By Dorjana Širola and Diane Halford (Updated 14/5/2023)
The Last Trip
In the early morning of 20th June 1839, Ann Walker and Anne Lister left Shibden Hall together for the last time. The women loaded up their carriage and set off for a tour of Scandinavia and the Russian Empire.
They first travelled to London, where they hired a married couple as servants, then crossed the Channel, continuing their overland journey to Hamburg, then sailed across to Copenhagen.
They spent some time exploring Denmark, before sailing to Helsingborg and travelling around Sweden and Norway, with stays in Oslo, Gothenburg, Stockholm and Uppsala, as well as visiting Swedish copper, silver and iron mines.
From Stockholm, they took a steamship to the Finnish port of Turku (Åbo) and continued overland to St. Petersburg, visiting Helsinki and Vyborg on the way. After three weeks spent in and around the Russian Imperial capital, they went on to Moscow, arriving in mid-October 1839. They stayed in the city for almost four months – sightseeing, socialising with several aristocratic families who had befriended them, and waiting for the roads south to become passable.
In early February 1840, they finally departed Moscow, accompanied by a new set of servants, and travelling in a specially commissioned local conveyance, leaving their carriage and some baggage behind in Moscow to be picked up on the way back. Their route took them to Nizhny Novgorod, from where they followed the Volga all the way to Astrakhan, spending some time in Kazan and Sarepta on the way. Their adventures included being hosted by a Kalmyk prince, and almost perishing under the ice of the frozen river.
The next stage of the journey took them across the Caucasus to Tbilisi, where they arrived in mid-April. After spending time in the city, sightseeing and socialising extensively, as well as taking a side-trip to Baku, they departed for the Georgian city of Kutaisi, which served as a base from which they undertook horseback excursions in the remote countryside.
Anne Lister died in Kutaisi on 22nd September 1840, after being ill for more than two weeks, but we know next to nothing of what happened during the few weeks between Anne Lister’s last journal entry, written on 13th August 1840 during an excursion in the west of Georgia, and her death. According to documents that have recently come to light, found by a Georgian Researcher, Lika Kapanadze, in the Georgian Archives, Ann Walker made it known to the local authorities that she did not want to bury Anne Lister where she died and was consequently advised to ship her body home from a Georgian port.
Ann and Anne Return
Ann arranged through her lawyer, William Gray, and his family friend, Brodrick, a lawyer in London, for the body of Anne Lister to be returned by boat from Trebizond (Trabzon) on the Black Sea via Constantinople. Anne’s death was announced in the Halifax Guardian on 31st October 1840, this announcement also stated that Ann would be returning Anne’s body home via Constantinople so early on it was decided how Anne would return. Ann returned to Moscow from Kutaisi and was there on 17th December 1840 when she wrote the famous ”Go on, fearlessly” letter to David Booth regarding the arrangements for her tenants over Christmas. It is most likely she returned to Moscow to pick up the carriage and belongings left there (mentioned in Anne Lister’s diary) when they set out for the trip to the Caucasus.
Ann was back in Halifax by 19th February 1841 as a letter dated on that day from Reverend Gratrix to Robert Parker announces he knows Miss Walker is recently returned. She replies from Shibden Hall to a letter on the 20th February 1841. From a newspaper report, Anne Lister’s body returned to Halifax in late April 1841, and she was buried in a vault in Halifax Parish Church, now known as Halifax Minster.
It is established that Ann Walker did not accompany Anne Lister’s body home as previously believed, but travelled back separately using a different route.
So how did Ann get home? What happened between Ann being in Moscow and returning to Halifax at some point before the middle of February 1841?
In the National Archives in London there is a register of passports issued in London during the period 1822-1841. A search of this register brought up several interesting entries including some of Anne Lister’s documents for her travels abroad. The most surprising of all was found in the 1840 pages.
As you can see on the document below, on 10th November 1840, Captain George Mackay Sutherland was issued a passport in London for travel to “the Continent”. This is 10 days after Anne’s death appears in the Halifax newspaper.
We haven’t found evidence that Captain Sutherland was a frequent traveller or had business interests in Europe. He was travelling by himself and not with his close or extended family. As this in itself does not prove anything, a deeper dive into archive documents was needed to find further evidence.
A second visit to the National Archives found the passport register for the British Consulate in Warsaw and the evidence to back up the theory that Captain Sutherland had gone out to the Continent to accompany Ann back to England. We found these entries for passports issued to Captain Sutherland and Ann Walker in Warsaw on 2nd January 1841. Both entries state the destination is Paris.
A little over two weeks from when we know Ann was in Moscow, she is in Warsaw with Captain Sutherland. Research shows it would have taken about 2 weeks to make this journey. Using an official handbook (known as a Dorozhnik) from 1842 listing routes and post stations, Dorjana has worked out the route most likely taken by Ann to get to Warsaw (841.52 miles), There were about 60 post stations she would have passed through.
The route Ann took is the “Smolensk road” – the same way that Napoleon and his troops took to Moscow, and later retreated on, and still the normal overland route from Moscow to Warsaw in 1841.
It is now established that Ann came back overland through Europe with her main calling points being Moscow, Warsaw, Paris and then home.
Furthermore, we have now discovered a letter between two of Captain Sutherland’s brothers from 30th October 1840 which states that Ann Walker had written to the Sutherlands about Anne Lister’s death and George was rushing out to Moscow to meet her and even may go as far as Tiflis (Tbilisi).
It seems increasingly likely that Ann travelled from Moscow with Captain Sutherland and from the above letter it was certainly the intention. What is for sure is that they travelled together from Warsaw. It is interesting to note that on her return journey Ann Walker passed through modern Belarus and Poland – two countries that Anne Lister never visited. The journey at that time of year, mid-winter, would have been challenging at times: One place she passed through in Belarus sometimes gets to -40 degrees Celsius in winter.
As for Captain Sutherland, this was almost 3 months of travelling with very little time for any significant rest periods. It is most likely he employed a courier to go ahead and get the horses ready at each post station and find him accommodations.
We now have a new timeline for Ann’s return:
We continue to research Ann’s return for more details. We will update this blog when we find out more information.
- West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale SH:7/ML/E/24/0032
- National Archives of the Republic of Georgia, Catalogue Reference: Fond N11,
archive N1076. Accessed here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1cGhN6-7Wdcv4Vxnbt2_KdCqQZFuaAlea/view
National Archives of the Republic of Georgia, Catalogue Reference: Fond N11, archive N1076. Accessed here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1a7IHwAqBQ-2j3_b_8IwNgxJI_bBLbvMU/view
- National Archives C 160/60, C 14/619/W106, FO 394/8, & FO 610/2
- Российскый почтовий дорожникъ, с картою. По высочайшему Eго Iмператорскаго Bеличества повелѣнию изданъ Почтовымъ Департаментомъ. Санктпетербургъ, 1842.[Rossiyskyy pochtoviy dorozhnik’, s kartoyu. Po vysochayshemy Yego Imperatorskago Velichestva povelyeniyu izdan’ Pochtovim’ Departamentom’. Sanktpeterburg’, 1842. Russian post road-book, with a map. By the highest command of His Imperial Majesty, published by the Department of Post. St. Petersburg, 1842.]
- Murrays – A Hand-Book for the traveller on the continent (1839) J Murray, 3d edition
- Whitbread, Helena (editor) “The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister – Vol.2: No Priest But Love”.(2015) Virago Press
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.
How to cite this article:
Dorjana Širola and Diane Halford (2022) ”Ann’s Return”: In Search Of Ann Walker [Accessed *add date*]