About Ann

The Last Days of Ann Walker

By Diane Halford and Leitner Daleen (updated 21st February 2023)

Ann Walker died on 25th February 1854 in her childhood home, Cliffe Hill. It is often said that not much is known about Ann Walker’s life before or after Anne Lister. But once more, if we dig more deeply into the archive, we can piece together some information about the last days of Ann Walker. 

Trigger Warning: illness, death

After living at Shibden Hall with Captain Sutherland and his family and then, after his death, with long term friend Lydia Fenton, (nèe Wilkinson) Ann had moved back to her childhood home, Cliffe Hill, after her aunt died. It is mentioned in accounts in January 1848, a servant for Cliffe Hill was paid for moving Ann in (WYAS, Calderdale, CN:100/2). In April 1848 a letter from Lydia Fenton to Robert Parker talks of handing the keys to Shibden (WYAS, Calderdale, FW:120/52). In the 1851 Census it mentions that she lived at Cliffe Hill with Lydia as her housekeeper and 6 servants. We don’t currently know much about Ann’s living situation between 1851 and her death in 1854.

Writing to an acquaintance on 18 February 1854, Robert Parker, Ann Walker’s local solicitor, mentions that she had suffered a severe fit that day, which would probably prove fatal.

18th February 1854 – Robert Parker to Mr Wilson:

“Poor Miss Walker of Crow Nest has today had a fit and I think the attack so severe that it will prove fatal and that soon – poor creature. I have been told that, tho’ very feeble, her mind had been restored to reason! How strange a few years have made sad havoc in that family.”

West Yorkshire Archive Service, Bradford 68D82/5/241

He also writes to Dr John Lister, who is Anne Lister’s heir to Shibden on the 18 February and tells him that Ann had had fits and was in a precarious situation.

18 February 1854 – Robert Parker to Dr John Lister

“I have this moment heard that Miss Walker has had one or more fits, & that she is in a most precarious way. I think her End is very near…”

West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale FW:120/57

However, five days later, Ann is still alive but is now having fits in rapid succession. Parker writes again to Lister on 23 February 1854:

“Miss Walker was alive this morning and may last a day or two but it is most improbable that she can continue longer. The fits have come on in rapid succession & I heard from a female attendant of her’s who I this morning met in the town, that she is as sick as possible.” 

West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale SH:7/DRL/50/1

On the 25 February 1854 Parker writes once more to Lister to inform him of Ann’s death.

“Miss Walker died this afternoon about one OClock”

West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale FW:120/57

According to her death certificate, Ann passed away on 25th February 1854 at Cliffe Hill. Her death was registered at Brighouse on 1st March 1854 by John Kelly who made his mark of an “X” – he is mentioned in the 1851 Census as her coachman. The cause of death was certified as “Congestion of the Brain, Effusion”

Based on the above anecdotal and medical evidence, we worked with Leitner Daleen (who has read many medical books from the day) to try to figure out what terms we would use today for Ann’s cause of death. Our working hypothesis is that Ann most likely died of an Internal Cerebral Haemorrhage (Stroke). More information may come to light in the future.

On 3rd March 1854, Ann was buried at St Matthew’s Church in Lightcliffe, where she had worshipped for many years. The service was conducted by Rev Charles Musgrave who was the Vicar of Halifax, one of the country’s largest parishes at that time. He wrote to a distant member of the Walker family on the day of her funeral, and stated that Ann was buried in the vault with her Aunt Mary (and most likely Aunt Ann too).

3rd March 1854 –  Charles Musgrave to Abraham Horsfall:

“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)

There is some consolation in the last days of Ann Walker to be gained from the first letter where, although anecdotal, Parker asserts that Ann was “restored to reason”.

West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale SH:3/L/120

For further details on Ann Walker’s memorial and it’s restoration, see here: Ann Walker’s memorial update

And for further details on the final resting place of Ann Walker see this article here by the Friends of St Matthew’s Church:

Acknowledgements:

Edited by Louise Godley

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:
Diane Halford & Leitner Daleen (2023) “The Last Days of Ann Walker”: In Search of Ann Walker [Accessed “add date”]

7 Comments

  • Diane Iglesias

    Thank you for your research. From your writing it appears she had no family with her in her last days but rather her servants. How, I am sure, she longed for Anne’s care and love.

  • Julie Hamm

    A sad but essential missing link filled in for us, thank you! Knowing this is a kind of honor. Each new piece made me crave a drawing of her in the Lister years. Now I’m switching to later years!

  • Colette Fleming

    Sad but very interesting information about Ann Walker’s final days. Great research by you all, thanks.

    • Bethany DRYSDALE

      I’m new to learning about Anne & Ann. I appreciate your research that brings this remarkable woman’s life back into the spotlight. I truly hope her spirit found Anne when she passed away. Please keep posting more history as you find it, I certainly am glad to learn more.

  • Leanne McCartney Steele

    So sad, so poignant, alas off to be with her Anne again… Thank you, for all your amazing work it takes so that we can have just a glimpse into history!!

  • Lyn

    Thank you for sharing the last days of Ann Walker. Such a brave and extraordinary woman both Ann and Anne Lister are at peace with each other RIP 🌷❤️🌷💙😔😔

  • Odalys Nanin

    Thank you for this vital information on revealing the cause of her death.
    The fact that she had gained her reason is wonderful because I never believed Ann Walker was insane.
    If only Ann Walker’s diary during that trip to Russia can be discovered. So we can learn how Anne Lister really died and how she coped with this profound grieve.