John Walker Jnr (1804 – 1830)
By Caroline Maillard, Martin Walker & Deb Woolson
John Walker Jnr was born to John Walker and Mary Edwards in 1804, while they were living at Cliffe Hill in Lightcliffe, and was the youngest of the five Walker children. His elder siblings were William (died at 21 days in 1798), Mary (died a teenager in 1815), Elizabeth (b.1801), and Ann (b. 1803). John was baptised on 28th November 1804 at St. Matthews Church.1
The Walker family’s wealth was derived from land ownership, marriage settlements and textile manufacturing. John Walker Snr had inherited land & money from his father, William Walker Snr, in 1786. In 1809, upon the death of his older brother, William, John Snr inherited the rest of the Lightcliffe estate, including Crow Nest. The Walker family moved to Crow Nest after William’s death; Walker siblings Elizabeth, Ann and John Jnr would therefore spend most of their childhood at Crow Nest.
In 1823, John Jnr and his sisters lost both their parents. John Snr died in April, and his wife Mary succumbed to a sudden illness that November. John Jnr stood to inherit most of the Walker estate, with his sisters Elizabeth and Ann also being well provided for.2 However, because John was just 19 when his parents died, the Walker estate was placed in trust until he turned 21 in 1825. William Priestley, the Walker siblings’ cousin, and Henry Lees Edwards, their uncle, were the designated executors of John Snr’s will, and administrators of the estate.
We know very little about the relationships that John Snr and Mary Walker had with their children – but the diary of a cousin, Caroline Wyville Walker, provides a glimpse into their personalities. When writing about John Snr’s death, Caroline hints at his formidable presence:
“His great fondness for money made him indifferent to bienseance where that was concerned… My poor, dear brother would say ‘I am going to meet the lion in his den’ when going to meet Mr. Walker at the room he did business in at Halifax.” Caroline had kinder words for Mary Walker upon the latter’s death: “Mrs W was generally esteemed, she had a good-humoured countenance and a very obliging manner.”3
It must have been devastating for John and his sisters to lose both parents in such rapid succession. As heir to the Walker fortune, John would be expected to oversee the family’s properties and other assets when he turned 21. As noted later in this blog, he may have been ill-prepared to assume these weighty responsibilities.
John enrolled at Brasenose College at the University of Oxford on 14th January 1822, at the age of 17. He spent little time in residence at Brasenose, as his room book showed he was allocated a room for only 2 quarters, and he appeared to leave part way through the second. The college records show he only took one set of collections (exams held at the beginning of each term to track progress) in 1822. The records for the Michaelmas term, which runs from September or October to December, indicate that John was absent due to illness in 1824. In 1825 he removed his name from the college books, withdrawing from Oxford without having obtained a degree.4
The expectation at Brasenose was that students would live at the college, where they would study, eat, sleep and socialise. Each student would have a tutor whose responsibility would be overseeing the student’s finances. The cost of tuition would depend on the type of scholar, and the student would be invoiced accordingly. Unfortunately, we were unable to find those records as they pertain to John.5
The reason for John’s withdrawal from Brasenose is not known at this time, although his health may have been an issue. In addition, when his parents died in 1823, he may have been called back to Halifax to attend to the vast Walker estate, which he would inherit when he came of age in 1825.
Coming of Age
In 1825 it was reported in the newspaper that John had thrown himself a coming-of-age party.
John’s cousin, Carolyn Wyville Walker, mentions this party in her diary. It is the only first-hand account known to date:
20 September 1825: “John Walker gives a ball upon his coming of age. We are invited Que ferons nous?” and on 10 October 1825: “We all went to the ball. Only two country dances were danced. Quadrilles are quite the rage at present.”6
The Walker Estate inherited by John Walker Jnr
As noted earlier, John Walker Snr inherited the Walker estates upon the death of his brother William in 1809. He left a very detailed, 31-page will: in it he honoured the bequests made to his sisters in his brother’s will; ensured that his wife Mary would be comfortable for the rest of her life; and made very generous provision for both of his daughters, Elizabeth and Ann. As was customary at the time, the bulk of the estate was left to the eldest (and only) son, John Walker, who would fully inherit on reaching his majority.
John Walker Snr left extensive real estate to his wife Mary, but it was all entailed to John (the entailment ensured that if John were to die without an heir, the properties would go to Elizabeth or Ann). This meant that while she lived, Mary would be entitled to all income generated. Mary was also given the right to live at Crow Nest, but only until John came of age, at which time she was to be given the right to “occupy Cliff Hill rent free during her life in case both my Sisters (Ann & Mary) shall at the time of her quitting Crownest be then dead”. It’s not clear where she was expected to live after 1825 if either of her sisters-in-law were still alive.
Some real estate was explicitly left to Ann & Elizabeth, including New House and several other houses, tenements and parcels of land at Hipperholme. The will also stipulated that, if John Walker Jnr were to die without an heir, Crow Nest would go to Elizabeth, and Cliff Hill would go to Ann.
Lidgate, or Lydgate, House, where Ann Walker was living in 1832, is not specifically mentioned in the will, although Walkers are known to have lived there in the 18th century. It may have passed out of Walker ownership and then been re-acquired after John Walker Snr’s death.
John would not finally inherit the estate until he was 21, in 1825. John Walker Snr had appointed two of John Jnr’s close relatives as executors of the will and administrators of the estate: his cousin William Priestley and his uncle Henry Lees Edwards. This meant that John (and Elizabeth & Ann) had to apply to either of the administrators for money when needed. The few letters we have written by John to William Priestley suggest that Priestley was the administrator John preferred to deal with, and that they had a close, mutually-respectful relationship: John addressed his letters to “My dear Cousin” and always asked after Mrs Priestley. When asking for money, John was always very polite, but one gets the impression that the request would also be met. This is an excerpt from a letter from John to Priestley written in June 1824, when John was in Bath with Elizabeth and Ann:
“I am in want of some money at present, and as I shall most likely want a good deal before I get Home, (as I do not yet know where I shall go the beginning of the Vacation) it will be less trouble to have it at once; therefore shall be much obliged if you will send me £200 to Oxford as soon as is convenient to yourself. Elizabeth desires me to say She will be much obliged to you to send Her £100, to No 2 Poulteney St. Bath.”7
William Priestley would also keep John appraised of developments at home, and, in this case at least, would ask for his assent for large expenditure. We don’t have the “sketch” referred to, but in this letter of March 1825 John replies from Oxford:
“I am very much obliged to you for your information respecting the Field which is to be sold, and I clearly see the situation of it from your Sketch – I should wish by all means to purchase it, merely to prevent Buildings being erected near to us, as they are objectionable in any situation so close to the House.”8
The estate was valued at approximately £196,000 in 1869, when Evan Charles Sutherland sold what he could of the estate.9 We know that both John Walker Jnr and Ann had consistently bought up land around Crow Nest, including Green House and Cliff House for £6,900. If we assume that Lidgate House was bought for a similar amount, then at least £10,350 was added to the value of the estate after 1809. There were no doubt other purchases (such as the land near Crow Nest mentioned in John Walker’s letter above), but there would have been sales as well (e.g. Ann sold land to the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railway in the 1840s) so the estate was perhaps worth £195,000 in 1823 (the inflation rate between 1823 and 1869 was essentially flat). This would be about £19M calculated on a simple inflation-adjusted basis. However, the “real” value of money over time is notoriously difficult to calculate: a relative income estimate based on GDP per capita would be somewhere in the region of £260M.10 Whatever measure is most realistic, it’s clear that John Walker became very, very rich.
John appeared in local newspapers several times in the 1820’s.
He obtained a Game Certificate from the County of York, West-Riding as published in the Leeds Intelligencer 9th September 1824.
John was a steward for a festive evening at the Halifax Assemblies along with John Waterhouse, his uncle Henry Lees Edwards and William Briggs – familiar names to viewers of Gentleman Jack.
In the Yorkshire Gazette of 21st February 1829, we learn that John, his sister Ann and his Aunt Ann Walker subscribed to the York Minster in support of a fund for the restoration of the choir.
John and His Sisters
Although we don’t presently have any letters written directly between John and his sisters, John’s letters to his cousin, William Priestley, show us that he, Elizabeth and Ann were close and travelled together. In the summer of 1824, the three siblings and “Mrs Rawson” (it does not specify which Mrs Rawson) were on an extended stay in Bath, which was an extremely fashionable Regency spa resort.
“I came down here with Mrs Rawson and my Sisters on Saturday evening, since which time We have been busy looking out for Lodgings, and have at last fixed upon some in Poulteney St., which appears to be the most pleasant situation.”11
Later John writes from Oxford about his plans to meet his sisters again on the south coast, at another fashionable resort:
“I had a letter from Ann this morning, saying, that they intend setting out from Bath for Weymouth on Thursday. I believe the Bath Waters do not agree very well with Elizabeth. I intend going to them at Weymouth about the middle of next Week, and shall most probably remain with them untill [sic] they return Home.”12
John’s influence on his sister Ann was long-lasting. In addition to remembering the anniversary of his death each year as evidenced in her own diary (see section: A Tragic Honeymoon), Ann later expressed fears to Anne Lister that her brother wouldn’t have approved of their union:
17 April 1839: “A- low as ever what will it end in she begins to doubt about settling all on me said today she felt as if the blood of her brother would cry out against her she ought to take up her cross she was a fornicator poor thing what will all this end in”.13
Ann was still being reminded of John – even five years after his death – as this entry from the Anne Lister’s journal shows:
15 May 1835: “A- had letter directed to ‘Walker Esquire, Crownest, near Halifax, Yorkshire’ from Oxford, a bill of £1 against her brother in 1825”14
Anne Lister on John Walker Jnr
The following excerpts from Anne Lister’s diary paint John Walker Jnr as an ineffectual businessman and hunter:
27 November 1828 “Mosey told me, Mr. Walker had no spirit for workmen – all the outbuildings at Crownest going out of repair for want of painting etc. Mr. Walker’s game-keeper joiner had informed against 3 poachers, took a false oath, and they informed against him for buying 9 pheasants for Mr. Walker for which Mr. W- will have to pay £5 per bird penalty – he had bought much game of the Kirklees poachers that were transported.”15
2 January 1829 “[With Mosey] A good deal of local news about Mr. Walker – his keeper convicted in £45 penalty for buying 9 young pheasants – sadly deceived by this man, and 1 of his grooms, and his head farming man – Knows nothing about how work should be done – a bad shot – after taking sight draws back (afraid) and thus loses his aim – this the fault, too, of his keeper”16
In another set of diary entries from late 1828, Anne Lister expresses her displeasure at what she views as a snub of the Lister family by the young Mr. Walker. Clearly the two families were familiar with one another, as neighbours would be. It seems that Anne did not feel it proper for her to visit John at Crow Nest – now that he was head of the family – before he had called on her father at Shibden Hall.
7 November 1828 “a note to ‘Miss Walker Crownest’ expressing in a friendly well-written note my regret at not being able to call at Crownest on account of Mr Walker’s not having called on my father – concluded it was mere inadvertence – if as I was persuaded, Mr Walker was incapable of intending any want of proper attention to any one, he would take an early opportunity of calling here, and we should all be glad to see him – Read the note to my father – he seemed satisfied that it should go tho’ he had before he had been against my writing and wished to call at Crownest”17
8 November 1828 “Very civil proper note from Miss Walker (Crownest) in answer to mine of yesterday – Mr Walker not aware he had never called on my father ‘my brother regrets exceedingly ‘having been guilty of such an omission which was as you imagine entirely inadvertent, ‘he is going from home for a few days but on his return will take an early opportunity of atoning for his neglect by calling upon Mr Lister and I trust our families may henceforth enjoy that friendly intercourse which formerly existed between them’ – dated Friday evening”18
15 November 1828 “staid talking till Mr Walker called at 12, and sat with me in the drawing room 1/2 hour – made a very gentlemanly and handsome apology for not having called – really could hardly yet persuade himself he had not done so – my father gone to Halifax, and said Marian was at home but not well – astonished at my having heard he meant to oppose stopping the road in front of the house – had never said more than he did not know what would be done about it – quite of my opinion that if the other was a good road, and the Hipperholme bar freed the Godley bar one road would be enough – we got on very well together, and I fear no opposition from him – said he should go abroad – he should like it – perhaps might go some time”19
Marriage to Frances Esther Penfold
We don’t know for certain when John Walker Jnr first met Frances (Fanny) Penfold. But given that she was Christopher and Mary Anne Rawson’s niece, and lived with them for much of her youth, it’s likely that Fanny was acquainted with many of the wealthy young people of Halifax. In fact, Caroline Wyville Walker reports in her diary that the night before John’s mother Mary fell ill and died, she had visited the Rawson home to fetch Elizabeth, who had spent several days there.20 This indicates that the Walker siblings may have encountered Fanny on a regular basis.
After visiting her cousin John at Crownest in July 1829 just before his wedding, Caroline Wyville Walker wrote that:
“John is said to be going to be married to Miss Penfold. He looks very grave and thoughtful. It puts me in mind of Lord Ogleby’s saying—“What poor things…these very young fellows are! They make love with faces as if they were burying the dead!”21
Anne Lister also mentioned the Walker-Penfold wedding in her diary entry of 20th July 1829:
“The Walkers leave Crow Nest on Tuesday. I suppose Mr. Walker will be married immediately on his arrival in the South, and as they are going abroad for a year, I fancy they set off directly for Paris. Marian declined sending any letter by him. Miss [Ann] Walker, his sister, declined going so they bring Miss Edwards [Delia Priestley Edwards], his cousin, with them.”22
On 28th July 1829, Frances Penfold and John Walker were married in Steyning, West Sussex by Fanny’s father, the Rev. John Penfold at the Parish Church of St Andrew (now the Steyning Parish Church of St Andrew and St Cuthman). Halifax friends and relatives in attendance included Ann Walker, Christopher and Mary Anne Rawson, and Delia Priestley Edwards.
A Tragic Honeymoon
John and Fanny left for their honeymoon a month after their wedding. They travelled to Paris, Basel, Geneva, Leghorn (Livorno), Florence, Milan arriving in Naples by 29th December 1829. To follow their honeymoon journey, view the story map here.
On 19th January 1830, John Walker died in Naples after a brief illness. Caroline Wyville Walker reported in her diary that Fanny was by his side:
“Thursday, 11 February – Yesterday, we received the melancholy news that Mr. Walker (of Crow Nest) was dead at Naples. How lamentably striking! Just married- master of a good fortune-he is suddenly snatched away! A journey intended for pleasure and improvement has ended in his life.” “Tuesday, 16 February. We returned our calls at Halifax. John Walker had just received a letter from Anne [sic] Walker. He read it in bed; gave it to Mrs. Walker, saying: -‘I am glad to hear all is well at Halifax; it is a letter from Anne [sic], you may read it Fanny. I think I can sleep a little! Mrs. Walker went to the window to read the letter. John never spoke afterwards, but died as she read the letter. Five physicians had consulted about him the day before. They said he would recover with care. His illness was rapid decline.”23
John Walker’s cause of death wasn’t noted in the official death certificate. But five years later (19th January 1835), Ann Walker would mention John’s death in her diary, intimating that he’d suffered from weak lungs:
“Ground covered with snow – five years to day since I lost my poor brother at 3 oclock in the afternoon – In the hotel he went to on arriving at Naples he could only have a back room, he then tried to get a house, but not succeeding he removed to another hotel which had a good view of the bay & was close to the public gardens. (I suppose this hotel to have been in the Chiaja [Chiaia] … – Mrs. Starke in her account of Naples says “The houses on the Chiaja are less dangerous than those in the quarter of S. Lucia, because further removed from the tufo mountain: but their situation is too bleak for persons afflicted with tender lungs. Piazzo-Falcone is wholesome & not noisy; a peculiar advantage at Naples. Persons who wish for a situation congenial to weak lungs, should reside in the Fouria [Foria].”24 John Walker was laid to rest in the Old Protestant Cemetery located at the Santa Maria Della Fede Church in Naples.
NOTE: For a more detailed account of John’s death and aftermath, refer to the extensively researched “The Death of John Walker Junior” article on Anne Lister Italia.25
Fanny’s Return to England
In late February 1830, John’s widow Fanny departed Naples in the company of her sister, Catherine Penfold, and their friend, Delia Priestley Edwards. Fanny’s brother, James Penfold, also joined them for part of their homeward journey. Fanny and her entourage travelled to Rome, Lyon and Paris before setting out for England from Calais in May 1830.26 Her uncle Christopher Rawson met her in Calais to escort her back to the Penfold home in Steyning.27 We also know from James Penfold’s letters that Ann Walker did “her late brother’s widow the honor of meeting her” when Fanny arrived in Dover on 8th June 1830.28
By the time Fanny disembarked at Dover, she likely knew that she was carrying John Walker’s child. Sadly, she gave birth to a stillborn son on 9th October 1830 at her father’s home in Steyning.
John Walker died intestate, ie without a will. But the terms of his father’s will, stipulated that should John Jnr die leaving no children, the most valuable component of his inheritance—the Walker properties—would pass directly to John’s sisters Ann and Elizabeth, rather than to John Jnr’s surviving spouse.
Despite the lack of an heir, John’s widow Fanny retained considerable power in settling John’s affairs. In August 1830, she was designated as the “administrator” who would oversee the disposition of John’s assets (not including the Walker lands). For the ensuing four years, Fanny, the Walker sisters, and their representatives fought over their rights to John Walker’s personal property. The bad feelings between the families intensified as time passed, with Ann Walker describing Fanny et al as “our opponents” in an 1834 letter to Elizabeth.29
Finally, in late December 1834, Fanny’s share of John’s estate was settled, and Ann Walker, Elizabeth Sutherland, and George Sutherland signed a document releasing Fanny of all further demands as administrator of John Walker’s estate. Evidence gathered to date indicates that the value of Fanny’s inheritance was at least £16,000 (approximately £2.2M in 2021). This included £2,000 in cash paid to Fanny by John’s sisters for “the whole of these effects”: household goods, books, liquor, clothes, jewellery, horses and carriages.30
NOTE: In Search of Ann Walker (ISAW) is in the process of transcribing correspondence and legal documents from the 1830s that will shed more light on the settlement between Fanny Walker Clarke, Ann Walker, and Elizabeth Walker Sutherland. More information will be published on the ISAW website as it becomes available.
Few first-hand accounts of John Walker Jnr’s life and character have been found to date. From what we know of him, it appears that John’s youth was fairly typical of the time and class into which he was born: he travelled to resort towns with friends and family, hosted social functions for the Halifax gentry, and had ready access to cash to support his lifestyle.
Ann Walker’s diary, and John’s university records imply that he battled health issues, perhaps the “weak lungs” that also afflicted his sister Elizabeth (who died of consumption in 1844). Illness may have prevented him from being a diligent student, or from ever graduating from Oxford.
Still a teenager when his parents died, John was likely unprepared to assume his responsibilities as the head of such a large estate and prominent household. According to Anne Lister, John was not a good businessman; he had trouble with gamekeepers and couldn’t shoot a gun very well. He was also willing to break the law by purchasing illegal game, for which the poachers were punished very severely.
There is some evidence that John was close to his sisters, particularly to Ann, who was just a year his senior. Sadly, a letter from Ann was the last he received before he died.
Because John Walker Jnr died so young, it’s impossible to know how he would have grown into his roles as wealthy landowner, husband, and prominent member of Halifax society. The lives of his widow and his sisters, particularly Ann, would have taken a very different course had John lived well into adulthood.
** Research for this blog is ongoing and will be updated as more facts are discovered.
1. John’s baptism record West Yorkshire Archive Service D47/2 per Ancestry.co.uk – a paid subscription service.
2. “Elizabeth and Ann Walker’s Inheritance” John Walker Snr’s Will by Ian Philp
3. Halifax Antiquarian Society, Walkers of Crow Nest by Rowland Bretton, F.H.S, 6th April, 1971
4. John’s education from Brasenose College
6. Halifax Antiquarian Society, Walkers of Crow Nest by Rowland Bretton, F.H.S, 6th April, 1971 https://www.halifaxhistory.org.uk/
7. Letter from John Walker to William Priestley, 8th June 1824 (WYC:1525/7/1/7/4 West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale) Transcription by Martin Walker
8. Letter from John Walker to William Priestley, 11th March 1825 (WYC:1525/7/1/7/4 West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale) Transcription by Martin Walker
9. “The Walker and Sutherland Walker Estates” by Ian Philip, Lightcliffe and District Local History Society, 2020:
10. “MeasuringWorth”, a service for calculating relative worth over time:
11. Letter from John Walker to William Priestley, 8th June 1824 (WYC:1525/7/1/7/4 West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale) Transcription by Martin Walker – Twitter – @listeria
12. Letter from John Walker to William Priestley, 21st June 1824 (WYC:1525/7/1/7/4 West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale) Transcription by Martin Walker – Twitter – @listeria
13. Anne Lister’s diary, 17th April 1839 (SH:7/ML/E/23/0023 West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale) Transcription by Frankie Raia
https://whatdoesshedotothem.tumblr & https://www.annelister.it/
14. Anne Lister’s diary, 18th May 1835 (SH:7/ML/E/18/0037 West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale) Transcription by Frankie Raia
https://whatdoesshedotothem.tumblr & https://www.annelister.it/
15. Anne Lister Diary 27th November 1828 (SH:7/ML/E/11/0098 West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale) Transcription by Leila Straub – Twitter – @LeilaMarcia
16. Anne Lister Diary 2nd January 1829 (SH:7/ML/E/11/0119 West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale) Transcription by Leila Straub – Twitter – @LeilaMarcia
17. Anne Lister Diary 7th November 1828 (SH-7-ML-E-11-0088 West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale) Transcription by Leila Straub – Twitter – @LeilaMarcia
18. Anne Lister Diary 8th November 1828 (SH-7-ML-E-11-0088 West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale) Transcription by Leila Straub – Twitter – @LeilaMarcia
19. Anne Lister Diary 15th November 1828 (SH:7/ML/E/11/0091 West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale) Transcription by Leila Straub – Twitter – @LeilaMarcia
20. Caroline Wyville Walker (CW Walker) Diary: Halifax Antiquarian Society, 1908 Walterclough in Southowram
22. Anne Lister’s Diary 20th July 1829 (SH:7/ML/E/12/0058 West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale) Transcription by Jane Kendall
23. Caroline Wyville Walker (CW Walker) Diary: Halifax Antiquarian Society, 1908 Walterclough in Southowram
24. Ann Walker’s Diary 1834-35 (WYC: 1525/7/1/5/1/36 West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale) Transcription by Leila Straub, Ivana Nika, Dorjana Sirola, Diane Halford, Alexa Tansley
25. Francesca Raia, Lucia Falzari, 2020. “The death of John Walker Jr.”, Anne Lister Italia (accessed: Feb 2, 2022)
27. Christopher Rawson Diary, 1833 (West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale 1525/2/5/2) Transcription by Caroline Maillard and Martin Walker
28. Letter from James Vowling Penfold to Elizabeth Sutherland (23rd December 1830) West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale CN:100/2 Transcription by Caroline Maillard
29. Letter from Ann Walker to Elizabeth Sutherland, 13th September 1834 (WYC: CN:103/4/28 West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale) Transcription by Leila Straub – Twitter – @LeilaMarcia
30. Stamp Office Register re: Estate Residues, August 1832 (WYC: CN:99/7 West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale)
Special thanks to Diane Halford, Louise Godley for editing.
Special thanks to Annaliese Griffiss, Acting Archivist, Brasenose College for locating John Walker Jnr’s records.
John Walker Snr’s will accessed via the National Archives (ref: PROB 11/1687) https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/
Transcribed by contributors to In Search of Ann Walker, including:
Bri Praslicka, Charlotte Crawshaw, Diane Halford, Louise Godley, Martin Walker, Tiffany April