This blog seeks to show the ways in which Ann Walker explicitly and implicitly mourned her wife after her death in 1840. She would not have been able to grieve in the way we would expect a widow to do so due to the lack of acknowledgment and acceptance of the true nature of their relationship within wider society. These facts are based on primary resources found in the archives.
Anne’s Death and Ann’s Return
Anne Lister died in September 1840 while travelling with Ann Walker in Kutaisi, Georgia, then part of the Russian Empire.
Although it is not known exactly what Anne Lister died of, letters found by a Georgian researcher, Lika Kapanadze, state that she had a fever that lasted at least two weeks. From these letters, it is known that Ann Walker asked for permission to move Anne’s body back to Tbilisi and made the decision to take her back to England to be buried, despite some advice to have her buried locally. 1
After Anne’s death, Ann Walker sent a letter to the Sutherlands (her sister and brother-in-law) which arrived at their home in Scotland on 29 October 1840. It informed them of Anne’s death; this resulted in Captain Sutherland planning to travel to Moscow or even Tbilisi to meet Ann. 2
Ann made her way to Moscow and while there picked up the mail that had been sent to both Anne and her while they were travelling. She replied to a letter to a Shibden Estate employee, David Booth, giving him instructions about what gifts to give out over the Christmas period. She instructed Mrs Oddy, the housekeeper at Shibden Hall, to give items to tenants of both the Shibden and her own estate. 3
Ann then travelled back to Moscow and came back on a different route to England from her wife. She came back through Warsaw and Paris. Her brother-in-law, Capt. Sutherland, most likely met her in Moscow but he was definitely with her in Warsaw as there are passports for them both in the Warsaw British Embassy Passport book. 4
Upon Ann’s return to England early to mid-February 1841, there was much to do as a widow and her new role of co-trustee of the Shibden Estate (with William Gray – a York lawyer).
The accounts in the Walker v Gray files in the National Archives show that Ann Walker paid for all the funeral arrangements from the Lister Estate with her co-trustee William Gray’s concurrence.
A letter in Robert Parker’s archive in Calderdale dated early April 1841 mentions that Parker has sent the instructions for Aunt Anne Lister and Jeremy Lister’s funerals to Ann Walker after Ann had asked him for them. Aunt Anne and Jeremy both died in 1836 and Ann was living with them at Shibden at this time. The requested funeral instructions coincide with the time that the funeral would be organised and it can be surmised that Ann would have been involved in some capacity since she asked for previous details of how the Listers buried their dead.
According to newspaper reports Anne Lister’s body returned to Halifax on 24 April 1841 and she was buried in Halifax Minster (then the Parish Church) on 29 April 1841.
Details known about the funeral from these extended accounts in the Walker v Gray files include: Leonard Duncan, a local undertaker, woollen draper and tailor, was involved. He was also involved with Aunt Anne Lister, Jeremy Lister and Ann Walker’s funeral. Hoyland painted Anne’s funerary hatchment, which hangs in Shibden Hall today, he also painted Uncle James’ hatchment. 5
Ann was using mourning stationery not long after she returned from Russia. There are letters sent by Ann from March 1841 and June 1841 that have a black edge around them to denote the person has lost someone close. Perhaps Ann was following the 19th-century custom for mourners to use black-edged stationery for up to a year.
Ann was in contact with several of Anne’s friends after her death.
When Ann returned from Russia there was a letter from Lady Vere Cameron (née Hobart). It is not known what was said to Ann in the letter, but it is clear Ann does not know how to answer it and sends it to William Gray (co-trustee of the Lister estate) for advice. From this action, it can be assumed that the contents of the letter regarding had something to do with Anne Lister.
In the Walker v Gray case documents in the National Archives, it appears Ann gives Anne Lister’s estate £15 for a gold watch and ring for Vere Cameron in memory of her friend around February to May 1841. It appears in two different sets of accounts in the credit to the estate section and is described thus:
“Value of Ring given to Lady V Cameron and Gold Watch £15.0.0”The National Archives C 106/60
“The value of a Gold Ring and Watch given by the said Ann Walker as a memorial to a Friend of the Deceased £15.0.0”The National Archives C 16/313/W231
A year or so later Ann is writing to Mrs Duffin (formerly Miss March) in York regarding some gamebirds that Ann had sent her and they have a correspondence regarding how each other are faring and local information. Mrs Duffin also mentions that she has passed the game onto the Norcliffes as Ann had asked. The above link will take you to a blog describing these letters between the two.
Upon her return from Russia, Ann recognises that her last will and testament needs to be rewritten as the life interest for Miss Lister will no longer be applicable. She has William Gray write a new will for her and it is dated 15 May 1841. This was approximately two weeks after Anne Lister’s funeral.
Her estate will now go to the eldest boy of the Sutherland family, George Sackville, known by his middle name.
Interestingly the people to whom she chooses to leave legacies include important people from Anne Lister’s life. She leaves an annuity of £300 to Marian Lister, Anne’s sister, to be paid out half-yearly for the remainder of Marian’s days on the condition she remains unmarried.
“…Miss Marian Lister sister of my said late friend and her assigns shall and may if unmarried at the time of my decease receive and take so long as she shall continue unmarried one annual sum or yearly rent charge of three hundred pounds of lawful money of Great Britain…”The National Archives PROB11/2192
She also leaves a legacy to two of Anne Lister’s godchildren: £200 to Sybella Cameron, the daughter of Lady Vere Cameron (née Hobart) and £100 to Marianna Percy Belcombe, the niece of Marianna Lawton and daughter of Dr H.S. Belcombe.
“To Sybella Cameron daughter of Lady Vere Cameron and God-daughter of my said late friend Mrs. Anne Lister a legacy of two hundred pounds And to Marianna Percy Belcombe daughter of Doctor Belcombe of York and also God-daughter of my said late friend a legacy of one hundred pounds”The National Archives PROB11/2192
Dr John Lister’s Annuity
Although not mentioned in Anne Lister’s will, Ann begins to give a sum of her own money, £200 annually, to Dr John Lister, the heir-at-law of Anne’s will, as soon as her life interest in Shibden Hall begins. In August 1843 it appears she no longer wishes to give him money voluntarily and cuts it off completely. It is not clear why except at this point her estate issues are mounting up and she appeared unhappy with many people in her social and business sphere. This informal arrangement is referred to in a letter from William Gray to Captain Sutherland asking him to consider restarting it at Dr John Lister’s request in 1844.6 It is not known if the Sutherlands restarted it.
Upon her arrival back in Halifax in February 1841, Ann receives a letter from Robert Parker regarding a letter he had received from James Gratrix, the vicar of St James’s church who wishes to purchase land from Anne Lister’s Northgate estate to build a parsonage 7. Anne Lister spoke about selling parts of Northgate in her diaries before they left for Russia in 1839 and it is also mentioned in the third codicil of Anne Lister’s will that Ann and William Gray could sell this land to pay off debts 8 so it seems this transaction would be in line with Miss Lister’s wishes. The land, however, does not sell until after 1844 due to the Church not being able to afford the cost of the land and the pushing forward of the selling date due to completing the Probate duties. 9
In 1842, Ann is concerned that Anne’s plans for the Shibden Hall improvements were not completed in the way that Anne had wanted. So Ann sets about trying to get these improvement works done at her own considerable cost. She hits a snag due to her only having a life interest in Shibden, so legal counsel is sought. The reply puts a stop to Ann’s ideas of finishing off the works of improvement; she can’t make the alterations without the approval of the other co-trustee and to ensure the heir at law (Dr John Lister or his heirs) won’t sue her for making these alterations without his agreement. Failure to get those agreements could lead to a suit in Chancery court. This long extract is found in an opinion from Girdlestone (Chancery Counsel) to Parker & Adam on 1 December 1842. It explains the alterations, the reasons why Ann wanted them done and the reasons why they cannot be completed.
“A portion of the building at Shibden Hall and the stabling are not so convenient and uniform as Miss Walker wishes them to be, Miss Walker therefore contemplates some extensive alterations which will render the residence much more convenient and Eligible. In order to do this it is necessary that some parts of the buildings at Shibden Hall should be pulled down and the stables entirely rebuilt, the alterations and rebuilding may cost about £1000 which Miss Walker is willing to pay out of her own private funds. There is no doubt the Property will be materially improved both in appearance and value by the proposed works while the Estate will not be charged with any of the expenses. Miss Walker is the more anxious to effect these alterations as they were first suggested by the Testatrix Miss Lister during her life…”
“I am of opinion that Miss Walker has not legally the power either with or without the concurrence of her Co Trustees to make the proposed alterations. Any person interested in remainder would have the right to complain of her doing so, and she would be exposed to the wish of proceedings at the insistence of any such party whether actuated by caprice or by some other motive But if such of the persons interested in remainder as are adult and competent to consent would with the Co Trustees give their consent to the proposed alterations I think Miss Walker might venture to make them”West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale CN:100/1/22
These improvements did not go ahead as Anne and Ann wished; whether or not the other co-trustee’s or Dr Lister’s consent was sought is unknown.
Throughout this blog, the references to “my late friend” in quoted documents have been bolded to emphasize how Ann navigates this mourning period referring to her relationship with Anne. In most documents that Ann wrote around this time she mentions Anne as either “my late friend” or “my lamented friend”. Here are a few other examples :
The “Lamented Friend”
Ann writes to Parker on 6 July 1842 and is unhappy with not getting the rent accounts in a timely fashion and tells him she will do her own, just like Anne Lister did.
“As you did not take the trouble to furnish me with a rent [account] at Xmas, I have followed the example of my lamented friend Mrs. Lister of making out my own rent accounts…”
This is clearly a well-used expression of Ann’s as William Gray refers to Ann’s “lamented friend” in 1849 in a letter to Parker regarding John Rawson of Brockwell becoming a co-trustee of the Shibden Estate.
Memory of Deceased Friend
Lydia Fenton (née Wilkinson) was a lifelong friend of the Walker sisters and when Elizabeth was unwell and living in London, she visited several times. During the end of November 1844, about a month before Elizabeth died, she was present at Abbey Lodge in Merton, Surrey with Elizabeth, Capt. Sutherland, Ann and the children. During this time a cousin (one of the Atkinson sisters) came to visit Ann. This visit did not go down well with Ann and there was a commotion. During that visit, Capt. Sutherland writes his version of events down and notes what happened and what was said in a letter to Parker. Ann is clearly still mourning Anne and is upset with Miss Atkinson about somehow insulting the memory of her “deceased friend”.
“Miss Atkinson who never had given Ann Walker any cause of offence indeed has not seen her since 1834 went into her room to see her yesterday. She made a fearful row, and turned her out of her room in a second saying she would never acknowledge any one except the Gentlemen of the Heralds College, and the force with which she shut her door, shook the House imprecating the Vengeance of God against all for the insult offered to the memory of her deceased friend. She absolutely rejoices in her Sisters sickness and has no doubt but all the rest of her relatives will be similarly punished.”West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale FW:120/32
Ann Mourning Anne
It is important to remember that Ann could not mourn Anne publicly in the way she would be able to do today. The ways she did so were more subtle and reflected the constancy of her memory of her wife.
Footnotes for references not given in the text
- National Archives of the Republic of Georgia Fond N11, archive N1076
- West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale, CN: 106/3
- West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale, SH:
- The National Archives FO 394/8
- The National Archives C 16/313/W231
- West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale, CN: 107/5/1
- The National Archives C160/60
- The National Archives PROB 11/1944/273
- Various papers in CN: and FW: folders held in West Yorkshire Archives Service, Calderdale
All transcriptions by contributors to In Search of Ann Walker: Leila Straub, Steve Crabtree, Diane Halford, Martin Walker and Louise Godley.
Thanks to Leila Straub and Dorjana Širola for help with Anne Lister’s diary entries and Anne Lister’s will and Martin Walker, Deb Woolson and Leila Straub for reading through it and suggesting edits.
In Search of Ann Walker’s research into Ann’s life is ongoing, therefore new discoveries may change the way we chronicle her life in the future.
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