I could I would give Saint James’s church a painted window with the likeness of my uncle that not my sister but the Listers in Wales would be my heirs according to my uncles wish that as soon as we had been settled together I would settle Shibden on her for life"

11 October 1832 - SH:7/ML/E/15/0131

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 go 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.

"wrote 3 pages and ends mentioning my arrival and interview with Jonathan Gray – executors Cecil and John Dalton and Mr Parker and Trustees merely nominal Mr Cameron of Achnacarry and Captain Stuart but did not explain the having left a life estate to old John and young John and then entailed forward (...) [Jonathan Gray] had taken away I think 4 sheets and added 3 to my will, and done it to my mind very cleverly – on consideration, he had left out the trusteeship as unnecessary, the executors being enough – I had every sheet to sign and signed my name to I think 13 – done up in a parcel ready to be left at Hammersleys – legacies to be named another time by codicil – all this took about an hour"

18 June 1833 - SH:7/ML/E/16/0071

With the removal of the Trustees, Anne’s will would not include any mention of people connected to Vere Hobart. 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:

"Mariana has left me money but would not say how much If I am in England her writing box is to be sent to me if not to her mother said Mariana’s name not mentioned in the will I had made but the legacies were to be added by and by"

20 June 1833 - SH:7/ML/E/16/0072

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.

a blue plaque with rainbow edges placed on a brick wall

The rainbow blue plaque at Holy Trinity Church in Goodramgate, York. Photo by Marlene Oliveira.

In May of 1836, Anne and Ann gave instructions to Jonathan Gray to have new versions of their wills drafted. 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. Aside from this, Anne also includes the clause that would give Ann Walker a life estate, accompanied with a clause that would divest Ann of this benefit if she married.

"entail general instead of an entail male – I gave the same instructions – i.e. tail general instead of tail male, to John L- [Lister], and his sister with remainder to the heir at law – life estate to A-[Ann] – J.[Jonathan] G.[Gray] doubts whether the bar in case of marriage would hold good in law unless either party divested herself of the property before marriage – but the clause to stand in the will, and a memorandum to be given to Mr. G-[Gray] – declaring the intention of the parties –"

05 May 1836 - SH:7/ML/E/19/0039

In April of 1839, Anne Lister added a new codicil to her will, but this wasn't the codicil 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 debt (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.

"Mr. [William] G-[Gray] [Jr.] read over rough draft of codicil to my will giving himself and A-[Ann] a power to sell my property in the township of H-x[Halifax] to liquidate debts mortgage or otherwise – (...) Mr. Gray from 5 ½ to 6 ½ – Brought with him Mr. Watson and another who witnessed my signing 3d.[3rd] codicil to my will (vide line 19 of last p.[page] but one) empowering A.[Ann] and G.[Gray] to sell my Northgate property if necessary to pay off mortgage or other debts –"

25 April 1839 - SH:7/ML/E/23/0029

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 at London (on the 17th of April 1841) and York (on the 13th of May 1841).

a section of a will written in black cursive

Composite image of the Second Codicil in Anne Lister's Will and Testament (1836) naming Ann Walker and Jonathan and William Gray. Original images courtesy of the New York Public Library (MISC 4150a). A copy of this will can be obtained from the National Archives (PROB 11/1944/273). A transcription can be found here.


¹ 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). ² 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) ³ 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 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 both by what her father bequeathed to her, what she inherited from her mother and, later, what she inherited from her brother John, after he passed away in 1830. It is also important to acknowledge the division of property of 1835, which also influenced Ann’s right to dispose of specific properties. Furthermore, Ann was also executor and beneficiary of Mrs. Ann Walker’s will (Exchequer and Prerogative Court of York 1847 Dec 14). 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.

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 expanded, 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:

"long talk she will employ Mr G[r]ey [Jonathan Gray] in York to make her will meant to leave me and Captain Sutherland executors and secure all to the children she seems quite decided to take me and leave me all for my life and I said then I would do ditto"

7 January 1834 - SH:7/ML/E/16/0157

When Anne and Ann are in York on the 22nd of January 1834, Anne has a private discussion with Dr. Henry Stephens Belcombe 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.

"Dr. B-[Belcombe] came – had some private conversation with him – thinks Miss W-[Walker] quite competent, perfectly so, to make a will –"

22 January 1834 - SH:7/ML/E/16/0161

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.

"[I] said Miss W-[Walker] thought of making her will – had asked if I could be executor but had merely said she must remember I was likely to be much abroad - Said she, they would think her not fit to make a will but I assured her to the contrary – had asked [a] doctor who said decidedly yes and I had advised her to send for Mr Jonathan Grey and to make the will right (said the way she mentioned [it] to me would annoy the Sutherlands – keep all safe at home and was the sort of will I should make myself), for she might leave an additional life estate by codicil -"

28 January 1834 - SH:7/ML/E/16/0163

By the 10th of February 1834, Ann decided to commit to Anne Lister as her companion and her plans for her will were discussed once again.

"she agreed it was understood that she was to consider herself as having nobody to please and being under no authority but mine to make her will right directly and on returning from France and on my aunt’s death then to add a codicil leaving me a life estate in all she could and I would do the same to her"

10 February 1834 - SH:7/ML/E/16/0168

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.

"then left at Warren’s my letter written last night to ‘Mrs Lawton, Warren’s Hotel, Regent Street’ then left at Hammersley’s, directed to ‘Miss Walker’ and also to myself and dated today, a brown paper parcel containing Miss Walker’s will, and off from Hammersley’s door at 1 55/.."

12 June 1834 - SH:7/ML/E/17/0042

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). In 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, because she thought Ann had left everything she owned to Anne Lister. However, Ann explains that she bequeathed everything to 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.

"Ann had told her aunt all about her sister[']s making over the property to Captain S[Sutherland] and about her own A’s[Ann’s] will and heard about her aunt’s the long and the short is she thought A[Ann] had left all she had to me and so she Mrs. A[Ann] W[Walker] had the next thing to cut A[Ann] out for it neither she nor Mrs. Sutherland to be executors but Mr. W[William] Priestley A[Ann] pleased by saying she had left all to Sackville nothing yet settled about me but if A[Ann] did not marry should probably stay with me and we should mutually give each other a life estate in all we could"

13 March 1835 - SH:7/ML/E/17/0180

In May of 1836, Ann would make a new version of her will. Some of the changes were mentioned by Anne Lister in her journal.

"brought the rough draft of A-‘s [Ann’s] will and mine – shewed her, mistaken about this before, that Sackville’s daughters were cut out in favour of the sons of all Mrs. Sutherland’s – A-[Ann] instructed him to put in Sackville’s sons and daughters then Evan Charles’s sons and daughters &c. &c. an entail general instead of an entail male –"

4 May 1836 - SH:7/ML/E/19/0039

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, Ann ensured that her nephew Sackville and his descendants (male and female) would be beneficiaries before her nephew Evan 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, dated 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 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.

"[Ann and I sat talking] I mentioned republishing her will – it did not go at all She had been vexed at my naming it yesterday before Mr Watson did not like to be hurried to sign it now Would consider about [it]"

24 December 1836 - SH:7/ML/E/19/0170

The republication of Ann Walker’s will would occur on the 29th of April 1837 and, by then, this matter wasn’t necessarily Miss Walker’s favourite topic:

"I mentioned to A[Ann] yesterday the republishing her will I saw she did not like the subject yet supposed she would do it as I told her we should have no other opportunity on getting out the will just now she said in her [qu]eer ungracious way she should not do it this morning – I think I shall be foolish to ask her again what is her idea? Is she afraid? It is time for me to be careful?"

29 April 1837 - SH:7/ML/E/20/0055

But Ann would, nonetheless, republish her will later that day:

"then went in to A-[Ann] and Mr. Watson – he and Mr. Gray had luncheon at 2 – I mentioned the will A[Ann] explained she did not like being bound to live here I explained no time specified a mere form only bound to have fires kept and windows open and taxes paid A[Ann] satisfied and the will republished – all right – After W-‘s [Watson’s] luncheon A-[Ann] republished her will – Mr. Watson, Shepley Watson, wrote the memorial and he and Mr. Gray (Samuel Gray, Landscape Gardener, Camden Town, London) and our groom George Wood witnessed the republication –"

29 April 1837 - SH:7/ML/E/20/0055

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.

"G-[Gray] had looked into A-‘s[Ann’s] will and my own this morning, and saw that A-[Ann] had made me sole executor and trustee with a power to appoint whom I pleased to succeed me in the trust, but failing such appointment Mr. Jonathan G-[Gray] now deceased or his son William G-[Gray] to succeed me – Power to sell certain parts of the estate (in Stainland) given to me –"

25 April 1839 - SH:7/ML/E/23/0029

When Anne left the room to get their wills, Ann explained to Mr. Gray what she intended to do.

"A-[Ann] having in the morning while I was out of the room (gone for our wills) mentioned to Mr. G-[Gray] her wish to sign over to me, he was to consider about it – I had not expected her mentioning and had advised against it for the present persuaded she would rummage herself up and do very well – But as she did mention it, I told G-[Gray] my opinion on the subject very honestly – It might be very well, supposing I had not the power to do mischief – The dispositions of A-‘s[Ann’s] present will to stand good, unless she herself altered them by will – Anxious for her to take all the power left except just so much as would prevent all possibility of interference, in any possible case, from Lord Chancellor or anybody –"

25 April 1839 - SH:7/ML/E/23/0029

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 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.

"While I went for our wills A[Ann] mentioned signing over her estate to me Mr. Gray to consider about it – what follows was said in the evening: Mr Gray is of opinion A[Ann] cannot sign over to me it would be a voluntary act and might be revoked set aside and if I bought the property she would have the money to dispose of Mrs Sutherlands giving all to her husband a different thing the law considered value received from a husband! In short Mr. Gray said the thing he thought could not be done by A[Ann] to me My impression is that he does not wish it to be done or does not wish to do it I fancy he doubts me a little in this matter very well it was to be let alone"

25 April 1839 - SH:7/ML/E/23/0028

Later that year, on the 2nd of July 1839, Anne and Ann would leave their wills and some other papers at the bank in London before they embarked on their final adventure together.

"left with Hammersley himself the parcel containing A-'s[Ann's] will and mine, and sundry papers and letters belonging to each of us - my little Estate Memoranda book and everybody's last letter -"

2 July 1839 - SH:7/ML/E/23/0074

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 benefitted Anne Lister and named her as executor. Instead, Ann kept William Gray Jr. as the sole executor of her will.

A copy of Ann Walker's will is part of The National Archives' collection (PROB 11/2192/68). A transcription can be found here.


Mrs. Ann Walker (1757-1847) was Ann’s aunt, who lived at Cliff Hill. She died in October of 1847. Dr. Henry Stephens Belcombe (1790 - 1856) was the only son of Dr. 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. George Sackville Sutherland (1831 - 1843) was the eldest son of Captain George Mackay Sutherland and Elizabeth Sutherland (née Walker) of Udale, Fortrose, Scotland. 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 their wills. 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.

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

Anne Lister’s will - PROB 11/1944/273

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 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 a 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 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), it is likely 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 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 benefiting 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 of the people close to Anne Lister. To Marian Lister and her assigns, Ann bequeathed an annuity of £300 for as long as Marian remained unmarried.

"To the use intent and purpose that Miss Marian Lister sister of my said late friend [Anne Lister] and her assigns shall and may if unmarried at the time of my decease receive and take so long as she shall continue unmarried one annual sum or yearly rent charge of three hundred pounds of lawful money of Great Britain to be charged upon and issuing out of the freehold hereditaments hereinbefore devised and to be paid by equal half yearly payments the first payment whereof to be made at the expiration of half a year from my decease without any deduction whatsoever"

Ann Walker’s will - PROB 11/2192/68

Ann also bequeathed a legacy to both Mariana Percy Belcombe¹¹ and Sibbella Cameron¹², who were Anne Lister's goddaughters.

"To Sybella Cameron daughter of Lady Vere Cameron and God-daughter of my said late friend Mrs. Anne Lister a legacy of two hundred pounds And to Marianna Percy Belcombe daughter of Doctor Belcombe of York and also God-daughter of my said late friend a legacy of one hundred pounds"

Ann Walker’s will - PROB 11/2192/68

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.

"I give and devise my pew Nº 1 in the North Chapel of the Parish Church of Halifax said to John Lister Esquire and his assigns during his natural life and after his decease I give and devise the same to such person and persons for such estate and estates and under and subject to such and the same limitations and conditions as are expressed and declared in and by the last Will and Testament of my late friend Mrs. Anne Lister of and concerning Her estate at Shibden Hall aforesaid or such of the same limitations as may be then subsisting and capable of taking effect it being my intention that the said pew shall be appendant to and go along with the said estates devised by the Will of the said Anne Lister"

Ann Walker’s will - PROB 11/2192/68

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 of Lightcliffe 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).

"I direct and declare that the said William Gray shall as soon as conveniently may be after my decease invest so much of my personal estate in the purchase of three per cent Consolidated Bank Annuities or three per cent Reduced Annuities as will produce the annual sum of ten pounds and shall pay the dividends thereof as the same shall from time to time become due and payable unto the owner for the time being of the Upper Crownest Estate so long as such Owner shall be a descendant of my family to be distributed by such Owner among the Poor of the Township of Lightcliffe in the parish of Halifax in the County of York at Lightcliffe Chapel on Christmas day in every year And I make this bequest as a substitution for and in satisfaction of a similar bequest made by my uncle William Walker Esquire but which has been discontinued from circumstances rendering it not legally payable And if the said Upper Crownest Estate shall by sale or otherwise pass out of my family the said Capital stock shall be transferred to the Minster and Churchwardens of the Chapelry of Lightcliffe to be held by them upon the life trust"

Ann Walker’s will - PROB 11/2192/68

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.

  • 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.

  • Prerogative Court — an ecclesiastical court which formerly had 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.



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. Finally, I wish to thank David Glover for taking the time to kindly answer a few questions about the Listers of Shibden Hall.

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Oliveira, Marlene. 2021. “Anne Lister's and Ann Walker's Wills.” Packed with Potential. (accessed MONTH DAY, YEAR).

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