The Real Anne Lister Blog

Wedding bells!

Today sees the series finale of Gentleman Jack in the UK. With that in mind, I thought I’d share my transcriptions of Anne Lister’s key diary entries documenting her marriage to Ann Walker in 1834. I just love that Anne Lister was so sure of her right to marry, even though the first legal same-sex marriage wasn’t until 171 years after her death (2001 in the Netherlands).

In fact, Anne Lister married for the first time years before 1834, exchanging rings and promises with two other women, although never setting up home together with them. She exchanged rings with Eliza Raine as a teenager, and they called each other ‘husband’ and ‘wife.’ They promised to live together once Eliza came into her inheritance at age 21, but by that time Anne seems to have treated the union as dissolved, being already romantically involved with Isabella Norcliffe. Anne married for a second time to Mariana Belcome, exchanging vows and rings on no less than four separate occasions (they renewed their vows three times after their commitment had worn thin). However, by 1834 Anne no longer felt bound to Mariana and felt herself free to marry Ann Walker.

Since the relationship began in 1833, Anne Lister had been trying to persuade Ann Walker to marry and move into Shibden Hall. She proposed an exchange of rings and taking the sacrament together in church to cement their commitment. Ann Walker agonised over the decision, changing her mind many times, much to the frustration of Anne Lister, who became increasingly jaded (with the pair separating for a year – Ann Walker to her sister in Scotland and Anne Lister travelling in France and Denmark). It is unclear whether Ann’s uncertainty was due to religious qualms about having a sexual relationship with another woman, a desire to one day have children, or (as Anne Lister suspected) unwillingness move into ‘shabby’ Shibden Hall and share her inheritance money.

The Engagement

By and by, after a lot of back and forth, on and off, on Monday 10 February 1834 Ann finally agreed that ‘she was to consider herself as having nobody to please and being under no authority but’Anne’s. Then two days later, after a night of ‘long capital grubbling so that [there was] little time for sleep,’ the couple agreed, in their sex-hungover-state, to exchange rings in token of their union.

Here are Anne Lister’s diary entries for those days:

Monday 10 February 1834

She was at first tired and sleepy but by and by roused up and during a long grubbling said often we had never done it so well before. I was hot to washing tub wetness and tired before it was half over. We talked and never slept till five. Talk of talking her to Paris the end of March. She to pay all can afford three hundred. Talked too of taking her to Langton & this she thought would most satisfy her sister. Some how it often strikes me she hesitates to take me for better and worse but wants to make me a stepping stone in to society. She thought Norcliffe gentlemanly, would she not have him if she could? How it will all end I know not I almost wish I was well off. Miss W- not off to Huddersfield till 10 ¼. Having breakfast at 9 & writing notes etc with which I helped. No prayers now and no mention of service yesterday, we neither of us hinted at the subject. Sauntered through my walk.

Home at 11 ¾. Mr Carr had been but thought we should agree & would call again in the afternoon. Gladhill & another man had been about the upper land. Felt tired & heavy & lay down till 2. Then had the glazier. Wrote the last 28 lines till 3 10. Then wrote a full ½ sheet & 1 page of envelope to Lady Stuart. It seemed an age since I had written to [her] or heard. How good it would be of her if she would write to me soon. She had in her last asked me a question (where to get Outram’s shawls in London). She would of course think it easy for me to answer. I had desired my steward to inquire. Received Lady Stuart’s letter as I was stepping into the carriage to go to the East Riding on a tiresome business. Got detained (a fortnight) & had been obliged to delay writing to give any decided answer at all. No shop in London, only one & that in Liverpool where Outram’s thought to be had. He lived in an out of the way place some miles from here & [went?] about & sold them [illegible], but I should be delighted to do [an?] [co…?] for Lady S- or one of her friends. Would write & thank Lady S- de R- for her nice kind letter by & by. Busy with workmen. Had been a good deal away & harassed & unsettled ever since my return. “I have seldom found home either a place of rest or agreeable excitement.” On my conscience that I had never written to Lady [Ha…t?] since from Hamburg. She would wonder what was become of me as I almost wonder myself. Then wrote 3 pages of ½ sheet to Lady Vere. Begged she would write soon. Begin to be quite unhappy at being so long without hearing often from her. My aunt [illegible] but may continue a 12 month, domiciliated for the rest of her life unless I by & by take some excursion. Said my land damp, bad cold still oppressing me. Begged all [illegible] [illegible] so well. I had no more paper but always very anxious about her & affectionately yours A Lister.

In the midst of my writing had Mr Carr. He begged to have an allowance for taxes but I stood out & he took the low land, whatever quantity there may be of it at £3 per DW. Said I would have a handsome allowance out of the 1st rent but as he seemed not to care about this no more was said & I of course considered that offer as unaccepted or unheeded & done with. The draining required to be done after next hay time. Wants a road for carting of manure. I said it had best come through the corner of the [trough?] of [Bolling?] wood. Agreed and he had no objection to my taking the low wall but the [illegible] I [myself?] bought of him & the Shibden land, for draining. My father does not like parting with the low garden wall. [illegible] [illegible] [illegible].

Left for [illegible] & then posted my letter to “The honourable Lady Stuart, Whitehall” & enclosed with it my note to “The Lady Vere Cameron” under cover to “The Earl of Ripon, Carlton [Sanders?], London.” Just told them all I had agreed with Mr Carr & let him the low land and at Lidgate in ½ hour at 6 35.

Miss Rawson of Gledholt there. Agreeable evening. She thinks Miss W- much better. Strange reports about her being crazy in Halifax and encouraged by the Miss Atkinsons etc etc. Coffee & tea at 8 ¾. Came upstairs at 11 ½. Stood talking. I said in part what Miss R had told me. Too bad: Miss W- now saw what she had to deal. Better make up her mind at once or what could I do? She agreed and it was understood that she was to consider herself as having nobody to please and being under no authority but mine, to make her will right directly and on returning from France and on my aunt’s death then to add a codicil leaving me a life estate in all she could and I would do the same to her. Well then is it really settled or not? I am easy about it and shall prepare for either way. Fine day.

Margin: settled with Miss W-?

You can see the original diary entry here:

Wednesday 12 February 1834

Long capital grubbling so that little time for sleep. She is to give me a ring and I her one in token of our union as confirmed on Monday. Breakfast at 9. Washingtom came for a little while. Miss W-’s maid not much fit for packing. I did it all. Books & papers etc etc in abundance and had not done till 2. Then off to Shibden. Miss W- ½ hour here with my aunt & a few minutes in my study & off again at 3 ¼. I went with her (her own carriage & man and maid) as far as the King’s Head Inn near Bradford & walked back and came in at 5 50 having sauntered up the road.

Dinner at 6 ½. Coffee & tea. Asleep on the sofa. With my aunt from 8 ¾ to 9 ¾ then with my father & Marion & sat up talking till 10 50. Affectionate to Miss W- and told her I should not be long without seeing her. She desired me not to write any thing particular. She meant of affection, which I promised. I certainly feel fond of her now and if I was once really near her (no drawers on) and she was pretty well satisfied I should be at ease. She has often said she wished to be near myself. Civil letter came this morning from Luillacy Calais, to say the plate was sent off to Laffilte’s, and tonight letter from Lady [Hau…t?] [vid?] Friday. Fine day. A hail shower as I returned over the hills after leaving Miss W-. This evening F47o now at 11p.m. My cousin came gently just after breakfast.

You can see the original diary entry here:

After this Ann Walker returned to York, where she was receiving treatment for her mental health, having only been home on a short visit. Anne Lister pursued her business interests (mainly coal mining) at home.

The Wedding

On 26 February Anne Lister went to her fiancée in York. Anne wrote with satisfaction in her journal that for the first time she was sans drawers in bed. The following day, in the carriage en route to visit Anne’s friends the Norcliffe’s at Langton Hall, Ann Walker gave Anne Lister a ring ‘in token of [their] union.’ It is unclear from Anne’s diary entry whether two rings were exchanged on this day or just one given. From later diary entries we know Anne Lister had given Ann Walker an onyx ring, but it’s not clear from the diaries when this happened. Either way, what happened in the carriage does not seem to have been a very romantic ceremony, particularly given that Anne actually asked Ann to buy her own ring off her (even lending her the money for it!) then give it back. Maybe Anne was simply sick of waiting and had decided to force the matter. Perhaps she was keen to have a ring on her finger by the time her friends saw them together.

Here is the diary entry for that day:

Thursday 27 February 1834

No drawers on last night first time and first attempt to get really near her. Did not succeed very well but she seemed tolerably satisfied. Rainy morning. Could not have my own carriage & Myers could not get Miss W-’s  ready till 12. Breakfast at 9 ¾. A little French. I ½ asleep over it. Off to Langton at 12 50. Damp rainy disagreeable day. She was poorly and tired tho she had got up so well in the morning. I saw there was much nervousness about going to Langton but took no notice. I asked her to buy the gold wedding ring I wore and lent her six pence to pay me for it. She would not give it me immediately but wore it till we entered the village of Langton and then put it on my left third finger in token of our union, which is now understood to be confirmed forever tho little or nothing was said.

At Langton at 3 5 only Mr Norcliffe & Charlotte at home. Surprised but very glad to see us & very kind & attentive. C. N- had heard of my arrival from Mrs Milne. Mrs N- now dines at 3 yet we sat down to dinner in about ¼ hour. Coffee [and] tea afterwards about 6 ¼. Miss W- much pleased with Mr Henry Robinson’s blazoning & with Miss Best’s drawings. Our visit went off very well. All sides sufficiently pleased apparently. Came away at 7 20 & home at 9 ¾. Coffee. Sat talking till 11 ¾. Glad we went, the Norcliffes very civil to her. Shyness went off and she seemed much pleased with her visit. Rainy day & evening.

Margin: the ring Miss W-

You can see the original diary entry here:

They stayed together in York three more days, then Anne went back to Shibden leaving Ann in York. They wrote regular letters to each other but Anne’s diary entries reveal that Ann was still expressing doubts about living at Shibden Hall. Anne felt thwarted and wondered if she was being played, but pushed onwards and was back to York at the end of March. A month after the ring exchange the church ‘ceremony’ took place. 

Here’s the diary entry:

Sunday 30 March 1834

Three kisses better to her than to me. Very fine morning. F 49o at 8 ½ a.m. Breakfast at 8 ½. At Goodramgate church at 10 35. Miss W- & I & Thomas staid the sacrament. Almost all the congregation staid & though the church too small to hold many the service took 40 minutes. The first time I ever joined Miss W- in my prayers. I had prayed that our union might be happy. She had not thought of doing as much for me. Called for a minute or 2 in the minster yard to say we would dine there at 5 ½. Declined going to hear the fine anthem (at 4) in the minster. Walked to the village of Heworth & by the Stockton yard. Back in an hour & at Monk-Bar church at 2 ½. The clergy man preached (25 minutes) who read the prayers in the morning. I asleep and knew nothing of the sermon now or in the morning. Sat talking. Dressed. Off to Dr Belcome’s at 5 ¼. Nobody but ours. Dined about 5 ½. Coffee, tea. Home at 10 ½. Sat up talking till 12 ½ tonight. Very fine day. Mr W Crewe had thought about & reconsidered getting Hamlyn Milne out to Australia under the company of that settlement.

You can see the original diary entry here:

This diary entry, much like that for 27 February, strikes me as a massive anti-climax. Perhaps Anne Lister was simply relieved to have it over with, or maybe given the number of times Ann Walker had changed her mind, she (Lister) had set aside romantic notions about the match and was focussed solely on the practical advantages of the marriage – having access to Ann Walker’s inheritance money and avoiding growing old alone.

In April the honeymooners took a tour of Yorkshire together, then went their separate ways again, Anne to Shibden and Ann back to her lodgings in York where she continued to receive medical supervision. The couple took a three month tour of France and Switzerland from June to the end of August and it was only on 28 August 1834 that they returned together to Shibden Hall and finally set up home together.

2 thoughts on “Wedding bells!

  1. Thank you so much found that very informative, one strong women of her time who stood up to be counted, i respect that it would have been so hard in those days and being a women who was gay and having people yelling dirty horrible words at you more so by the men i have read. I would like to think that Anne Lister did fined some happiness with Anne Walker i feel that it was real love, i know it was money at first but i think it did grow into love over time well they stay together till Anne’s death in 1840 i think it was special there love was real even thou Anne Walkers has mental heath issues well i would like to think that yours sincerely Sharon Ferrazzo

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