Ann’s People

Robert Parker, Esq

Family vault at St Andrews Churchyard, Slaidburn
Photo used with kind permission of Jude Dobson
Family vault at St Andrews Churchyard, Slaidburn
Photo used with kind permission of Jude Dobson

Robert Parker (1798-1856) had a long and successful law practice in Halifax. This is an overview of his life and some of the clients he worked for.

Early Years

Robert Parker was the second son born in 1798 to Alexander North and Margaret (née Butler) Parker at Houghton Park, Lancashire England.1 His brother Alexr North Parker was born in 17952 and died in 1807.3

On 9th June 1815, at 17 years of age, Robert Parker became an articled clerk (an apprentice) to attorney Richard Nicholson of Ripon for five years. The document reads in part:

“And during the same term the said Richard Nicholson is to teach and instruct the same Robert Parker in the Knowledge and practice of the law in the Courts at Westminster as an Attorney and Solicitor in such manner as the said Richard Nicholson now practices and professes.”4

 UK, Articles of Clerkship, 1756-1874


In 1820, he worked with Morton and Nicholson of Gray’s Inn, London. He was admitted to the King’s Bench and Chancery on 22nd June 1820. He worked in James Wigglesworth’s office at Halifax, December, 1821, and then went into partnership with Wigglesworth from 1823-26. From 1826 until his death in 1856 he partnered with Thomas Adam.1

From the 1841 Census we know that Parker was living at Barum Top in Halifax with two servants, Sarah Haswell (32 years) and Sarah Ann Wood (18 years).2 Both women continued their service with him, per the 1851 Census showing them still with him at Clare Hall.3 From his will, it appears they were with him until the end of his life.

Throughout the years, Parker and his law firm worked for Anne Lister, Aunt Ann Walker, the Sutherlands and Ann Walker, to name just a few.


Anne Lister

In an 1825 letter from James Lister (Anne’s uncle) to his sister Anne (Aunt Anne), he wrote of having met Mr. Parker to sign a tenant’s lease.1 Anne Lister continued to employ him throughout her ownership of Shibden Hall. Before she and Ann left on their last trip, they fired Sam Washington from both their estates, and Anne arranged for Parker to collect her rents.

From Anne Lister’s 1st May 1839 diary entry:

“… Mr S[amuel] Washington came at 1¼ today wanting to speak to A- to ask what rent Hartley of Lane Ends had to pay – A- civilly said she had been wanting to see S[amuel] W[ashington]   had made a new arrangement, & would not want him to receive her rents – to bring in his account some day next week, & she would settle with him – I then went down to him & said that I too had made a new arrangement – Mr Parker would receive my rents – he said there would be the quarry measuring   I desired him to bring in his bill – saying perhaps he might as well measure forwards to the close of Mr. Freeman’s agreement – but I would speak about this to Mr. P[arker] & hear what he said -…”

West Yorkshire Archives, Calderdale SH:7/ML/E/23/0033 Transcription by Martin Walker

A letter from Parker to Ann Lister on 14th July 1840:

“… On Sunday Evening I called [at] Shibden Hall. Mrs Oddie said all was going on well – there appeared to be great Improvements since I was last there, & I was glad to find that there has been very little annoyance from Trespassers. The Mere is quite full of water…”

West Yorkshire Archives, Calderdale SH-7-ML-1114 Transcription by Deb Woolson
Transcription of Robert Parker's letter to Anne Lister in 1840 “… On Sunday Evening I called [at] Shibden Hall. Mrs Oddie said all was going on well - there appeared to be great Improvements since I was last there, & I was glad to find that there has been very little annoyance from Trespassers. The Mere is quite full of water…”
(West Yorkshire Archives, Calderdale SH-7-ML-1114)

Ending of the same letter:

“… David Booth says that the colliery is decidedly improving, and that there have not been any accidents to the Works for the last six months
I have the honor to remain,
Madam, Your faithful Servant
Rob[ert] Parker “

West Yorkshire Archives, Calderdale SH-7-ML-1114 Transcription by Deb Woolson
transcription of end of Robert Parker's letter to Anne Lister in 1840 “… David Booth says that the colliery is decidedly improving, and that there have not been any accidents to the Works for the last six months
           I have the honor to remain,
   Madam, Your faithful Servant
                            Rob[ert] Parker “
(West Yorkshire Archives, Calderdale SH-7-ML-1114)

Aunt Ann Walker

Parker was involved in the settlement negotiated between Fanny Walker (John Walker Jr’s widow) and Aunt Ann Walker. The details can be found in our blog post on Aunt Ann Walker, here.

The Sutherlands

Parker played a significant role in the Sutherlands’ lives for a very long time. Multiple documents found in the West Yorkshire Archive prove that he was professionally involved in the settlement between Ann Walker and Elizabeth Sutherland, and Fanny Walker after brother John’s death; the transfer of Elizabeth’s property to her husband, George Mackay Sutherland; and the division of the vast Walker estate between Elizabeth and Ann, just to name a few examples. Parker continued his work at Shibden after Ann was found to be of unsound mind, working with Sutherland, who was her Committee of Estate with Elizabeth.

Parker was the Executor for both George Mackay Sutherland and Elizabeth Walker Sutherland. As such, their daughter Ann Walker Sutherland being a minor, corresponded with him in 1855 requesting her annual allowance, while she was a student at Putney.

In her letter of 14 September 1855, she writes Parker commenting on him having seen Queen Victoria:

“I am glad to hear that you had such an agreeable surprise in Scotland as a sight of her Majesty must have been a most beautiful sight.”

West Yorkshire Archives, Calderdale WYC 1150/74/31/1 Transcription by Deb Woolson & Leila Straub

Parker’s connection to the Sutherland children continued until his death.

Ann Walker

After firing Sam Washington prior to leaving for their last trip, Ann hired Thomas Adam, Parker’s law partner, to look after her estate, and he corresponded with her throughout that trip.

In addition to handling legal matters for both Ann(e)s, when Ann returned from Russia, Parker was still working for her, and involved with the Shibden estate. It is through one of his letters that we know that Ann returned before Anne Lister’s body. Read more in our blog post on Ann’s return from Russia here.

In September 1843 Robert Parker, Elizabeth Sutherland and George Mackay Sutherland communicated frequently regarding Ann’s mental health challenges. Parker also worked with Dr Belcombe to have Ann leave Shibden Hall by choice in order to receive the care she needed. You can read more here in our blog post on Ann leaving Shibden.

In May 1845, Parker was called on, along with Sam Washington and Mr Gray (landscape gardener), to prove that the railway should not venture 77 yards from the house because it would be a hardship for Ann Walker.

10 May 1845 Herepath's Railway Journal article about Robert Parker speaking at the hearing to stop the railway from being built near Shibden Hall.
10th May 1845 Herepath’s Railway Journal©The British Library Board

In 1854, Parker wrote a letter to Dr John Lister about Ann’s life coming to an end. It would be after her death that Dr Lister would inherit Shibden Hall. We have more information on this in our blog post on Ann’s last days, here.

Illness & Death

In a letter from Thomas Adam, Parker’s law partner, to Dr John Lister from 23rd May 1856:

“My dear sir, Mr Parker has gone to London to place himself under Dr Myal’s[?] care which I had strongly urged him to do, his state of health is become more unsatisfactory & has been so for a very long time but when I passed a few days with him in London I had a better opportunity of judging respecting it – I fear six months of invaluable time have been lost – He is at the Bedford Hotel & is incapable of much exertion, taking medicine five times a day returning early & spending a considerable time upon the river…”

West Yorkshire Archives, Calderdale SH-7-DRL-56-1 Transcription by Martin Walker

Although we don’t yet know if Parker was in London for the entire time between 23rd May 1856 and 5th November 1856, we do know he was very ill and went to London for treatment.

He died on 5th November 1856 in Hanover Square (then in Middlesex, now in London). Present at his death was John Edward Wainhouse, one of the people listed in his Will.

Death Certificate of Robert Parker, Esq
General Register Office ©Crown Copyright License: Open Government License

Parker’s death certificate states “Acute inflammation of bladder & kidneys. Diseased Prostate and Bladder & Brights disease. 13 months certified”.

According to

“The characteristic signs of Bright’s disease were edema and albumin in the urine, which are also a vital part of many renal conditions in Modern Medicine. The wide range of symptoms that were often reported in patients with Bright’s disease included: Edema, Albumin in the urine, Hypertension, Inflammation of serous membranes, Hemorrhages, Apoplexy, Convulsions, Blindness & Coma”.1

8 November 1856 Morning Post obituary of Robert Parker
8th November 1856 Morning Post©The British Library Board

Dr. John Lister received this invitation to Robert Parker’s funeral addressed to him at Shibden Hall. Apparently, the two men were good friends as Parker was godfather to John Lister (1847-1933) the last Lister to live at Shibden.2 The invitation was issued by Leonard Duncan & Son, Halifax, undertakers.

Invitation to the Funeral of Robert Parker
(West Yorkshire Archives, Calderdale SH-7-DRL-69-1)

Parker was buried in the family vault with his parents at St Andrews Churchyard, Slaidburn.3

Last Will & Testament

From his will, dated 12 May 1856 (just prior to going to London for treatment), we know that Parker owned several properties: a mansion house called the Heaning in Newton, Lancashire; Clare Hall in Halifax; an estate called the Holmes, and a close of land called Cumberland Close, both in Bentham, Yorkshire. He left the majority of his land to Thomas Edmondson Parker, who he named as one of his trustees along with Thomas Adam and Charles Emmet.

An interesting request is that Thomas Edmondson Parker reside one month each year in Parker’s Heaning estate and:

“… if he shall omit so to do I charge the same with the sum of fifty pounds per annum in favor of the person or persons who if the said Thomas Edmondson Parker was dead without issue would be the person entitled to the possession of such property under the limitation herein contained.”

Borthwick Institute  BIA20212568_RP_Parker_Robert_Halifax_December_1856_V242_f698_MF_1138
Transcription by Deb Woolson & Martin Walker

Parker left generous financial legacies and personal items to his aunt and his godchildren, cousins and friends. To his faithful servants:

“… I further direct that provision shall be made for payment of the following clear yearly sums to my old Servants free from all taxes whatsoever so that such may enjoy and have a clear income and have the same by quarterly payments commencing from my decease with an apportionment up to the first usual quarterly day after my decease namely to Sarah Haswell and Sarah Ann Wood [the] sum of ten pounds per annum each and to Sarah Sharp five pounds per annum  Such three annuities however I desire to be made payable out of my estates in the Parish of Slaidburn or out of funds to be set apart by the persons for the time being in the enjoyment of such estates…”

Borthwick Institute  BIA20212568_RP_Parker_Robert_Halifax_December_1856_V242_f698_MF_1138
Transcription by Deb Woolson & Martin Walker

Among those that he left “the sum of Ten Guineas apiece that each may herewith buy a Ring or some other remembrance of me” were John Edward Wainhouse, Evan Charles Sutherland, John Rawson of Brockwell, and John Lister of Shibden Hall.

Probate was granted on 8 December 1856.


This blog does not go in-depth into all of Robert Parker’s accomplishments and entanglements. That would make for a very long piece. Parker was a Halifax solicitor, and as such was duty bound to do his best for each client. As an outsider, he did just that. Through his will, we know he owned several estates, was generous to those he cared for, and showed kindness in leaving annuities to his two faithful servants Sarah Haswell and Sara Ann Wood.


Early Years:

  1. 1851 England Census states birth place as Houghton Park, Lancashire England  Ref # HO 107/2298
  2. England, Select Births and Christenings, 1538-1975 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014.
  3. Borthwick Institute, Yorkshire burials,
  4. The National Archives of the UK (TNA); Kew, Surrey, England; Court of King’s Bench: Plea Side: Affidavits of Due Execution of Articles of Clerkship, Series I; Class: KB 105; Piece: 26


  1. HAS ‘Halifax Attorneys’, 1969
  2. 1841 England Census states Halifax Ref # HO 107/1300/6
  3. 1851 England Census Ref # H.O 107/2298


Anne Lister

  1. SH:7/LL/396: James Lister, Shibden Hall, Sept.10, 1825, to his sister, Anne Lister, at  Buxton. Moving Between Worlds: Gender, Class, Politics, Sexuality and Women’s Networks in the Diaries of Anne Lister of Shibden Hall, Halifax, Yorkshire, 1830-1840 by Catherine A Euler, May 1995 

Illness & Death

  1. Parker was God-father to John Lister, Shibden Hall, David Glover, Halifax Antiquarian Society
  3. Family History of Mark Etheridge

Other References

West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale – A paid service – A paid service
Borthwick Institute

Special Thanks

Diane Halford – archival research, instruction & editing
Martin Walker –  transcriptions & editing
Twitter – @ListeriaUK
Louise Godley – editing
Leila Straub – transcription
Jude Dobson – photos of Robert Parker’s grave
David Glover, President Halifax Antiquarian Society

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 (2023) “Robert Parker, Esq”: In Search of Ann Walker [Accessed “add date”]

Deb Woolson

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.