Ann Walker knew Anne Lister from long before they reconnected and began a relationship in 1832.
The Lister and Walker families had known each other for many years even before Ann or Anne were born. A Lister family history notebook states that one of the Listers (John) had died while riding his horse alongside William Walker of Crownest in 1759, suggesting the families had been known to each other for over 50 years before Anne Lister mentions the Walkers in her diaries. (1)
Fast forward several years to August 1820, when Ann Walker was 17 years old and living with her parents and siblings at Crownest on the family estate. Anne Lister paid a visit to the Crownest Walkers to find only Ann Walker and her father present.
Thursday 17 August 1820
“In the afternoon at 4 1/4 down the fields to Crow-nest (my father and aunt walked with me as far as Breck-neck), drank tea with with Miss Ann Walker and her father – she walked with me to make my TTL call at Cliff-hill, only Miss Walker at home, sat there perhaps 1/4 hour, and, hearing that Mrs. W. Priestley was from home dining at Green Royde, left a message for her and Miss A. W. and I walked round by Giles house and Hoveedge to White-hall – set her home again as far as Lidget”
Instead of going from Cliffe Hill straight back to Crownest (about ten minutes away), Anne and Ann went on a walk that would have taken them about an hour.
It appears that at some point during this walk, a conversation took place between Ann and Anne regarding the making of some shifts or chemises (a type of long undergarment) by the pupils of Eliza Priestley’s school at Lightcliffe. We know this from a subsequent series of notes that passed between the two over the next few days, in which Anne asks Ann to arrange this.
Thursday 18 August 1820
“Sent George to Crownest this evening with a note to Miss Ann Walker – and six shifts to be made at Mrs Priestleys school at Lightcliffe“
Ann sent Anne a note back regarding the shifts and Anne writes:
Monday 21 August 1820
“Sent George over to Crownest this evening with another note to Miss A. Walker – in answer to hers received yesterday afternoon desiring me to send there this evening for the shifts to be crossed at home she concluded with believe me your very affectionate”
Five days later, on 26 August 1820, Ann sends a second note to Anne Lister along with four of the six shifts requested. We learn from this that Ann’s mother and sister were absent during the Listers’ call at Crownest because they were in London. But it is Anne Lister’s comment on how Ann Walker signs the note in the same way again that makes this note especially interesting.
Thursday 26 August 1820
“Note from Miss A. Walker (Crownest) – with four of my shifts which she has sent by Sam the horse breaker the girl is really very civil and again signs herself your very affectionate I wonder if she likes me – Mrs. and Miss W- got home from London on Thursday”
Anne Lister has kept this note, albeit recycled and written all over with her Latin book notes and a line of Greek. Anne first starts reusing the free space around the address of the note on Thursday 29 August 1820 and then, over a period of about 2 weeks up until 15 September 1820, fills both sides with her book extracts. This makes the note easy to overlook and challenging to decipher, but Ann Walker’s message is still readable.
The note is addressed on one side to “Miss Lister, Shibden Hall”. Since it was delivered by “Sam the horse breaker”, it does not have a stamp or frank on it.
The other side contains Ann Walker’s message and at the bottom Anne Lister writes that she has received it on Saturday 26 August 1820, which is corroborated by her diary entry for that day.
The full transcription reads:
“My dear Miss Lister,
I send four of the Chemises, and the remaining two will be finished on Wednesday evening – My Mama and sister arrived at home on Thursday they left Grandpapa very well. With our united regards to you, Miss Lister, and your sister believe me,
Your very affectionate
Ann starts the note with “My dear Miss Lister” and goes on to mention “I send four of the Chemises…”. She also mentions her mother and sister having returned from their trip to London, which is the information that Anne copies into her diary. What Anne Lister did not write down was the the reason for their journey; they were visiting Ann’s maternal grandfather, John Edwards.
But most importantly, we can see 17-year-old Ann Walker’s handwriting, signing off the note with “Your very affectionate Ann Walker”. It is this sentence that leads Anne Lister to state for the very first time in her diary: “I wonder if she likes me”. This is the earliest note/letter written by Ann Walker that we have found and it is to the woman who would become her wife 14 years later.
(1) Lister family history notebook: West Yorkshire Archive Services, Calderdale SH:3/AB/7
Ann Walker note: West Yorkshire Archive Services, Calderdale SH:7/ML/MISC/2/1
All transcriptions of Anne Lister’s journals are from West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale SH:7/ML/E/4
Leila Straub, Dorjana Širola and Kerstin Holzgraebe for the collaboration and expertise.
West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale for permission to publish.
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.