Ann’s People

Hannah Heap: not just a servant

Photo of a portion of Hannah Heap's bank book, WYAS, Calderdale HAS 286.
(West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale HAS 1405 (286) Hannah Heap’s bank book)

Hannah Heap – you may have never heard of her, but she was a beloved servant to the Walker family. Mentioned in Anne Lister’s diaries, we explore who Hannah was and where she is referred to in the archives.

Birth and early life

As with many people without money in the 1800s, her early life and birth are harder to track down. Unfortunately, we don’t yet know exactly when. We can estimate that it was between 1791 and 1796. This is because she is recorded in the 1841 census as 50 years old and in this census they rounded adults’ ages down to the nearest multiple of 5 (1).

Working for the Walkers

The earliest we know Hannah was working for the Walker family was in 1818.  For most of her working life, Hannah Heap was regularly saving money in the bank, and her transactions are logged in her savings book which is held by the West Yorkshire Archives, which began in 1818. (1) In the opening margin of the savings book, we find the following note: “Hannah Heap – Spinster – Servant with Mr. Walker Crow Nest”.

At the time of her death, Hannah had saved £184 14s 4d. The Bank of England’s inflation calculator equated £184 in 1847 to £15,137.09 in 2022

We next find mention of Hannah in the accounts of John Walker, Ann Walker’s father, in 1822. In these accounts, there is a section for servant’s wages “due in April” 1822. Hannah Heap is listed and due to be paid £19 and 19s.(2) Therefore, we know that Hannah was working for the Walker family at Crow Nest in Lightcliffe in 1822.

Using another set of Walker family accounts, this time Mary Walker’s posthumous accounts, Hannah is listed as working for the family in 1823. She is down to be paid £5 for mourning the loss of Mary.(3)

Working for the Sutherlands

From the above, Hannah was at Crow Nest from 1822 to 1823, but there is no further mention of her until 1829. 

After the deaths of the Walker parents in 1823, John Walker Jr, (younger brother of Elizabeth and Ann Walker) would inherit the family estate in Lightcliffe which included Crow Nest.

Hannah may have stayed at Crow Nest during this time to work for John as head of the family. Elizabeth Walker married Captain George Mackay Sutherland in 1828 and at some point between their marriage in November 1828, and the birth of their first child on 27th September 1829, Elizabeth moved to Scotland with her new family. From letters sent between Elizabeth Sutherland and her sister, Ann Walker, we know that Hannah Heap did move to Scotland to work for the Sutherland family during this period.

On 21st July 1829, William Priestley writes a letter to Captain Sutherland, politely declining an invitation to Scotland. He goes on to comment that his mother’s health is poor. Interestingly, he also regards it as important enough to comment on the health of Hannah Heap’s mother in the same letter.

I have been little at home during the last week in consequence of the precarious state of my Mother’s health – she is declining very rapidly, and her life is a close – She is perfectly tranquil and composed, and without any suffering. I called upon Mr Webster at Ripponden, a few days ago, and I learnt that Hannah Heap’s Mother [is] at present a great invalid – although I am not [word missing due to ripped page] that her life is in danger.” 

21st July 1829 – William Priestley to George M. Sutherland, West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale CN:107/1 (1)
Portion of image of William Priestly's letter to George Sutherland about Hannah Heap's mother. WYAS, Calderdale CN/107/1
(West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale CN/107/1 21 July 1829 Letter from William Priestley to George M Sutherland)

Ann Walker sends a letter to Elizabeth on 11th November 1834:

With regard to Hannah’s money, I have no objection to take what will make the sum a hundred pounds, as the interest will then be exactly four pounds a year, and I shall each half year give Mr. Washington £2. to credit to your accounts, for her, as I am sure you will be so good as take the trouble of paying her the interest in this way.”

11th November 1834, Ann Walker to Elizabeth Sutherland, West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale CN:103/4/30 (2)

We are still trying to uncover what money this could be referring to. This money could form part of a subscription to the Ripponden Female Society. This was a venture where members paid a regular subscription as insurance against sickness, old age, or funeral expenses. Hannah Heap was a member of this society according to the notice of her death, which we will discuss later.

Further on in the letter, Ann expresses sorrow as she has discovered items belonging to Hannah are still in situ at Lidgate. The Hirds have taken possession of the house at this point, but are not yet in residence.

will you tell Hannah to take her choice, whether I pay her for the feather bed, the flock bed, the bolster and 2 pillows, or send them to Crownest, and get new ones for myself – if the former she must tell you the value of them, and I will give the money to Mr. S. Washington to credit to your account either way, will be exactly the same to me, but I shall be glad to know her determination as soon as possible …”

11th November 1834, Ann Walker to Elizabeth Sutherland, West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale CN:103/4/30 (3)

Hannah is mentioned in another letter that Ann Walker sends to Elizabeth on 2nd December 1834. The tone is semi-formal, dealing with the division of the estate. This letter was accompanied by a slip of paper attached to the back. Ann has instructed that this paper should be given to Hannah Heap.

Articles belonging to Hannah Heap.

Left at Lidgate, and included in the Inventory I gave to Mr. L. Hird.

1. feather bed.

1. flock or feather bed,

1. Bolster.

2. Pillows.”

2nd December 1834, Ann Walker to Elizabeth Sutherland, West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale CN:103/4/32 (4)

The items on this slip of paper correlate with the beds and items which Ann discusses in her previous letter on 11th November.

In 1841 Hannah appears on the Scottish Census as still living with the Sutherlands at Udale House as a female servant up in Scotland. (5)

(©Crown copyright, National Records of Scotland Census 061/4/3)

Hannah Heap at Shibden Hall

From Anne Lister’s diaries, Hannah is still working for the Sutherlands in 1837 as a housekeeper.

In June 1837, Ann’s niece, Mary Sutherland, came for a holiday to Shibden Hall accompanied by Hannah Heap. They spent eleven nights at Cliff Hill with Ann Walker and her aunt, before moving on to stay at Shibden.(1)   Anne Lister charmingly refers to the seven-year-old girl as “little Mary” in her diaries. (2) In the following days, Anne records playing with little Mary “how buoyant her spirits!” and giving her a lesson in Latin. (3) 

In contrast, Anne documents instances in which Ann had a temper and was tired. On 7th June Anne took coffee with little Mary alone. The innocent girl would make a curious observation.

The child said A- was not tired in this way at Cliff hill the whole house and Hannah too will see how it is what a goose A- is and what a temper Mercy upon us what steady comfort can I have what will be the end of it?” (4)

Might Anne be troubled that Hannah Heap interprets Ann’s emotional state at Shibden Hall as a sign she is not happy there?  Anne herself became increasingly gloomy. “Read to turn my mind from this miserable business.” (5) 

Mr. Jubb visited to draw a front loose tooth for little Mary. She refused to let him do this, resulting in Anne declaring “the child sadly spoilt.” (6) 

On 18th June, Anne’s introspection would be interrupted by a drama she could throw herself into.  Anne was taking little Mary to church. Following behind, the market cart conveyed three of the women servants and Hannah Heap. The party had barely left Shibden, when:

I heard all was not right – alighted – found the gray had jibbed – kicked and broke the shafts of the market cart, and upset it and all the women all much frightened – nobody hurt but Mrs. Heap who had hurt her wrist – she looked pale and sick – I saw the wrist swelling a little, but the joint moved without giving her much pain, and I just rubbed the part (or rather dabbed on gently with my fingers) a little brandy and bandaged it comfortable up with a broadish black riband and sent John Booth for Mr. Jubb apprehending a very bad sprain at least.” (7)

Image of Anne Lister's Diary talking of Hannah Heap breaking her arm at Shibden, WYAS, Calderdale SH:7/ML/E/20/0078
(West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale SH:7/ML/E/20/0078 )

Panic over, Anne and little Mary proceeded to church while Hannah stayed at home. Mr. Jubb would visit Shibden and confirm Hannah Heap had broken her arm. When Anne returned, she ebulliently:

congratulated her upon her arm being broken rather than her wrist badly sprained – but she seemed low and was in tears – I cheered her as well as I could.” (8)

The Ann(e)’s spent the following days paying social calls, shopping and walks. There is also the distraction of the proclamation of the new monarch:

A- took little Mary in the carriage to H-x to see the procession and hear the proclamation of Queen Victoria.” (9) 

It is not clear from the diaries whether Hannah accompanied them into Halifax or remained at Shibden.

On 10th July Anne voiced her displeasure that Ann had approved Cookson taking Hannah into Halifax to drink tea with “some people.” Anne’s disapproval does not land well with Ann who is out of sorts and needs to be got “tolerably right again.” (10) 

On 21st July, Mr. Jubb came to Shibden and changed the dressing on Hannah’s arm. In the afternoon, she would set off with little Mary via Leeds on the return trip to Scotland. (11) 

Ann later received a letter from Elizabeth on 27th July. “Thanks for our kindness to little Mary and Mrs. Heap.” (12)

Hanah Heap’s will

Although a servant, Hannah left behind a will, signed and dated 5 July 1845. She named Samuel Washington (1797-1857), Ann Walker’s land agent, as the sole executor of her will. Samuel also witnessed the signing of the will by Hannah Heap and George Mackay Sutherland.

The will is signed with Hannah’s mark, indicating she could not write her name.

In this will, she leaves possessions and money to the surviving children of George and Elizabeth Sutherland. The gift she leaves to Elizabeth Sutherland is a particularly pertinent one, as she gifts her:

“I give and bequeath to Elizabeth Sutherland the oldest surviving daughter of the said George Mackay Sutherland the portrait of herself and her two deceased brothers & sister”

West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale CN:72/3131
Photo of portion of Hannah Heaps Will WYAS, Calderdale CN/72/3131
(West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale CN:72/3131)

As well as the thoughtful gift left to Elizabeth, she makes sure to gift Ann Walker Sutherland a valuable gift of her own:

“I also give and bequeath to Ann Walker Sutherland the other surviving daughter of the said George Mackay Sutherland my gold watch.”

West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale CN:72/3131

Hannah also directs the executor of her will to pay for her funeral expenses from her estate. After funeral payments, she requests any remaining money to be left in equal amounts to Evan Charles Sutherland, Elizabeth Sutherland, and Ann Walker Sutherland, the three surviving Sutherland children, once they reach 21 years of age.

The will also stipulates that should one of the Sutherland children die before they reach 21 years of age, the money will then be divided equally amongst the surviving siblings.

Then, should none of the children survive, the money would pass to their father, George Mackay Sutherland.

“If all of them shall die under the said age of twenty one years then I give and bequeath the said rest and residue and all accumulations thereof to the said George Mackay Sutherland his executors and administrators and which I beg of him to accept as a small acknowledgement of the many kindnesses I have received at his hands”

West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale CN:72/3131

However, the Sutherland family are not the only beneficiaries of Hannah’s will. 

In addition to the portrait, watch, and money bequeathed to the Sutherland children, Hannah requests that the interest from the money she has bequeathed be given to Dan Sharp.

“I Hannah Heap of Shibden Hall Halifax hope and request that Captain Sutherland will give the Interest of the money I have bequeathed to him and his children at my death, to Dan Sharp of Bailiff Bridge during his life by weekly instalments -”

West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale CN:72/3131

Dan Sharp

As mentioned above, Hannah Heap requested in her will that any interest from the money she bequeathed to the Sutherlands be given to Dan Sharp in weekly installments. So who was Dan Sharp, and what was his relation to Hannah? 

From examining other documents found within the Crow Nest papers, we know that Dan Sharp was another servant working for the Walker family at Lightcliffe.

Similar to how we first find mention of Hannah in the account book of executors of John Walker, this is where we first find mention of Dan Sharp. Like Hannah, Dan is also due to be paid servant’s wages in April 1822.(1) While Hannah received £19 and 19s, Dan recieved £15 15s.

Much like Hannah, Dan also reappears in the papers relating to money paid to the servants in mourning in 1823.(2)

So we know that Dan Sharp was another servant working for the Walker family. From Hannah’s will, we also know that at the time of her death in 1847 Dan was still living in Calderdale, in Bailiff Bridge, just East of Lightcliffe.

Hannah clearly had a long-term relationship with Dan although the nature of that relationship is yet to be discovered.

Hannah Heap’s death

Hannah Heap died on Sunday 17th January 1847, having been “afflicted with Disease of the heart”.(4)

Her death is recorded in Inverness and the certificate signed by the minister, Joseph Thorburn, and surgeon Hugh Fraser.(5)

Interestingly, the certificate also notes that Hannah is: “a member of the Ripponden Female Society No 163.”(6) It’s from this note that we know that Hannah was a member of the society, which we discussed above, where members paid subscriptions as insurance against sickness, old age, or funeral expenses.

Conclusion

Hannah Heap was a loyal servant, working throughout her adult life for the Walker and Sutherland families. Although little is yet known about her early life, we get an interesting glimpse into the years she spent as housekeeper for these two families thanks to the care they took after her.

However, Hannah was clearly much more than a servant. She was a core part of the Walker and Sutherland family, particularly the latter. She travels with the children, and cares for them too, keeping a portrait of the Sutherland children for herself, providing for them and leaving sentimental tokens of her affection in her passing.

In reality, Hannah Heap was “just” another servant but the letters reflect she is valued by the extended Walker family, including the care they take over their servant’s possessions.

Although we only have fragments of information about her life, Hannah appears to be a diligent and forward-thinking woman, due to her foresight to save money and pay into a Society as insurance.

While we are often entranced by towering figures like Anne Lister, who left behind whole swathes of evidence thanks to her wealth and journals, we cannot forget the less obvious figures in Anne and Ann’s lives. Servants like Hannah would have been key figures in their daily lives, and in Hannah’s case, were evidently held in high regard. It is vital that we do not allow them to vanish into history and give them the voice and presence they deserve.


References:

Birth and early life:

  1. 1841 Scottish Census, National Records of Scotland

Working for the Walkers:

  1. West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale HAS 286
  2. West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale WYC: 1525/7/1/3/5
  3. West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale CH:89/18

Working for the Sutherlands:

  1. 21st July 1829, William Priestley to George M. Sutherland: CN: 107/1, West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale, Transcription by Caroline Maillard, Martin Walker, & Deb Woolson
  2. 11th November 1834, Ann Walker to Elizabeth Sutherland: CN:103/4/30, West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale, Transcription by Leila Straub
  3. 11th November 1834, Ann Walker to Elizabeth Sutherland: CN:103/4/30West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale, Transcription by Leila Straub
  4. 2nd December 1834, Ann Walker to Elizabeth Sutherland: CN:103/4/32, West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale, Transcription by Leila Straub
  5. 1841 Scottish Census, National Records of Scotland

Hannah Heap at Shibden Hall:

  1. SH:7/ML/E/20/0071  West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale Transcription by Frankie Raia
  2. SH:7/ML/E/20/0071  West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale Transcription by Frankie Raia
  3. SH:7/ML/E/20/0072  West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale Transcription by Frankie Raia
  4. SH:7/ML/E/20/0072  West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale Transcription by Frankie Raia
  5. SH:7/ML/E/20/0076   West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale Transcription by Frankie Raia
  6. SH:7/ML/E/20/0077  West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale Transcription by Frankie Raia
  7. SH:7/ML/E/20/0078  West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale Transcription by Frankie Raia
  8. SH:7/ML/E/20/0078  West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale Transcription by Frankie Raia
  9. SH:7/ML/E/20/0082  West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale Transcription by Frankie Raia
  10. SH:7/ML/E/20/0090  West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale Transcription by Frankie Raia
  11. SH:7/ML/E/20/0097  West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale Transcription by Frankie Raia
  12. SH:7/ML/E/20/0100  West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale Transcription by Frankie Raia

Hannah’s will:

  1. West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale CN:72/3131 Transcription by Louise Godley and Martin Walker

Dan Sharp:

  1. West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale WYC:1525/7/1/3/5
  2. West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale CN:89/18

Hannah’s death:

  1. West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale CN:72

Special Thanks

Diane Halford – Archive Research & Editing
Frankie Raia, Leila Straub, Martin Walker, Caroline Maillard, Deb Woolson – transcriptions

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:
Catriona Findlay, Erin Quilliam, Vicki Clark, Michelle Drake (2023) “Hannah Heap: not just a servant” In Search of Ann Walker [Accessed “add date”]


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Researching Ann Walker in the archives and online - Ensuring her legacy is continued.

In Search Of Ann Walker

Researching Ann Walker in the archives and online - Ensuring her legacy is continued.