Many of us have wondered if Ann Walker maintained contact with any of Anne Lister’s friends after Anne’s death. We have three letters from Mrs Mary Jane (Marsh) Duffin to Ann, written in 1842.
Mary Jane Duffin (née Marsh) was baptised in York in 1770. She was Mr William Duffin’s second wife, marrying him in 1826. William Duffin, who died in 1839, was Eliza Raine’s guardian and a friend of Anne Lister’s. Mary Jane Duffin died in 1855.1 Some readers of this blog will recognize Miss Marsh/Mrs Duffin from many of Anne Lister’s early diary entries.
Anne, Ann & Mrs Duffin
In Anne Lister’s diary entry for 25th April 1839, she recorded how she and Ann visited Mrs Duffin, and then Eliza Raine at Clifton, while they were in York to see Mr Gray about their wills. Anne wrote:
“…Mr. G- left us at 1 to come again in the evening at 5 ½ and Mrs. D- took a glass of wine and biscuit and then walked with us (A- and me) to Clifton to see E.R. walked there 25 minutes (from 2 to 2 25/..) and staid ½ hour – ER. looking fat and well and tidy – better dressed and better looking than I have ever seen her before since her derangement – she was in good humour – knew me perfectly and drank my health, and seemed, too, as if she recollected A- by name when I mentioned her as of Crownest – In returning called on Mrs. Henry Robison – not at home – met her afterwards – called also on Miss Best her sister – at Croft Rectory – Mrs. Duffin left us after having called on Miss Best…”West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale SH:7/ML/E/23/0029 Transcription by Frankie Raia
That would be the last time they would see Mrs Duffin before setting out on their final trip.
Mrs Duffin’s Correspondence to Ann
Mrs Duffin’s letter dated 16th August 1842 is addressed to ‘My Dear Miss Walker’. Mrs Duffin thanks Ann for the kind gift of “Moorgame” (game birds) and rejoices in Ann’s amended health. This is a wonderfully newsy letter.
“…I sent according to your desire a Leash to the Miss Norcliffes & a Brace to Miss Brown, who I am certain will feel gratified at your kind Attention – & she will I am persuaded (like myself) truly rejoice at your amended health; long may it continue my dear Miss Walker; to benefit yourself & All who know you -…”West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale CN:103/2/59 Transcription by Martin Walker
We don’t currently know what health issue of Ann’s is being referred to in the letter, although Ann also refers to her now improved ill health in a letter to Robert Parker in July 1842. Mrs Duffin also reflects on the death of Mariana Belcombe’s mother, and the fact that all her children had been by her side during her last weeks. It appears that after Mrs Belcombe’s death, her children went to the Miller house, which from the 1841 census could possibly be Eliza (née Belcombe) and husband Reverend Michael H Miller’s home in Scarborough, North Yorkshire.2
“…I suppose you have heard that dear good old Mrs Belcombe was released on Saturday the 30th of July – All her Children affectionately attended her for many Weeks before she departed, Her loss to them is great indeed & to All who knew her, she is deservedly & deeply lamented. Mrs Lawton, Mrs Milne, Miss Belcombe & Louisa Belcombe with Mrs Duncan Milne & her very fine little girl are for the present gone to Scarbro’ to Mr Miller’s House, he having been long seriously ill & tho’ better not allowed to return to his Duties at Scarborough of Course his kind attentive Wife is with him I believe at or near Halifax….”West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale CN:103/2/59 Transcription by Martin Walker
“…Your neighbor [sic] Mrs Lamplugh Hird is in the last stage of a consumption, Col[onel] Hale & his 2 Daughters are gone to take their last leave & give all the comfort to poor Mr Hird, his sad melancholy case requires – Her Voyage & stay at the Madeiras has failed of renovating her frame – I feel for them All deeply -…”West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale CN:103/2/59 Transcription by Martin Walker
In another letter, dated 20th August 1842, Mrs Duffin thanked Ann for yet another 4 braces of game, and we learn that Ann apparently invited her to visit her at Shibden Hall.
“…Words are quite inadequate to express my feelings – I can only say accept my very best thanks for all your unbounded kindness & attention & also for your most friendly invitation to Shibden Hall, but my dear Miss Walker, I now decline every invitation both in Town & Country – my health tho’ much recovered is not in a state to allow me ever to leave my own home, my attacks are so very sudden & leave my Chest & Lungs so weak…”West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale CN:103/2/67 Transcription by Deb Woolson & Martin Walker
In this letter Mrs Duffin also discusses the riots that had broken out locally.
“…I do hope you are not suffering much Alarm from the Riots in your neighborhood, whichWest Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale CN:103/2/67 Transcription by Deb Woolson & Martin Walker
I trust by the prompt exertions of the Military are now nearly quelled. Our Assizes are likely to last 3 Weeks & our Aug[u]st Races begin on Monday – To that this great Town will be all Bustle; but I have a quiet Back Room therefore I shall not feel any Annoyance – once more Adieu”
The riots were covered extensively in the local papers.
Another letter, dated 27th August 1842, reveals that Ann had sent even more birds to Mrs Duffin, who was still very appreciative.
“My dear Miss Walker,West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale CN:103/2/66 Transcription by Deb Woolson & Martin Walker
Again I take up my pen to thank you for your most kind attention in sending me two Couples of most beautiful fine MoorGame which I shall enjoy exceedingly – they arrived yesterday & your kind note this Mor[nin]g – for all which again accept my best thanks; the Weather is now so much cooler that I can enjoy your fine Birds myself – last week was so extremely hot that the Birds you then sent were obliged to be used that day or the next, therefore I obliged sick friends by sending to them – otherwise you may be assured my dear Miss Walker I would not have parted with them, so much do I like them & so truly do I estimate your extreme kindness to me…”
Mrs Duffin was clearly not well which didn’t prevent her from writing another note of thanks on 7 September 1842 after receiving more game from Ann.
My dear Miss Walker This morning I have received your most kind present of a couple of MoorGame & a Brace of Par-tridges – All I have to say is you must accept my most grateful thanks. You are really too good I can never express sufficently what I feel; I have not been well for the last few Days with the fashionable Complaint which I believe has visited almost every House – I rejoice to hear from your Tenant that you are quite well, long may you continue so – I did not come down Stairs till 12 o’clock & as the blaze[?] of my fire[?] is not quite agre[e]able to my Head, I will only add how much I am my dearWest Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale CN:103/2/86 Transcription by Deb Woolson & Martin Walker
Miss Walker your greatly obliged & affectionate Friend
M J Duffin
Firstly, it appears Shibden Hall and Cliff Hill estates had a lot of game birds, and Ann kindly shared them with Anne Lister’s friends in York. Anne Lister mentioned sending game to her friends in her diary so it appears Ann was keeping with that tradition. Secondly, to know that Ann Walker still had connection with her wife’s friends two years after her death is a comforting thought. Reading Mrs Duffin’s words gives us a flavour of the kind of woman she was, very appreciative of – and kind to – Ann Walker. Are there other letters from Anne Lister’s friends to Ann still to be found? We have Every Reason To Hope!
- Mary Jane Marsh baptism – Ancestry.co.uk. England, Select Births and Christenings, 1538-1975 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014.
Mary Jane & William Duffin’s marriage date – Ancestry.co.uk England, Select Marriages, 1538-1973 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2014.
William Duffin’s death – Ancestry.co.uk York, Yorkshire, England, Church of England Deaths and Burials, 1813-1995 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2022.
Mary Jane Duffin’s death – FreeBMD. Copyright © 1998-2022 Free UK Genealogy CIO, a charity registered in England and Wales, Number 1167484.
- Ancestry.com. 1841 England Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc, 2010.
- Frances Hird’s death notice in 29th Oct 1842 Manchester Courier ©The British Library Board
West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale
Friends of St Matthew’s Churchyard
Ancestry.com – A paid service
Britishnewspapers.com – A paid service
Diane Halford – for her archival research in finding these three letters from Mrs Duffin.
Martin Walker – for his transcriptions of Mrs Duffin’s letters.
Twitter – @ListeriaUK
Louise Godley – for editing this blog.
Frankie Raia – for the transcription of Anne Lister’s Diary,
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:
Deb Woolson (2022) “My dear Miss Walker”: In Search of Ann Walker [Accessed “add date”]
I'm semi-retired and live in the US. Between researching for ISAW and dabbling in politics, my time is well spent. I watched GJ S1 and was overwhelmed by the beauty of Yorkshire and the amazing story of these two women. (Months later I learned my ancestors came from Yorkshire!) I have such admiration for Ann Walker and am honored to work with the talented ISAW team to bring her story to the forefront.