Ann's Diary


How it was found?

After 7 months of patiently waiting for the West Yorkshire Archives to re-open I made my appointment for 20th October 2020, the second week of reopening.  I was looking for some papers on the Committeship of Ann Walker after the death of Captain Sutherland.  This led me to find in the catalogue an obscure file (WYC:1525/7/1/5/1) in the Rawson’s papers that mentioned Ann Walker.  The folder had five documents in it, one being a travel journal catalogued as “Journal of Anne Lister, including travels in France and Switzerland with Ann Walker”.  That morning, I arrived at the archives at 10am, the opening time, and laid out my desk and took a photo to post on the In Search Of Ann Walker Twitter and sat down to go through my 6 folders.  The first thing I picked up was this blue marbled A6-ish size notebook and thought, this is Anne’s travel journal. 

I flicked through it and two things immediately caught my eye – no temperatures recorded and the W written on Mr Wilson’s name was just like Ann Walker uses in her name.  I immediately realised what I might be holding.  On display in the archive is a diary of Anne Lister’s so I got up and started comparing the two, knowing and recognising that it was Ann Walker’s handwriting. I did this multiple times, not quite believing what I had found, much to the amusement of the archivist! I immediately messaged Alexa and Steve and said I thought I had found Ann Walker’s diary.  (I would share the message but it was capitalised expletives!!) I started reading more carefully and found an entry on 19th January 1835 that talked of “Five years today since I lost my poor brother”.  Having just completed a storymap of John Walker’s fated honeymoon trip to Naples, the date was clear in my mind and I knew this was definitely Ann Walker’s diary.  I spent about 15 minutes just staring at it, messaging my research colleagues and discussing “what on earth do we do now?”.  We recognised a find of this importance would need to be shared with the archive and so we did.  Jenny and Dan were amazing as I hopped around like an excitable puppy trying to explain all the entries and reasons why it had to be hers.  COVID-19 protocol meant that Dan could not touch the journal to verify what I was talking about, but we knew that it was not Anne Lister’s writing and the entries sounded like Ann Walker.  We agreed to hold off publicising the find until it could be verified and on Friday 23rd October, that verification came through. West Yorkshire Archive Service has re-catalogued it to reflect the true author.  We are working on the transcriptions currently.

What is it like?

It is about A6-ish size with a blue marble front and back.  It has about 78 filled in pages.  It covers 4th June 1834 to 19th February 1835.  Some dates are missing and there is a gap of entries from 26th August to 14th November 1834.  Some entries are two pages long and some just one line.  This is a standalone journal of Ann Walker’s with only her handwriting in it.  It is in plain hand with the usual abbreviations of the time.

Where is it?

It is in the Rawson collection at the Calderdale office of the West Yorkshire Archive Service.  It can be found here. It is not in the Shibden Hall or Crow Nest papers.

Why haven’t you published it? (Updated 2/5/2022)

The copyright permissions for this diary are different to Anne Lister’s journal and diaries as it is from a private collection. Our full transcription of the diary can now be found here. Images of the diary pages can also be found here on the West Yorkshire Archive Service website.

What are you going to do with it? (Updated 2/5/2022)

We now have side by side comparisons for Ann Walker’s and Anne Lister’s diary entries here. We have posted snippets from the diary on our Twitter page on a frequent basis.

How to cite this article:
Diane Halford, Steve Crabtree and Alexa Tansley (2020) “We Found It”: In Search of Ann Walker [Accessed “add data”]

In Search Of Ann Walker

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


  • Patricia Book

    This is unbelievably exciting! I can only imagine your feelings at stumbling upon this find. It is so precious. We are grateful to all of you!

  • Julie Hamm

    Incredible!! Im sure we’d love to see the “capitalized expletives” sent to Alexa and Steve, but I suppose that can start the Foreward to an Ann Walker biography! What an amazing turning point, especially given the theory that her family destroyed all her writings and belongings! How rejuvenated you three must feel. Must’ve been hard to sleep that night! Congratulations!

  • Ginger Allison

    Absolutely thrilled, and would a think it, right there.
    Exciting to hear from her perspective. How groovy is that?

  • Jude Dobson

    This is really great news. I look forward to reading what Ann Walker was up to at Christmas that year. Lol.

    Just shows that there are still little gems out there to discover, and this one right under our noses. I hope the permissions trail is straight forward for you since whoever made the donation in the first place could well be dead. Well done!

  • Lisa Merrill

    How wonderful !!! I know how exciting it feels— when I first transcribed 19th century lesbian actress Charlotte Cushman’s letters, and realized, they were not just “family correspondence” as they were described at the time, but often passionate love letters between women– I gasped in the archives.

    I have published some of my transcriptions in my book, “When Romeo was a Woman: Charlotte Cushman and Her Circle of Female Spectators” (which others have quoted) and would be happy to post some here for all of you who understand the pleasure of these primary discoveries, and the work it entails. Lisa Merrill

  • Odalys Nanin

    Bravo! For this amazing discovery. Are there any sketches by Ann Walker in her diary? I’m so excited you found it. I’m sure a painting of her is soon to be discovered.

  • Diana Doherty

    Fantastic news ! I hope as you go through it she will write about Anne Lister !???