Lister and Walker visiting a mosque in Kazan, Tatarstan and a Hindu temple in Astrakhan, Georgia

Anne Lister and Ann Walker’s journey through Russia ended in “The Land of Tongues and Mountains” , namely The Caucasus region. The final letter included in Muriel Green’s letter compilation from the 1992 ed. is actually only a drafted one.
It was written by Anne Lister in Tbilisi (Tiflis) Monday 4th of May 1840 and addressed to Mrs. Mariana Lawton in Cheshire. The drafted letter contains sketchy descriptions of their journey and places visited. It’s not very detailed in its descriptions, but Anne Lister states early on both of them are happy “delighted with our journey” (Green 1992, p. 199). Further, they have been four weeks in Tbilisi. They visited Kazan which thrilled them as they were given a Tatar breakfast, were allowed to see a Tatar Haram and “attended the divine worship in the great mosque”, Lister wrote with enthusiasm.
Aqua painting of Kazan ca. 19th Century. Photo credit the Kazan Nostalgique Group/Facebook. Fair use here.
Lister & Walker most likely visited the Märcani mosque, (The First Cathedral Mosque) which was built in 1766-1770 by Catharine the Great, but crowfounded by the local Tatar community of Kazan. It has had many names over the centuries. Today it is named after the Hanafi Imam and Tatar Historian Şihabetdin Märcani (1818-1889). We know he served there as imam in the 1850s. The mosque was built in traditions of the Tatar medieval architecture combined with provincial baroque style, and it represents a typical Tatar mosque. In modern times the location of Kazan’s mosques are situated on the other side of the Kaban, where the Tatar community was traditionally located before the October Revolution. During the Soviet era Islam was heavily repressed and the mosques were used as storages and sometimes as schools. Joseph Stalin also introduced restrictions into tatar language and forbade them to use the Arabic script. Further Tatarstan was heavily targeted by the 1921-22 Russian Famine.
The early 1920s saw a series of famines because of the WW1, the introduction of Communism and its Civil wars. The first famine in the USSR happened in 1921–1923 and garnered wide international attention. The most affected area being the Southeastern areas of European Russia, including Volga Region. An estimated 16 million people may have been affected and up to 5 million died. According to professor and Historian Roman Serbyn the Tatarstan famine was the first man-made famine in the Soviet Union and systematically targeted ethnic minorities such as Volga Tatars and Volga Germans. In 2008, the All-Russian Tatar Social Center (VTOTs) asked the United Nations to condemn the 1921–22 Tatarstan famine as genocide of Muslim Tatars.
In her letter of May 4th 1840 Anne Lister also mentions a visit to a “Hindoo” worship in Astrakhan. Indian traders were introduced into the region of Astrakhan in the 17th. century and many temples were raised too. Although they were protected by Russian authority many traders eventually converted to Christianity. The history of Hinduism in Russia dates back to at least the 16th century. When Astrakhan was conquested in 1556 its small Indian community became part of the Moscow state. In the early 18th century, czar Peter the Great met Astrakhan Hindus and on their request asked the Russian Senate to issue a law for protecting the beliefs of Hindus. According to the information provided by Wikipedia’s article on “Hinduism in Russia”; this was the first law in Russia to protect foreign religion.
Wikipedia commons: An 18th Century engraving showing a worship of Hindu deities in Astrakhan. Lister & Walker may have encountered a similar scene when visiting on of the city’s many temples. Pay attention to the two western dressed men in the foreground.
Lister, Anne, and Muriel M. Green. Miss Lister of Shibden Hall: Selected Letters (1800-1840). Lewes: Book Guild, 1992. Print. — various articles.

Anne Lister and Ann Walker travelling in Russia

Hello dear friends. In this post we continue to follow the pair on their final travels through Russia.

In my previous post, I listed with the help of Muriel Green’s research, the various stops in Europe before entering Russia in September 1839. They first spent almost two weeks in St. Petersburg before heading to Moscow in October. Anne Lister also met prince David Dadiani (1813—1853) who ruled Mingrelia at this time. They visited his palace in Zugdidi too.

Prince David Dadiani met Anne Lister and Walker.

Their stops in czarist Russia and Georgia included the following places:

St. Petersburg








Tbilisi, Georgia

Shemakha, Georgia

Baku, Georgia

Elizabetopol, Georgia

Sura, Georgia

Oui, Georgia

Kutais, Georgia

Choui, Georgia

Nakolakevi, Georgia

Zugdidi, Georgia

I will continue to update this post with comments and dates, too. The georgian city of Zugdidi was not their final stop as Lister died somewhere near Kutais or Tbilisi (Green’s work claim near Tbilisi as the place of death), they likely travelled back and forth between these final destinations.

Anne Lister’s Final European travels and entering Russia, 1839

In this post I list the cities Anne Lister and Ann Walker visited before they entered Russia in the late autumn of 1839. I’ve built this list upon Muriel Green’s notes and slightly sketchy map published in Miss Lister of Shibden Hall – Selected letters (1992).

There are some inaccuracies in Green’s presentation of the cities. Also, pay attention to the historical circumstances. As they went travelling Norway was a part of the kingdom of Sweden and Finland a part of czarist Russia. I hope to complete this blogpost in the future with dates and so on. There will be a similar list of the Russian travels as well. They set out from Halifax in June 1839.

Halifax, England

Wakefield, England

London, England

Dover, France

Calaïs, France

Ghent, Belgium

Antwerp, Belgium

Breda, Netherlands

Deventer, Netherlands

Nordhorn, Germany

Bremen, Germany

Hamburg, Germany

Kiel, Germany

Copenhagen, Denmark

Helsingborg, Sweden

Halmstad, Sweden

Gothenburg, Sweden

Fredrikstad, Norway

Christiania (Oslo), Norway

Bølkesju, Norway

Gothenburg, Sweden

Lidköping, Sweden

Örebro, Sweden

Falun, Sweden

Uppsala, Sweden

Enköping, Sweden

Stockholm, Sweden. According to a letter sent to Vere and written from Moscow 13.01.1840 they left Stockholm Friday the 6th of September 1839 on a steamer bound for Åbo.

Åbo (Turku), Finland

Helsingfors (Helsinki), Finland

Borgå (Porvoo), Finland

Viborg, Finland

St. Petersburg, Russia

Moscow, Russia


Lister, Anne, and Muriel M. Green. 1992. Miss Lister of Shibden Hall: selected letters. Lewes: Book Guild.

John Lister and the cracking of the secret code

Many of you may think that Anne Lister’s secret code was cracked recently in modern times, but it was in fact done already in the 1890s by the son of her distant cousin, John Lister (1847-1933). In this post I try to introduce John Lister who wasn’t born in Halifax but who would live at Shibden Hall as an adult. Shibden Hall was taken over by his father after the death of Ann Walker.

John Lister (1847-1933)

The Listers were not allowed to claim Shibden Hall according to the jurisdictions provided in the final will by Anne Lister. Because of the criterias listed in Anne Lister’s final Will Shibden Hall was to be considered as the rightful property of Ann Walker as long as she didn’t marry and beget children. Because of her bad health Ann Walker herself didn’t live at the Hall except from a brief period upon returning from their trip in 1841. These circumstances annoyed the Listers, but she refused to give the estate up and collected the rents from its tenants as long as she lived. The Listers had to wait for Ann Walker to pass away before they could move in to the hall which they finally did in 1855. John himself was its last resident and from what I’ve been reading, he donated the Shibden estate to the Halifax community.

John Lister (8 March 1847 – 12 October 1933) was; as wikipedia states “an English philanthropist and politician.” He was born in Marylebone, Middlesex to John and Louisa Ann (née Grant). His father John Lister (1802–1867) was a physician. John Lister had two younger siblings named Charles and Anne. The Listers grew up in Sandown on the Isle of Wight and Halifax. John Lister attended Winchester College, then Brasenose College at the University of Oxford and finally Inner Temple, where he qualified as a barrister.

At Oxford University Lister became interested in the religious and aesthetic Oxford Movement which had him converted to Catholicism in 1871. In 1873, he was elected to Halifax Town Council for the Liberal Party. In 1882, he founded the Catholic Working Men’s Association. Increasingly influenced by Christian socialism, Lister joined the Fabian Society in 1891. He was a founder member of the Halifax Labour Union, for which he was re-elected to the Town Council in 1892. He joined the Independent Labour Party (ILP) on its formation the following year, becoming its first treasurer. Lister stood for the group at the Halifax by-election, 1893, taking 25% of the votes cast. He again stood for Halifax at the 1895 general election, but fared less well, and left the ILP and his elected posts in 1895.

In his final years John Lister focused on managing Shibden estate and on local history. He published several articles about what he found in Anne Lister’s diaries in the local newspaper (Halifax Guardian). Needless to say, his articles on Anne Lister focused on daily life, Shibden enviroments and nothing controversial. According to historian Jill Liddington, John Lister published these selections from her diaries in Halifax Gaurdian between 1887-1892 (Liddington 2010 p. 13).

The Cracking of the Code

First, one most conclude that John Lister was very familiar with who his famous relative Anne Lister was in life. Certainly he had heard stories about her already in childhood from his family. It is also suggested he painted a personal portriat of his famous ancestor in the novella The Mistress of Langdale Hall – A Romance of The West Riding published in 1872. As mentioned he also published articles in the local newspapers on Anne Lister.

John Lister never managed to solve the coded passages of Anne Lister’s diaries by himself. In doing so he contacted a friend of his, Arthur Burrell. It’s not known how their friendship began, but one can conclude they shared same interests in antiquarian matters and in local history related subjects. They finally cracked it by identifying one word “hope” as in God is my hope. When the content of the secret passages was revealed, Burrell advised John Lister to burn all the diaries. Lister did not take this advice, but instead continued to hide Anne Lister’s diaries behind a panel at Shibden Hall.

Arthur Burrell was a teacher at Bradford Grammar School between 1881-1899. He later moved on to London and died in 1946. As mentioned above, historian Jill Liddington has looked into the life of John Lister, so its much thanks to her we know how the coded sections were solved and how the key to the code was passed on. Her own theory presented in Presenting the Past: Anne Lister of Halifax (2010) is that the men solved the code about 1892 or maybe later (Liddington 2010 p. 68). Her first source of information was the pioneer Anne Lister researcher, Muriel M. Green, whom I’ve mentioned before in this blog.

After John Lister’s death in 1933 his library, papers and unsorted archive at Shibden Hall became the property of the Halifax council. They sent a librarian to the Hall. Liddington descbribes in her work how local librarian Edward Green together with his daughter, Muriel came to Shibden Hall to investigate the archive. They were accompanied by a policeman in doing so. What they found was a great mess with papers and books everywhere. It would take Muriel Green some two years just to catalogue John Lister’s big collection of books. Anne Lister would also be the subject of Muriel Green’s dissertation. She choose to focus on Lister’s great Letter collection, not the diaries. Just like John Lister she would also share some of her findings with the public. She published some 12 articles on the life and times of Anne Lister in the Halifax Guardian. As Edward Green was working on the archives he also managed to trace down Arthur Burrell in London. Burrell gave him the key to the Code.

It has also been suggested, but not fully confirmed, that John Lister was gay. Living in a time when British law condemned same sex relations between men and the Oscar Wilde scandal from the late 1890s so close at hand it wasn’t possible for John Lister to live openly as a gay man. Liddington touches briefly on these matters in her work Presenting the past: Anne Lister of Halifax (1791-1840) from 2010.

Bildresultat för anne lister code
A sample of Anne Lister’s diary year 1832 with coded passages. //fair use!


Calderdale Council webpage (various)

Liddington, J. (2010). Presenting the past: Anne Lister of Halifax (1791-1840). Hebden Bridge: Pennine Pens. (various)

The Walkers from Lightcliffe

Ann Walker’s family and the estates that belonged to them are mentioned in an old place description named CARY’S NEW ITINERARY, OR AN ACCURATE DELINEATION OF THE GREAT ROADS, BOTH DIRECT AND CROSS [ … ]THROUGHOUT ENGLAND AND WALES – by John Cary (1754-1835) who set out to map every road in England and Wales.


And the title page:




The city of Kutaisi in Georgia

Anne Lister died somewhere near the city of Kutaisi (ქუთაისი) in Georgia in September 1840. This photo is from wikipedia.commons and shows Kutaisi 30 years later (1870)  with the Caucasian mountains in the background.


Another picture of the Kutaisi from 1885 shows the river Rioni which runs through the city. These views may have been familiar to Lister and Walker as they passed through many cities and villages in Georgia.


After the Russian-Turkish wars had ended in 1810 with the annexation of the Imeretian Kingdom by the Russian Empire as a result, Kutaisi became a part of czarist Russia. Anne Lister’s Russian “passport” or visa document which granted her permission to travel in the country has survived.

Welcome old and new followers

Hello everyone,

I wish to welcome all old and new visitors from all over the world. Thanks all recent visitors from the Peoples Republic of China🇨🇳. Nice to know so many of you take an interest in the life of Anne Lister. Yes, I also watch the “Gentleman Jack” HBO series, but please remember any Series or novels are fictional stuff and here on this blog we search for the real Anne Lister.😘



Previous research on Lister’s diaries and letters

I haven’t been active on this blog for a couple of years and it’s nice to see the site is still getting hits and sometimes comments. I do get notifications on comments and appreciate reading them. I also log on to answer them. In this post I wish to push for the previous, or early research on the Anne Lister archive. A groundbreaking work was carried out by the Halifax archivist Muriel M. Green. Her unpublished work on Anne Lister, entitled A Spirited Yorkshire Woman was written around 1938 and is still collecting dust at the Halifax Central Library.

Not much has been done in honouring Green’s work on Anne Lister, but in 1992 a new edition of her collected Lister-letters was republished. Today, this title is rare to come by and if ones lucky it can be found on amazon or ebay.

It’s a small, but representative collection starting with the childhood letters sent to young friends and family. A letter written by the nine year old Anne was sent to her aunt so it’s really amazing so much material has been saved over the centuries. Another typical childhood letter was written by Anne fifteen years old and sent to her friend Eliza Raine. Eliza Raine was from West India and spent her early school years with Anne at Manor School in York. Eliza Raine also spent summer holidays with the Lister family.

Muriel Green’s letter collection also has a list of key persons referred to in Anne’s correspondence and chronology. Some letters touch upon the Shibden estate and the management of affairs.  In the 1820s Lister travelled a lot to Paris so there are letters from this time as well. Anne Lister died while travelling abroad and her final years was marked by her visits to several european cities, mainly Scandinavia before entering czarist Russia.



Lister, Anne & Green, Muriel M (1992). Miss Lister of Shibden Hall : selected letters (1800-1840). Book Guild

Linguistic Anne Lister

Apparently Anne Lister took a great interest in languages. She was familiar with both latin and greek. The latter being a main interest which she dedicated many hours in learning. As an adult she spent a few months living in Paris and immersing herself in the french language. I guess she had great use of her language skills while on travel with miss Walker in Scandinavia and Russia.
In Russia and Georgia Anne Lister employed german servants, Mr and Mrs Gross (?). The name of the female servant was Grotza and Anne did not seem to like her very much. I haven’t been able to figure out if Anne was conversant in german or not, or if the german servants spoke some english. 

While travelling through Scandinavia in 1839 she made many notes on lingvistic matters. In a diary entry for August 1839, p. 18 she notes the names of common domestic animals, nature and fauna in both latin and swedish sometimes followed by an english translation. 
Lister also notes on certain historical persons and mentions king Gustav Wasa (1496-1560) who introduced Reformation Sweden. The pagan thunder-God Thor is also mentioned. There are also references to buildings, houses and barns she has seen and some houses perhaps she visited. Sometimes these diary entries are accompanied with a pen sketch.


Anne Lister in Sweden

It’s interesting to study the very last months and final journal entries made by Anne Lister while she was on her travel with miss Ann Walker in czarist Russia. They travelled together by horse and wagons with two german servants – a married couple. It was not always easy but Anne Lister continued to converse in written words and she documented many things while travelling through Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia and finally Georgia where she died after a hasty illness with fever. While in Sweden she visited many places. This drawing of a house in Nyby close to Uppsala.  

Anne Lister and contemporary research

I haven’t been able to write anything for years on Anne Lister in this wordpress blog and not much seems to happen in the research field either. The years pass quickly on with not much published. I hoped the movie ”The Secret Diaries of Anne Lister” would have sparked further interest to deepen any research in women’s history or gender studies. There are still numerous aspects to pick up on and topics are indeed available for any student or researcher to deepen further into and to publish. Maybe the material, i.e the volumes of Anne Lister’s diaries are still viewed as too hard to get through. As only parts of them are published, much thanks to the research of Helena Whitbread. The wast material needs to be organized and made available to the public.

Anne Lister and local history

I also wish I was an Anne Lister historian, but sadly I’m not. I first heard of Anne Lister in 2010 and I did a little research into her diaries myself after reading the works of Whitbread, Littleton and Green. Many people has contributed a lot through the history on the life and times of Anne Lister and Shibden Hall. I wish to recommend Malcolm Bull’s Calderdale site which has a lot of information on several families in West Yorkshire area as well as personal biographies and familiy trees. I therefore recommend his site “Malcom Bull’s Calderdale Companion”. Here’s a good link to start your own research:

The Ghosts of Shibden Hall

An interesting blog post concerning old ghosts haunting the Shibden Hall. It also retells the sad story of miss Ann Walker and her time as the owner of the Hall (1841-1848).

Ghosts and Legends of the Lower Calder Valley

Shibden Hall is one of the jewels in Halifax’s heritage crown and amongst Calderdale’s best-known tourist attractions. It is also increasingly one of the most haunted buildings in the area, although despite its antiquity, these ghost appear to be a relatively recent phenomena, unlike the hoary supernatural traditions of other venerable houses nearby in West Yorkshire such as Oakwell Hall at Gomersal or Bolling Hall near Bradford.

Occupation is recorded at the site from 1389 but the oak-timbered H-plan building standing today was originally constructed in 1420 with substantial improvements and additions being made in the 1520s and 1830s. Many have speculated that it was the model for Thrushcross Grange in Emily Brontë’s novel Wuthering Heights. Bronte taught at Law Hill School in Southowram in 1838 and would have been familiar with the Hall.

The hall was owned by the Lister family from 1615 until 1933, when the death of…

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Anne Lister revisited


I’ve managed to rebuild all my blog posts from a previous wordpressblog on the life and diaries of Ms. Anne Lister (1791-1840). The propose of this blog is present interesting “news”, articles and all things media concerning this Regency lady. She lived a very interesting life and it’s quite stunning that so little research has been done about her.

To my knowledge most, or perhaps all her diary pages has been carefully preserved and even scanned. It’s been more than a year since I posted anything new or anything new of particular interest. Time get in the way and one needs a lot of time when dealing with history.

Emily Brontë and a possible connection to Shibden Hall

There are many intriging questions sorrounding the life and times of Anne Lister. Did Lister ever meet with Charlotte Brontë is a question raised by many people over the years. Or, what did Emily Brontë know about Anne Lister’s life? We may never know… Historians and literary scholars may still ponder over it. A blog called The Reader’s Guide to Wuthering Heights has an interesting post on the subject. Did Brontë ever visit Shibden Hall mansion and is Shibden Hall a possible literary inspiration for Thruscross Grange?


Jul. 1840 p. 292

This code was first made by hand on a slip of paper by Lister. She later rewrote it into her diary and I’m still trying to decipher it so this post will be updated once again:

From slip of paper. A(nn) so impatient when I say the least thing. Promised to do my best to utter no more about anything. I simply said I would not send out a large (?) and (?) of sugar to the cousine (r?) it was so tempting (?) ” to have the management, do pray let me ” said she crossly. “I will try not to speak again unless you ask me. Well, I shall be very much obliged to you.” Remember.

Jan. 1840 p. 267

Lister & Walker on travel in Russia. In this entry Lister confide another her diary about another argument with Walker. The latter one respond with silence:

On my gently saying how anxious I always was to do her way, she took up a newspaper. I said we could not both leave things undecided. It was a choice of evils. Some things must be done, what would she recommend [?]? Not one word would she utter, spite of all my entreaties so I left her and came to my table. There was one decision still, to return home. How terrible! This speaking I cannot bear! She did so to the people of Halifax. The same game will not do with me. I never can stand it long, what temper! 

dec. 1839 p. 219

Lister confide her diary once more concerning Walker’s behaviour during their stay in Moscow. The secret code reveals that Lister is far from happy with the situation:

Meant to write but A[nn] came, long talk till after twelve. What miserable work! How shall I endure it? I must manage her better or we cannot go on together. I feel as I fit [?] would be heaven to be without her.

Dec. 1839 p. 211

Lister keep track of her letter writings in code and makes another remark on the behaviour of Walker:

and finished the rough draft of my letter to Mr MacKean. A[nn] has taken a thorough dislike to Count P. since Wednesday last ? she staid [sic] in the room but never uttered, she will not be liked here. 

Jan. 1840 p. 275

Lister writes in crypt hand about getting a bath before they continue their journey. An English woman named Grotza in this episode was a maid and married to their German servant. They travelled with Lister & Walker through Russia:

When I went in to her last night she was in her shift being soaped and lathered and then went in to the bath, wish there was no time to prepare for me but her maid afterwards washed me all over head and all and threw hot and cool water on and at me and washed even my queer and thighs! But I took it all right as Grotza was not there.

Life span of Anne Lister

From and including: Sunday April 3,  1791
To, but not including : Tuesday September 22, 1840

It is 18.069 days from the start date to the end date, but not including the end date

Or 49 years, 5 months, 19 days excluding the end date

Alternative time units

18.069 days can be converted to one of these units:

  • 1.561.161.600 seconds
  • 26.019.360 minutes
  • 433.656 hours
  • 2581 weeks (rounded down)

Jun. 1840 p. 248

Diary entry for June Sunday the 14th., 1840 a coded section. Lister now confide her diary that their quarrels must be well-known to other people around. Lister obviously dreaming about a life without Walker:

A(nn) and I all wrong  (??) the rows speaking it must be known to more than ourselves. How thankful I shall be when the parting is well over.

Jun. 1840 p. 248

A diary page with two separate code strings, one in the beginning of text and one in the middle. Lister & Walker now traveeling in Georgia, code reveal more tensions between the two ladies:

Never spoke, nor she to me beyond the absolute necessaire.

Another string code on the same page:

Feel very grave and little inclined to speak musing. How best to leave her what to do and where to live. At or near Paris, not at Shibden yet awhile she would be far to near.

Jan. 1840 p. 240

Lister & Walker in Moscow, coded entry:

Had A(nn) last night in my little bed and consquently had a wretched night. My own fault. why did I invite her then I (?) before she tarved me by the cold of her own body and by the clothes being small or I being pushed /…/


Febr. 1840 p. 43

Like any other pre-victorian person Anne Lister put her trust in old-fashioned medicine. Making daily careful observances of her own health and especially motions was recorded in her own secret code. A kibitka mentioned in this code, from Russian кибитка (kibítka) was a covered horse drawn carriage from Russia:

Went behind the servants kibitka (i.e., a horse wagon) and did job first time of so managing could not alight the last stage.

Jan. 1840 p. 232

Lister and Walker in Moscow. In this coded entry Lister once again reveal the tensions. In a try to read from a letter to Π( pi=Mariana Lawton) about their journey, Walker once again goes wrong. Lister clearly upset over Ann’s reaction:

Beginning to copy my letter to (pi, i.e Mariana) when had a misgiving so read it to Ann. Wrong considering my opinion on her, wondered about my telling all about us. We had a crying (?) mercy upon me that I cannot even write a letter, I who never was (?) by anyone in my life. I said I had better not she (?) my letters at all then she said that would be very unfair and cried ’tis novel even’ and my whole evening has been spent in talking her into reason . How terrible. Who could guess or believe it? I must escape somehow or other. 

April 1840 p. 146

With only a few months to live another diary entry seem to prove that Lister was not too happy with Walker. Anne’s incurred crosses reveal that in her most private moments her longings is  for someone else:

Incurred a cross thinking of Π.

April 1840 p. 143

Lister & Walker travel further into Southern Russia together with their servants. For some days they’ve been in Vladikavkaz. Today it is the capital city of the Republic of North Ossetia-Alania. It is located in the southeast of the republic at the foothills of the Caucasus mountains, situated on the Terek river. Lister’s here referring to people who hosted them on their journey:

Somehow I don’t much like them. They gave us good dinner but there was no feeling of kindness with it.

July 1840 p. 329

Lister & Walker in Georgia. This is one of the last diary entries made by code. Haven’t solved yet what Lister found in her clothes. Probably some insects:

Because found  a (?) in them last night and have found it two or three times in my flannel waistcoat.

June 1839 p. 141

Walker was very nervous going abroad with Lister. They would soon leave England and travel via Germany to Sweden, Norway and Finland. They reached S:t Petersburg in October 1839 and 2 days later left for Moscow. They would stay in Moscow until February 1840:

Ann very low. Poor thing! She is nervous about the voyage.

More about Anne Lister

During her life time Anne Lister did her best to explore and understand her sexuality. She accepted her own nature or “oddity” as she sometimes named it and let no moral or religious guilt interfere with the fact she was a lesbian. Sadly, the community of Halifax didn’t accept Anne’s person even if  she as a Lister was very much respected. That kind of respect had to do with class and the fact that the Lister’s were landowners with a heraldic pedigree. In Halifax she was often teased, made fun of – or stared at in public places. She prefered her company of  friends in York where she was tolerated and accepted. With little medical references (this was before Freud and psychoanalysis) Lister turned to the ancient sources: the Bible and the classical greek and latin stories referring to same-sex relations. She also met with ladies with a similar reputation but was very careful not to hint on her own private life or reveal anything about her sexuality to them. This was the case when she made friendship with miss Frances Pickford or visited the Ladies of Llangollen. This website has information about the Ladies of Llangollen and the many famous person’s who visited them. A comment is found on Anne Lister’s visit which was traced by the help of her diaries.

Frances Pickford, called “Pic” in Anne’s diaries was the daughter of Baronet Sir Joseph Pickford (died 1819), who by Royal permission in 1795 could add the name Radcliffe to his. The family lived at Royton Hall (demolished in the 1940’s). Frances was born in 1778 at Royton Hall, Lancashire but moved to Bath in 1830’s and like Lister remained unmarried all her life. Anne met Pickford in 1823 and suspected Frances was a lesbian. They had some talks recorded in Lister’s diary about the classics and Lister was very impressed that Picford seemed educated. The Royton Local History Society has included Frances Pickford’s biography in Interesting Roytonians (on their website). Frances died in 1861.

Dec. 1838 p. 166

From her diary entries in code it’s obvious that Lister had to spend a lot of time comforting the sad Walker:

Near quarter hour with A(nn) she crying and when I asked if anything was the matter she said she rather I left her alone. I will my love, so goodnight and I came away. What a nunhasy being!

Dec. 1838 p. 165

Lister can’t figure out what’s bothering Walker and obviously never asked her:

A(nn) wrong perhaps because I told John Dixon to sit with the women behind us. I made George open the gates and went back to Ld (?) John who was standing in the road or street to follow A(nn) and me. A(nn) cried all the way back but I took no notice. Poor thing! What a pity.

May 1838 p. 210

Walker & Lister drinking a bottle. Haven’t found out yet who’s behind the Π (pi) letter in this code, but I’m sure I’ve read it somewhere (probably Mariana Lawton):

We had drunk our bottle of (?) and A(nn) tipsyish without her knowing it and I not inclined for writing – (a line not in code: Mr Moets champagne very good, very fine day F65 at 9.40) – Incurred a cross thinking of Π sitting on chair in my dressing room.

May 1838 p. 192

A tired Lister makes another note on Walker:

A(nn) lay on the sofa. Poorly. Busy getting the boiler to heat water and (?) her… /…/ Then hearing her crying, went to her and gave her cherry brandy. She said her head and neck were bad. She wants more than I can give her. A good strong fellow.

April 1838 p. 141

Anne makes another note on Walker:

Heard her in her room and just went to say I had come to ask her how she was. Poor thing. Her temper had given way and all got right again. All this tiresome wearying work to me, but my mind is made up. I will be the faster (?) or be off (?). She promised to be a good little one and do as I told her. Poor thing. She is little fit to be left to herself.

Dec. 1837 p. 28

Coded entry about Walker. Melvile is probably the Scotish theologian Andrew Melville (1545-1622):

A(nn) came up and because I had got two of Melville’s sermons that she wanted. All wrong and went out in tears. What shall I do with her?

Dec. 1837 page 25

Diary entry in code concerning business of the estate:

As last winter owing to the locality so much wood or the water about should all live well. I am right to take brandy and water at night. A teaspoon full with three or four waters.


Dec. 1837 p. 26

Coded section from December 1837. Lister’s eager to follow her plans for a longer travel abroad. She also hesitate about bringing Walker on this trip. The Sutherlands mentioned in the code were Walkers relatives. Her sister Elizabeth was married to a Sutherland.

A(nns) mind will succumb I must wind up my own attairs and be off. I thought of this yesterday. Let the gardener manage all and make what he can of the garden and land and live in the house. I all owing him for (?) with Washington. Gone (?) July or August and take only Oddy (servant girl) send the carriage back from Leeds to be taken care of at home and Oddy  (?) at (?) for Rotterdam. Then be off to Paris and then……as circumstances may direct  surely at the (?) without (?) or colliery I shall have five hundred a year clear after paying interest and keeping up the place and I could keep up my (?) on this till times (?). I cannot go with poor A(nn) what will the Sutherlands do with her? How melancholy, but it is not my fault. 

March 1837 p. 57

Lister made many coded notes on Walker’s behaviour, this one is from March 1837:

A goodish one last night. She came fondling, said in the midst I had never tire her so little. She had been out of sorts the latter part of dinner. I took no notice at all. Read aloud parts of the paper just as I shall (?) was right and she came round. What temper, I must keep her sufficiently at distance, have her in order and perhaps I shall manage her. I get out of her way now when she is wrong. —

Old photos from Astrakhan

In February 1840 Lister & Walker left Moscow to travel further into the Russian empire. Lister would keep very detailed information about weather conditions and distance between places. She also makes note on the state of condition of cultural places. Most of the time they seem to have followed the Volga river. They also visit the city of Astrakhan.
**Old photos of Astrakhan – This site is in Russian.

***Photos from Astrakhan – From TrekEarth gallery.

Notes on Ann Walker of Lightcliffe

Ann Walker was a close neighbour of Anne Lister, but they didn’t socialize before 1832. They knew of each others existence, but still moved in different circles. Lister and Walker got together in September 1832. Ann was 29 and Lister 41 years old. To old-fashioned and Conservative Tory Lister the Walker family were upcomers with no prestigious heraldic family history like her own. However, the Walkers were pretty successful manufactures and Ann Walker had inherited the family property together with her older sister Elizabeth (1801-1844) in 1830 when the last male heir – a brother died. Compared to the landowning Anne Lister, young miss Walker was indeed a rich girl.

According to a memorial plate in Old St. Matthew’s Church, Ann Walker was born the 20th of May in 1803. She was the youngest daughter of merchant John Walker (1754-1823) and his wife Mary, née Edwards (1763-1823) from Pye Nest. They lived at Crow nest, Lightcliffe.  Not all their children would survive to become adults. There was also a son in the marriage, John Walker who died 26 years old in 1830.

The father was indeed successful with his buisness and the family became one of the most important within that area. The Walker family owned the Crow Nest Mansion and the Cliffe Hill Mansion. The Latin motto of the Walker family was Iustum perficito nihil timeto meaning ‘do what is right and fear nothing’.

Little is known about Ann Walker’s early years and education. In her teens Ann’s mental problems begun to surface and she suffered all her life from depressions. As an adult she’s described as being very shy and withdrawn. Lister often makes notes in code about Ann’s health. She would spend many days in apathy, resting on the sofa, doing nothing. Ann hade also problems with her back. Her depressions also included symptoms of religious mania and perhaps even anorexia. Lister contacted (by mail) Ann Walker’s sister Elizabeth and her husband Sutherland in Scotland in 1834 being concerned about Walker’s mental health.

Lister tried to make a daily schedule for Walker at Shibden Hall which included French studies, drawing lessons and walks. She also consulted Mariana Lawton’s brother Dr. Henry Stephen Belcombe (ca. 1790-1856) on Ann’s health and sometimes sent her to his private asylum in York. To the doctors Lister would sometimes remark that Walker was feeling much better when her bowels were right and when out travelling. While on travel Walker would sometimes do some drawings in Lister’s company.

Ann Walker moved to Shibden Hall to live with Lister in 1834. She sometimes went back to Cliff Hill mansion on her pony to visit her old aunt who still lived there. She also took part in church charity as religion was something very important to her. Walker also started a local school.

The Lister scholars has described their union as a not very happy one. Lister often remark on how tired she is of Ann’s behaviour, yet I still find Lister being very patient with Walker’s heavy mood-swings. For sure Lister was the one who had to manage both household work and estate business and complains about Ann’s lack of initiative. She also wrote many times about being hurted by Ann’s harsh language.

We don’t know what Ann Walker herself thought of the relationship because Ann Walker’s diary hasn’t survived, but even if their relationship had ups-and-downs she choose to stay with Anne to the end. We don’t know what Walker thought of Anne Lister, but it’s clear from Anne’s diaries that Walker seemed to take everything Lister said “for Gospel”. Evidently that she did indeed trust and even admire Lister. Walker’s own strong will may show in the fact that she did hesitate rather than dither about including Lister in her will.

Anne Lister did pressure Walker many times about being included in Walker’s will. Before leaving for their last trip to Russia they seemed to have agreed and during their long stay abroad Walker did connect her accounts to Lister’s. They had lawyers in London to help them with this.  Walker’s decision to bring home the dead Lister from Russia may also reveal a stronger side of her personality. In the newspaper obituary Walker is indeed described as Anne Lister’s friend and companion.

I still haven’t found out why Lister finally agreed to bring Walker on their last trip to Russia. Lister was also a powerful protector of Ann. Little could Ann’s own family members do to end their relation. When left alone Ann’s mental health began to decline and she was finally declared insane and removed by trickery from Shibden Hall. Her Red Room at Shibden Hall was found, according to the visiting policeman in Parker’s memorandum, in an extreme filthy state with papers and bloody napkins over the floor. She also had loaded pistols on the table. The bloody napkins suggests that Ann may have been infected with tuberculosis. Her sister Elizabeth Sutherland had died of the disease in 1844. A description on whatever happened to Ann Walker after the trip to Russia has been given to the public by historian Jill Liddington in the minor research Presenting the Past: Anne Lister of Halifax 1791-1830.  Liddington also quote from Parker’s memorandum concerning Walker’s mental health.

We really don’t know the real circumstances behind the family’s wish to have her declared insane.  I guess the Walkers became eager to have her removed from Shibden maybe wanting her money or fear her mental problems would finally shame the family name in public. She then spent some years in the care of Dr. Belcombe before she was to return for a short time to Shibden Hall. She was later transferred back to her childhood home at Cliff Hill, Lightcliffe where she died on February 25, 1854 at the age of 50 years. During the rest of her life Ann Walker did claim Shibden Hall as her own and she did receive the rents from the estate as promised in Anne Lister’s will. The fact that Anne Lister had left everything to Ann Walker caused much hatred in the Lister’s of Swansea. There was not much good to say about Anne Lister according to them.

When Walker passed away the Lister’s of Swansea finally moved in at Shibden Hall. In her will Ann Walker left all her Lightcliffe estates to her sister Elizabeth’s son on the legal condition that he include his mother’s maiden name (Walker) to his own,  Evan Charles Sutherland (d. 1913). He did so but later dropped the name Walker and sold off the Lightcliffe estates in 1867.

Ann Walker is buried under the pulpit in Old St Matthew’s Church at Lightcliffe.

Ann Walker


Malcolm Bull’s Calderdale Companion (dates and biography). (dates and biography).

Liddington, J. (1994). Presenting the past: Anne Lister of Halifax (1791-1840). Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire: Pennine Pens.

Lister, Anne, and Muriel M. Green. 1992. Miss Lister of Shibden Hall [Halifax] selected letters (1800-1840). Sussex: BG The Book Guild.

Lister, Anne, and Helena Whitbread. 2010. The secret diaries of Miss Anne Lister (1791-1840). London: Virago.

Coded section from Febr. 1833

On page 19 in a diary entry from February 1833:

She had a very good night, the best she has ever had with me and I slept better than I usually do with her. Good deal of cousin (i.e period) but no inconvenience or stains and put I put paper over the soiled towel which afterwards chafed me a little in walking.


September 1833

1833 page 208:

I behave very kindly to her glad enough to see her but should do overly well without her and shall be gladly enough in reality to be without her. She sat on my knee this evening. I tell her she is not ugly (?) and she is well enough inclined to flirt with me but I am very prudent. 

Alan Bray’s chapter on Anne Lister…

I’m looking into Alan Bray’s book The Friend which has an interesting chapter on Lister’s ethics and Religion (p. 261). I’ve often noticed how writers like to comment in favour of Anne’s strong support of the Anglican Church. A further study on Lister and Christianity would be interesting. Especially concerning Walker’s & Lister’s agreement to a very personal form of wedding ceremony at Goodramgate Holy Trinity Church in York. This solitude event took place in Easter 1834  may be the very first recorded gay wedding in British history. Lister wrote about it in her diary, telling about the exchange of rings which probably occurred while the priest was facing the altar or not taking notice. A servant of the Shibden Household was also present.

About clothes…

Anne’s 26yrs and this is a coded section from 1817 diary, PAGE 1. Entry for the 21 of March:

Mending my black silk petticoat and my black worsted stocking.

Things concerning personal clothes, or how to handle and care for personal clothes  are very often put up in code and seldom mentioned directly in the entries.

1840 p. 276

Coded section from 1840:

A[nn] low today, queertempered now since tea and that I have told her the change upon Paris. Why do I ever mention anything on importance to her. Why ever forfeit my ** into fancying her companionable without reserve.

Coded section from the 1837 diary

November 1837 page 399:

A(nn) quite wrong that I had spoken to Mrs **** this morning. Said I very **en consulted her so it endin my not writing tonight.

November 1837 page 400:

I hardly spoke at dinner and came upstairs for twentyfive minutes and soon after my going down she came and said she was sorry for the said (—)

Apr. 1839 p. 20

Lister sometimes made very detailed report on her own health, the health of family members and even in some cases commented on the servants health. These entries are almost always made up in code. Lister makes a remark on Walker’s health in a coded section from April 1839 page 20:

A[nn] had a large loose motion on getting up. Seems rather better. Low last night after getting into bed, but I roused her.

Walker & Lister in Russia

A scene from the last Diary of 1840 page 43. I interpreted the code as following:

A(nn) queerish and I’m patient so shut my door and had no more of her.

A(nn) tolerably right again took not ice on last night. She wrong at my spending the money on (????) them. Her mind is not large as to little matters.

Lister in Russia

Diary entry of November 1839 page 242, a coded section. I’ve not searched too deep into this code string so I don’t know who she’s talking about because it’s not concerning Ann Walker. Probably a Russian lady they’ve met in Moscow:

She said she was struck with me. The feeling mutual [mutual]. I have not praised her more than she liked. She is certainly a charming person. We talked on her health [?] and is gradually (—) 

Old map of Georgia

Anne Lister spent her last 6 months alive on travel in Georgia. Three cities marked with red are Nakalhalevi, Kutaisi in the Middle where Anne died and Tiflis, the old name on Tiblisi. Many places on this map are recorded in Lister’s diary.
Places visited by Lister & Walker in red

May 1839 p. 68

Lister & Walker having a drink:

Had A[nn] bottle of Rheims Champagne Quall between us A[nn] tipsy and lay down I got her a cup of tea too and unloosed her clothes and left her about nine and then slept on the sofa till half past eleven.

Lister’s preparing for travelling abroad

I’m looking into the Diary of 1839 [SH:7/ML/E/23]. In the Month of April Ann Walker seem to have many bad days as Lister has written about Ann’s temper in code. On page 26 there’s a code string telling about Ann preparing a visit to York “and get it done” so they can travel in June or July. Probably it refers to seeing a  doctor. Lister writes a lot of code about Walker’s stomach problems. A code on page 37 reveal Walker on medication: I doubt whether she will take it. She doesn’t like his medicine nor him. Lister & Walker did indeed leave England in the end of June 1839.

April 1838 p. 136

A domestic scene from the 1838 year Diary. Sample of code string:


unluckilyjustbeforeleavin [g]

Rest of the code (not shown here) translated as following:

the dining room laughed and said nobody flattered me so little or scolded me so much as she did. She said I had said enough. She would consider it got wrong from that.

On the Last Months of Anne Lister

1839.06.20: Anne Lister and Ann Walker leave Shibden Hall and Halifax to begin their long journey to Russia. In her diary Anne records that Ann Walker “dreads the journey”. Lister also make a fatal remark, expressed by thoughts in secret code only: “But what does she fear? death?” Little did Anne know then, how prophetic her words would be. It was not Walker who would die – but Anne herself. They first make a stop in London and leave their last Wills with their lawyers. This was important. During their travels Ann Walker’s accounts are connected to Lister’s. Anne kept a separate Travel Journal while visiting several places in Sweden, Norway and Finland before entering Russia. Back in these days Norway was a part of the Swedish Kingdom, Finland was lost to Russia in 1809. Anne’s Russian Passport has survived. These notes show she took a keen interest in the new surroundings – making notes on the Swedish language and history. She also bought a lot of books while abroad. Sadly, all of Anne Lister’s books was sold on auction after her death. She did keep an inventory of all her books.

1839.10.08: Lister & Walker arrive in S:t Petersburg.

1839.10.12: Lister & Walker arrive in Moscow. Anne make a note in her diary that Mrs Howard’s Hotel is “comfy”. I’ve done some research  and found out from a book named  Domestic scenes in Russia, in a series of letters describing a year’s residence in that country, chiefly in the interior, by  Richard L. Venables (1839) that Mrs. Howard’s place is recommended. Venables write: “There is one, however, of which we heard while we were there, kept by an Englishwoman, Mrs. Howard, which we were told was far superior to any of the others in comfort and cleanliness.” (Venables 1839, page 263)

1840.02.05: Lister & Walker leave Moscow to travel further into the Russian Empire. Most of the time they follow the frozen Volga river. They will also visit Astrakhan (Астрахань).

1840.04.09: Travels with Walker in Kobi, Georgia.

1840.04.12: Arrival in Tiflis (Tiblisi), Georgia.

1840.04.29: Lister writes a letter from Tiflis (p. 361 in the Diary)

1840.05.04: Lister writes a letter to Mariana Lawton.

1840.06.20: Lister writes a letter from Tiflis (p.364) Need to check upon this once more!

1840.08.??: Lister’s bitten by a venomous thick, since antibiotics or any other proper medication doesn’t exist to help her fight the infection, Anne Lister’s last illness proved fatal.

1840.08.11: The very last entry in the Diary made by Lister’s hand. I’ve found no information about the last weeks of Anne’s life.

1840.09.22: A Tuesday marks the death of Anne Lister in the city of Kutaisi, Georgia. Even back in these days Kutaisi was a big city in the area. It will take weeks before the news of her death reach Britain. Some weeks before her death while travelling in the Mingrelia region of Georgia its been reported that Anne was bitten by a venomous tick carrying a fever. The venom got into her bloods and caused and infection. She dies of a fever.

I’ve also read that she died of the plague so I’m not sure about the final cause. Sadly, it seem that very little is known about the very last weeks of Anne’s life. After her death in Kutaisi Ann Walker had her body embalmed in Moscow. Perhaps it was intended that ms. Lister should be buried in Moscow, but Ann Walker had her body brought back to England by Constantinople.

In april 1841 its reported in the local paper Halifax Guardian that the body of ms. Anne Lister is buried in the local Parish Church in Halifax. The list of people attending her burial is lost.

To be continued!

Anne Lister of Shibden Hall

Since december 2010 I’ve read a lot about an English gentlewoman named Anne Lister (1791-1840) who kept a 4,000,000 word diary between 1806-1840. She belonged to a well-known landowning family in Halifax. Since the age of 15 Anne Lister wrote almost daily in her diary. Sharing her thoughts on everyday life and her interests. In many aspects she lived a very privileged lifestyle, very different from any other woman’s lifestyle of Regency and pre-victorian days when women had no political rights and was destined for a good match marriage. In many ways Anne Lister did exactly as she wanted to do about deciding her  life and business. She refused marriage and was self-educated. She had ha keen interest in Languages and Maths. With the vicar she studied classical Greek and Algebra. Lister was also fluent in French. Lister read constantly, everything from papers to correspondence.

Her most secret diary entry’s was hidden through the use of a secret alphabet. A code which she also used in her correspondence and letter writing. She developed the code in her late teenage years and they consists of various symbols from Greek alphabet and Algebra. Friend and lover Eliza Raine most certainly had her own copy of Lister’s Code, so had Mariana Lawton (née Belcombe) and possible Isabella Norcliffe (d.1846). I have no info. whether Ann Walker (1803-1854) ever learned about the Code.

The Walker’s lived nearby at Lidgate and also had an impressive estate called Cliff Hill. With no male heirs alive a daughter named Ann Walker had inherited the property. Walker is described as a very shy and withdrawn person. Walker also had  some mental problems and Anne sometimes needed to consult a doctor about her health.  Lister & Walker had known about each other for a long time as neighbours. In 1832 when Ann Walker was 29 and Lister 41 they became lovers. In 1834 they sanctified their union in York and exchanged rings during a communion at Church. According to the information in Lister’s diary they did indeed get married. In September 1834 Walker finally agreed to move in with Lister and living with her at Shibden Hall. This caused much grief among Walker’s relatives.

Also a convinced Anglican, Christianity was important as well as getting up to date with the latest in Theology. She also made comments to the Sermons at the church. Geology wasalso an important interest. While in Paris Anne also studied some anatomy & medicine with a physician who also gave her human remains to study. Anne Lister’s other interests were mountain climbing, walking and riding. She did many unusual things which were not common for women to do. She also played the flute, wore mens bracelets and rode a horse. Gardening and improving her estates around Shibden Hall was also a major interest. One these few pages I intend to give some facts about her life and heritage. Thanks to local historians and serious scholars the life & times of Anne Lister has been preserved and interpreted into our modern age.

Anne Lister was born in Halifax, Western Yorkshire on the 3rd of April 1791. She was the eldest daughter of Jeremy Lister, a military man who served as Lieutenant in the American War of Independence. Her mother was Rebecca Battle, a local woman. Jeremy & Rebecca had many sons but only their daughters Anne & Marian Lister (d. 1882) would survive them. As an adult Anne Lister would do much to promote her ancient family history and improve the estate. Except from her longer travels in Europe and  Russia, Halifax was the town she lived most of her years at the Lister family estate Shibden Hall. She added a tower to the house building and started coal mining to get more money from the estate. She was very proud of her heritage but also very curious person who enjoyed her life and to learn about new things all the time.

In May 2011 I was happy to visit both Halifax and Shibden Hall. You can see some of the photos om my flickr site. I intend to post more on Anne Lister. I do hope the scholary research will continue concerning the life & times of Anne Lister. Including a critical edition of the 27 volumes diary.

A short 10 min. documentary on Lister’s life: