Ann’s People

(Aunt) Mary Walker

Burial plaque for Mary Walker which is stored in the vestry of St Matthew's Church, Lightcliffe
Photo used with kind permission of Ian Philp, Friends of St Matthews Churchyard. The plaque is stored in the vestry of St Matthew’s Church, Lightcliffe.

A look into the life of the lesser known of Ann Walker’s paternal unmarried aunts, Mary Walker. She spent her life living at Crownest and Cliff Hill. In this blog, we separate the two Ann Walker’s (niece and aunt) by using the names Ann Walker and Aunt Ann Walker.

Family

Mary was the oldest child of William & Elizabeth Walker, born in 1747. Her siblings were :1  

  • William (1749-1804)
  • Elizabeth (1750-1829)
  • John (1753-1823)
  • Ann (1757-1847)

Her brother, John, was Ann Walker’s father.

She was baptized 17 September 1747 at St Matthew’s Church in Lightcliffe.2.

Home & Family

Not much is known about Mary’s early life but it can be assumed that it was the life of a child & young woman growing up in wealth in Halifax, Yorkshire. Her education may have included reading, spelling, music, dancing, French, drawing and needlework.

The Walker family was closely related to many well-known families in the area including the Priestleys, the Rawsons, the Caygills, the Lees and the Edwards. A Rawson family bible, belonging originally to WH Rawson, states that Mary of Crownest was one of the sponsors (godparents) for Mary Elizabeth Rawson at her christening in 1808 .1 This was along with Mr Rawson of Stoneyroyd and Mrs Priestley of Thorpe (another one of Ann’s paternal aunts). Mary Elizabeth was the sister of John Rawson of Brockwell who later in 1847 became Ann Walker’s Commitee of Estate while she was declared to be of unsound mind.

Mary, Ann and their brother William never married. They lived together at Crownest until William died in 1809. Edward Priestley, Mary’s nephew through her sister Elizabeth, was also living at Crownest with the unmarried Walker siblings. On 26 October 1809, seven weeks after brother William’s death, Mary, Ann and nephew Edward Priestley left Crownest to move into Cliff Hill. Around that time, John Walker (Ann Walker’s father) moved his family from Cliff Hill to Crownest.2

Edward Priestley lived at Cliff Hill with his aunts Mary and Ann, paying £25 for half year board until he left in 1822 after he bought into a business partnership in Huddersfield, Yorkshire.3. Edward was wanting to marry his cousin, Elizabeth Walker, but ill health and his early death in 1824 stopped that from happening.

According to The Friend’s of St Matthew’s article about Elizabeth Priestley 4, William Priestley, another nephew and son of their sister, lived at Crownest with William, Mary and Ann. He married Eliza Paley in 1808 and likely moved out of Crownest then.

The two Priestley boys’ father, John, died in 1801 and the Walkers gave a home to at least two of their widowed sister’s boys.

Mary’s life would have mainly been one of social visits with friends and family, drinking tea, dinner parties, balls, music events, church, benevolence and vacations away for health and tourism. Mary as the eldest sister in the house, would have been responsible for running the household. This means she would have kept accounts of household expenses, taken on and managed the servants and generally made sure the household was run in keeping with the way of the times.

Christopher Rawson in his diary mentions dining at Crownest on 30 August 1802, Mary would have been living there with William and Ann at this time.5

A distant cousin Caroline Wyville Walker of Waterclough mentions the Walker sisters and Mrs Piestley several times throughout her diary which gives us some more information about Mary. On the 13th September 1812 Caroline visits Crownest and then Cliff Hill and records that “the visit was pleasant enough”. 6

In 1817 she records: “Thursday, June 27th. We got everything well prepared for Miss Walkers and Mrs. Priestley; they came in the afternoon. I think Miss W.’s don’t dress so well as they did. They had both black velvet bonnets, which do not look well for summer, and cambrick muslin gowns. Mrs. Priestley was better dressed than they were. Miss Walker is less consequential than she was. She asked my father how we were related to them. He began to explain, but did not do it in the clearest manner.” 6

Inheritances

In Mary’s father’s will, she and her sisters were bequeathed £3,500 1 which is the equivalent of almost £700,000 today.2

The sisters, Mary and Aunt Ann, were left a provision in their brother John’s will that they could live at Cliff Hill for the remainder of their lives, which they did.5 Sister Aunt Ann would outlive Mary and die in 1847 at the age of 90. After Aunt Ann’s death, Ann Walker moved from Shibden Hall to Cliff Hill in 1848.

Anne Lister on Mrs Mary Walker

Through Anne Lister’s diary, we learn some more about Mary.  She is referred to as “Mrs Mary Walker, Cliff-hill”. Mrs because as the oldest woman living at Cliff Hill, she was considered the mistress of the house i.e. she ran the household. The diary entries share that all three Walker sisters, Mary, Aunt Ann and Elizabeth Priestley, would visit the Listers for tea, a little gossip and details of health problems.

Anne Lister first mentions visiting Cliff Hill and the older Walker sisters on 27 October 1817.

“…went forwards therefore to make my call at Cliff Hill,
(both the Miss Walkers looking very ill tho’ making no complaints) Sat 1/2 hour, and meeting
Mrs William Priestley there…” 

West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale SH:7/ML/E/1/0046

Edward Priestley joined the Walker sisters and their brother and family in visiting Shibden Hall on 12 September 1818.

“- Mr & Mrs & Miss Walker Crow nest, & Mrs Mary, & Miss Walker, & their nephew Mr  Edward Priestley, Cliff-hill drank tea with us – Arrived a little before 6, & returned at 9 -“

West Yorkshire Archives, Calderdale SH:7/ML/E/2/0065

Anne Lister described on 24 February 1819 another visit.

” – At 12¾ Mrs Mary Walker, Cliff-hill, & her sister Mrs Priestley, & Mrs William Priestley called & staid near ¾ hour   Staid talking to my aunt downstairs till after 2. (Promised to spend the afternoon with Mrs W[illiam] P[riestley] on Friday) Mrs M[ary] W[alker] told me she had heard I was very intimate with Miss Browne, & called there every day! -”   

West Yorkshire Archives, Calderdale SH:7/ML/E/2/0112

By the diary, Mary’s health began to decline in 1822.

“- Mrs Mary & Miss Walker of Cliff hill & Mrs William Priestley (of Lightcliffe) called at 11¾ & staid an hour – Mrs W[alker]’s eyes bad she can scarce see at all, & she seems altogether in a poor way -“

West Yorkshire Archives, Calderdale SH:7/ML/E/5/0106

On 5 March 1822 Anne reports that Mary is almost blind.

In her 10 June 1822 entry, Anne writes about Mary being low about her nephew Edward Priestley leaving Cliff Hill and a little Walker gossip.

“- drove to Cliffhill, & staid 50 minutes with Mrs Mary Walker   She said Mr Edward Priestley left them a fortnight ago & was in lodgings in Huddersfield on account of his having just entered into partnership with Mr Sidney Norris & a Mr Sykes (20 years trusty clerk to the Horsfalls) in the business which Messrs Horsfall have just given up to them – Mrs M[ary] W[alker] seemed very low at her nephew’s leaving them, spoke of it in tears but said it was best for him – I mentioned his marrying Elizabeth Walker   Mrs Mary opened out said he had been ill used Mrs Walker thought she abetted the thing & seldom went there that she took it very high & thought it no match for Elizabeth &c. &c.   yet we both agreed the young people understood each other that it would be a match and I said I would and see Mrs Mary & help
her to eat bride cake &c.

West Yorkshire Archives, Calderdale SH:7/ML/E/6/0015

The 18 June 1822  diary entry mentions that Mary (who by Anne Lister’s writing was almost blind) fell and broke a bone or two.

“- Mrs Mary W[alker] fell (not in a fit) but accidentally yesterday evening in the hall at Cliff hill, & broke a little bone or 2 in her thigh – Mr Sunderland thinks she will never be able to walk again without crutches or a stick -“

West Yorkshire Archives, Calderdale SH:7/ML/E/6/0017

Mary’s medical news didn’t seem to get much better that summer.

4 July 1822

“- Mrs W[illiam] H[enry] R[awson] was going to Cliff-hill – bad account of her aunt Mrs Mary Walker the bone does not knit well, & they seem to think her in a bad way -“

West Yorkshire Archives, Calderdale SH:7/ML/E/6/0021

8 July 1822

“- Saw Mrs William Priestley at the Crownest gates – Mrs Mary Walker of Cliff hill a little better this evening the mortification seems to be stopt, but she is losing her strength & there not to be much hope of recovery -“

West Yorkshire Archives, Calderdale SH:7/ML/E/6/0023

19 August 1822

“- met Mr Edward Priestley (now of Huddersfield) in my return – Mrs Mary Walker of Cliff-hill surprisingly better – but has not yet been persuaded to the exertion of sitting up in bed -“

West Yorkshire Archives, Calderdale SH:7/ML/E/6/0041

Death

Mary died 13 September 1822 at 9.30 am at Cliff Hill and was buried on 20 September 1822 inside St Matthew’s Church, Lightcliffe, the first of the Walkers to be buried in that vault. It was not long before her death that Anne Lister in her diary described Mary as going blind and having broken her femur three months previously.

Newspaper death notice for Mary Walker 23 September 1822 Leeds Intelligencer
23 September 1822 Leeds Intelligencer©The British Library Board

“… at 11 5/60 my aunt & I set off in the gig to call at Cliff hill & Crownest on the death of Mrs Mary Walker – sat ½ hour at the former place (Miss Walker apparently very cheerful) & 20 minutes at the latter with Miss W[alker] & her friend Miss Rawson (Catherine) – Miss A[nn] W[alker] in bed not up
in consequence of tooth-ache & ear-ache, & Mrs W[alker] gone with her son to H[alifa]x, on his way to Oxford – his debut at I forget what college -“

West Yorkshire Archives, Calderdale SH:7/ML/E/6/0060

On 23 October 1822, Mary’s sister Aunt Ann Walker and sister-in-law Mrs Mary Walker (Ann’s mother) visited Shibden. This would have been one of the social rounds after the death of Mary and when it was acceptable to do so after a period of mourning in private.

“- A little before 12 Miss Walker of Cliff-hill & Mrs Walker of Crownest called, the 1st time after the death of Mrs Mary W[alker] of Cliff-hill, & staid about ¾ hour  -“

West Yorkshire Archives, Calderdale SH:7/ML/E/6/0062

Her death is mentioned in WH Rawson’s diary with a simple “Sept 13 1822 Mrs Mary Walker of Cliffhill Ob. a. 77” .1

Last Will & Testament

In Mary’s will of 1820, she bequeathed one thousand pounds each to Elizabeth, Ann and John Walker, her nieces and nephews through her brother John. She also left legacies to her niece Mary Rawson and her Priestley nephews.1

In addition:

“To my Niece Ann Walker, one silver Kettle and stand; one Dozen Silver Knives, and one Dozen of Silver forks marked M.W., two Table Spoons MW, a butter Knife, two plated Candlesticks for a Tea Table.”

West Yorkshire Archives, Calderdale WYC:1525/7/1/1/3

Burial

In Mary’s will, she writes that she’d like to be buried in Halifax with her parents if possible, if not then at Lightcliffe. She left it to her brother John Walker to decide. She was the first Walker to be buried in a vault inside St Matthew’s Church in September 1822. Her sister Aunt Ann was buried with her in 1847 and Ann Walker in 1854.

Image of Mary Walker's Abstract from her will regarding where she'd like to be buried.
West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale WYC:1525/7/1/3

Other’s views

In a letter Rev. Charles Musgrave wrote to Abraham Horsfall, a distant relative of the Walkers, on 3 March 1854 which was the day of Ann Walker’s funeral:

“I have been interring today a Lady whom I have known as long as yourself & a distant connexion of yours – the last of her family, poor Miss Walker of Cliffe Hill. She was buried in Lightcliffe Church in the same vault with her Aunt, Mrs Mary Walker, who was much esteemed all through life by every branch of your family.”

West Yorkshire Archive Service, Kirklees WYK1581/1/145

After her death, her nephew Edward Priestley described Mary as “my much respected Aunt Mrs Mary Walker” in a page in his cash book. 1

Caroline Wyville Walker records her death in her diary: “Friday 13th September. We have just heard
that Mrs. M. Walker died this morning. She has been a very worthy woman, a little pompous in
her manner when in health and spirits, but she has passed through life without any reproach of
consequence and has died regretted.” 2

Despite having limited resources on which to write about her life, Mary was clearly well thought of by her family and in the society in which she lived.

Sources

Family

1. Walker family history – Friends of Lightcliffe Churchyard
https://www.lightcliffechurchyard.org.uk/attachments/article/137/The%20Walker%20era%20at%20Lightcliffev2.pdf

2. Mary Walker Baptism – West Yorkshire Archive Service; Wakefield, Yorkshire, England; Yorkshire Parish Records; New Reference Number: WDP47/1/1/1

Home & Family

4. Elizabeth Priestley and Family article https://www.lightcliffechurchyard.org.uk/attachments/article/137/Elizabeth%20Priestley%20and%20family.pdf

5. Christopher Rawson’s diary – West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale WYC:1525/6/5/1

6. Caroline Wyville Walker diary – West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale SH:3/AB/21

Inheritances

1. William Walker’s Will, (Father) (CN:98/16 West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale) https://www.wyjs.org.uk/archive-service/

2. CPI Inflation Calculator used in conversion
https://www.officialdata.org/uk/inflation/1787?amount=3500

3. William Walker’s Will (Brother) (CN:89/17 West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale)
https://www.catalogue.wyjs.org.uk/CalmView/Default.aspx

5. John Walker Sr Will (CN:89/19 West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale)
https://www.wyjs.org.uk/archive-service/

Death

1. WH Rawson’s diary -West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale WYC:1525/6/8/4

Last Will & Testament

1. Mary Walker’s Will – Borthwick Institute for Archives, Vol. 168, folio 667
https://www.york.ac.uk/borthwick

Burial

  1. Edward Priestley’s Cash Book – West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale WYC:1525/7/1/10/3
  2. Caroline Wyville Walker diary – West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale SH:3/AB/21

Other Resources

  • Ancestry.com is a paid service
  • British Newspapers Archive is a paid service

Special Thanks

Diane Halford – Archival Research
Martin Walker – Transcription
Ian Philp & Dorothy Barker – Friends of St Matthews Churchyard- historical information

How to cite this article:
Deb Woolson and Diane Halford (2024) “(Aunt) Mary Walker”: In Search of Ann Walker [Accessed “add date”]