Anne Lister of Shibden Hall

Gentleman Jack TV series by Sally Wainwright

Anne Lister (1791 - 1840) who lived at Shibden Hall, will be the focus of a new BBC drama series written by Sally Wainwright, exploring Anne's life and those who lived in the Hall and Estate. The series, entitled 'Gentleman Jack' will be filmed during 2018 and will be aired on BBC and HBO. Suranne Jones will play the role of Anne Lister and Shibden Hall will feature as a filming location. Find our more from the BBC.

To facilitate this Shibden Hall will be closed between the 14th May and 23rd July and again from the 3rd September in 2018. We will be open to visitors until the 13th May and between the 24th July and the 2nd September, during which times we have an additional exhibition, Literary Linkswith costumes on display in Shibden Hall from the recent Brontë TV Drama, ‘To Walk Invisible’ by Sally Wainwright, several scenes of which were filmed at the Hall.

Anne Lister in the media

Anne has featured in a number of TV and radio dramas and documentaries over the years. Mary Cooper wrote a radio play based on Anne Lister called Such Sweet Possession for BBC Radio 4 in 2002, featuring Deborah McAndrew as Anne Lister. In 2009 Anne Lister was the subject of a Woman's Hour programme for BBC Radio 4.  In 2010, BBC2 showed a feature length drama based on Anne Lister, written by Jane English called The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister featuring Maxine Peake as Anne. The same year the BBC created a documentary about Anne Lister hosted by Sue Perkins.

More recently Shibden Hall featured in Historic England's Pride of Place project in 2016. You can find out more about Anne on their website.

Anne Lister's story was also featured in Channel 4's Britain's Great Gay Buildings in 2017. The programme was hosted by Stephen Fry and Mary Portas visited Shibden Hall to find out more about Anne Lister.

Anne Lister's story at Shibden Hall

At Shibden Hall you can view the few remaining items that relate directly to Anne- her travel writing case, music book with signature, three portraits and her funeral hatchment. Unfortunately, very few of her possessions have survived. However, the Hall itself and grounds can reveal a great deal about Anne and her time living there and managing the Hall and Estate. Anne made considerable changes to the Hall and grounds which remain today. Lots of the furniture at Shibden was there during Anne's time, as well as the Lister Carriage, which is on display in the barn. Anne's diaries, travel notes and Shibden Hall's archives are all looked after by West Yorkshire Archives.

Shibden Hall has an interactive display of Anne Lister's diaries where you can see pages of the diaries, transcribed extracts, information about Anne the traveller, socialite, landowner, scholar and businesswoman and hear Anne's words. The unit was created by BlackBox AV as part of an Arts Council funded project, part of which was to refurbish some of the non-historically set rooms at Shibden and include more information for visitors in 2015.

In 2016 the Museum Service commissioned local film production company, Limehouse TV, to make a documentary about Anne Lister featuring biographer Helena Whitbread. A short version of which can be seen below. The full 25-minute film is shown at Shibden Hall. The same year, a new promotional film about Shibden Hall was commissioned and Aberration Films and again featured Anne Lister's story. Both these films can be seen on the Visit Shibden page.

Digitizing the diaries

In 2018 the diaries and travel notes of Anne Lister are being conserved and digitized by Calderdale Museums in conjunction with West Yorkshire Joint Archive Services, who house them, and Townsweb Archiving service. The digital scans will be available later in 2018 for researchers to use. Please note that Anne's handwriting does not get more legible even with high resolution scanning. Whilst work has been done transcribing certain sections of the diaries by Helena Whitbread, Jill Liddington and Anne Choma, amongst others, the job of fully transcribing, editing and making the diaries searchable is a long process. Also, a large amount of the diaries are in code (with no spacing or punctuation) which also slows the process. The conservation and digitization in 2018 are the first stages in tyring to make the diaries as accessible as possible. The new scans will be an improvement on the early microfiche scans (available to view on Huddersfield University's archive catalogue here) and hopefully enable easier transcription- potentially some of it can be undertaken by computer software to speed up the process, but of course they will all still need reading, editing, foot notes and explaining etc. Digitizing the diaries also aims to help preserve them for the future, as researchers should not need to consult the originals when such high resolutions scans are available, and can even be enlarged for easier reading.

Where to find out more about Anne Lister

Key publications include:

  • Helena Whitbread, Ed., (1988). I Know My Own Heart: The Diaries of Anne Lister 1791- 1840. Virago, 1988, and New York University Press, 1990.
  • Helena Whitbread, Ed. (1992). No Priest But Love: The Journals of Anne Lister from 1824 - 1826, Smith Settle.
  • Muriel Green, (1992) Miss Lister of Shibden Hall: Selected Letters (1800 -1840), The Book Guild.
  • Jill Liddington (1994) Presenting the Past: Anne Lister of Halifax 1791 – 1840. Pennine Pens.
  • Jill Liddington (1998) Female Fortune: Land, Gender and Authority. Rivers Oram.
  • Jill Liddington (2003) Nature’s Domain: Anne Lister and the Landscape of Desire. Pennine Pens.
  • Helena Whitbread (2010) The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister. (an updated version of 1988, I Know My Own Heart).

There will soon be a new book entitled Anne Lister of Shibden Hall, published by Calderdale Museums, with an introduction to Anne's life, diaries, Shibden Hall and her legacy. Due for Publication in June 2018.

Online articles and information online:

A website about Anne by biographer Helena Whitbread

An article by Jeanette Winterson

An article in the Guardian by Emma Donoghue

Currently, scans of the diaries are available on the University of Huddersfield's archive site.

Introducing Anne Lister film:

This short film on Anne Lister is part of a longer interview with Helena Whitbread, commissioned by Calderdale Museums, which can be seen in Shibden Hall.