Ann Walker was born on the 20th May 1803.
Her father, John Walker was the second son of a worsted manufacturer. Her mother, Mary Edwards was the daughter of a woollen manufacturer. They married in 1795. When his older brother William died in 1809, John inherited his family estate and moved into Crow Nest with their children Ann, her older sisters Mary and Elizabeth, and younger brother John. Their first child, William, had died at just three weeks old in 1798.
Ann's sister Mary died in 1815, aged fifteen, and both her parents then died in 1823. Her younger brother John inherited the Walker estate.
John married Frances Esther Penfold in 1829, but sadly died on his honeymoon in 1830, aged twenty-five, leaving his wife with child. The child was later stillborn, but he had not created a will and his wife was not accounted for in his father's will. The estate then passed to Ann and Elizabeth.
Ann Walker and Anne Lister of Shibden Hall started a relationship in 1832, and the two women became lovers. They had a secret union and exchanged rings as a form of marriage. Their relationship, often complex, was documented in Anne Lister's diaries. Ann moved in with Anne and her family (her father, aunt and sister) at Shibden Hall. In June 1839, the women set off travelling through Russia and Georgia, but Anne Lister died in September 1840.
There are no known images of Ann Walker. The photograph shows actor Sophie Rundle portraying Ann Walker for the television series 'Gentleman Jack', aired in 2019. Image copyright Lookout Point Productions.
After Anne Lister died, Ann Walker inherited Shibden Hall and estate and lived there alone from 1841. However, she was not allowed to be resident there for long.
In the interim, her sister Elizabeth had married Captain George MacKay Sutherland (1798 - 1847) in 1828 and moved to Scotland. The couple had six children, Mary born in 1829, George Sackville in 1831, Elizabeth in 1832, John Walker in 1834, Evan Charles in 1835 and Ann Walker in 1837. John Walker died when still a baby in 1836.
Elizabeth and Captain Sutherland took up residence at Shibden Hall with their children in 1844, after seemingly having Ann Walker removed and taken to an asylum in York. Their son George had died in Scotland in 1843, aged twelve, and at some point Ann returned to live with the family at Shibden. Her sister Elizabeth died in 1844, and her niece Mary died at Shibden in 1845, aged fifteen. In 1846, Sutherland married again, to Mary Elizabeth Haigh from Halifax, and the couple had a daughter, Mary Elizabeth Sutherland, in 1847. Just ten days later, Sutherland died on the 22nd April 1847. Ann Walker's aunts, also named Mary and Ann, lived at Cliffe Hill. Mary had died in 1822 and then Ann died in 1847. Around 1848 Ann then moved to a Walker property, Cliffe Hill, where her aunt Ann had lived.
Ann is recorded in the 1851 census at Cliffe Hill and is described as a ‘gentlewoman’. At the house she had a housekeeper, a personal attendant, four servants and a coachman. She died at home three years later on the 25th February 1854.
Sutherland's surviving son, Evan Charles, inherited his father’s estate in 1847. After his aunt Ann died in 1854, he was set to inherit the Walker estate when he turned 21, providing he add the name Walker to his own. The Shibden estate passed back into the Lister family on Ann Walker's death. Later, in 1867, Evan sold the Walker estates, including Crow Nest, which was purchased by Sir Titus Salt.
Ann was buried under the pulpit of St.Matthew’s Church, Lightcliffe on 3rd March 1854. The church has since been demolished but the tower and graveyard remain. A small plaque for Ann can be seen by the tower and the place where she was buried is marked. There is a larger plaque for Ann and family members inside the tower, the details of which are on the Friends of Lightcliffe Cemetery website.
There is not yet any publication solely about Ann Walker, but you can find out more about her in books about Anne Lister. There is a full list of Anne Lister and Shibden Hall resources on this website available here. Much of this family history research has been carried out and shared by the Friends of Lightcliffe Cemetery. You can read more about the Walker family on their website, which also shares what can be seen at the cemetery today.
A few of Ann Walker's letters survive in West Yorkshire Archives, along with Walker family archives and information about Ann's internment and management of Shibden Hall. These are currently being researched and we hope more information is shared in time. There are references to Ann writing diaries and doing sketches, in Anne Lister's diaries, but it is not known if the documents have survived. She was also sketched for a portrait, along with Anne Lister, but it is not known if this was ever completed or if the sketch survives.
A lot of what is known about Ann's life is from Anne Lister's diaries, which are currently being transcribed by West Yorkshire Archives. They will no doubt reveal more about Ann Walker as they are shared in the future, but only from Anne Lister's perspective. You can read all of Anne's diary entries for her birthday 3rd April online here.