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’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:




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.

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)

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.


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. —

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 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 (—)

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.

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: