No apologies for my subject being Anne Lister again this month.
Last month I was speaking to a local lady who had recently returned to Calderdale from Los Angeles. She told me that, high up above Sunset Boulevard, she had seen a billboard inscribed ‘Gentleman Jack – The Story of Anne Lister.’ Like her or loathe her, our Anne Lister of Shibden Hall is becoming an international star! You may heard that visitors to Shibden Hall were up massively in May. Likewise, visitors to Halifax Minster, at which Anne was baptised, where she attended church regularly, and lies buried, have significantly increased.
At the time Anne Lister was conceived in 1790, her parents were in Ireland, where her father Captain Jeremy was serving in the army at Galway. His wife Rebecca Battle was sent back to Halifax as her pregnancy advanced. And here in Halifax on 3rd April 1791, Anne was born. We do not know where the event took place, but the baptismal record indicates it was in the town, and not at Shibden.
When Anne was two years old, and following the birth of her elder surviving brother Samuel in 1793, her parents left Halifax to live in the East Riding. In 1790, Captain Jeremy inherited some money, which he invested in a small estate just west of Market Weighton. He built three houses, the largest of which he called Skelfler where Anne lived until 1806.
I visited the Market Weighton area to view the church where Anne’s mother was buried in November 1817. The burial took place there because Captain Jeremy was again living in that district, in one of his smaller properties near Skelfler, called Low Grange. I visited both Skelfler, now known as Skelfrey Park Farm, and Low Grange farm both of which are private property, though because of my interest, the owners were happy to allow me to look at the exteriors of the buildings and take some photos. It was most interesting to see these properties, considering their past links with Halifax and the Listers. The countryside around is open and very flat, and there are some plantations of trees nearby to shield the farms. At Skelfler, Anne’s younger brother was born in 1795; and her only sister Marian, in 1797.
In the church of All Saints, Market Weighton, is a memorial to Rev. George Skelding, who, before she was sent to school at York, tutored Anne Lister at his vicarage, being the first to introduce her to the Classics. On 6th December 1819, Anne recorded in her diary:
“My aunt had a letter from Marian (Market Weighton) giving an account of the rather sudden death of Mr. Skelding. He had had a little cold and fever with it, but this had quite left him; he walked out, and was even out only a short time before his death – only a few minutes before it… Thus died my first Latin preceptor with whom I had the rudiments of my classical education… and studied about eleven months. He was not a man of general science or literature, nor a profound Grecian; but a well-grounded Latin scholar, considered a sound divine, and a most worthy good man, who performed all the duties, public and private, of his situation with exemplary uprightedness, and who was beloved and respected by all who knew him.”
At 7.30 pm on Friday 5th July, Sally Wainwright will be at Halifax Minster, for a Q&A evening. Much emphasis will be placed on the Gentleman Jack TV series, but Sally’s other TV series’ filmed locally will also be topical. Anne Choma who wrote the tie-in book for Gentleman Jack will also be present, and participate. Tickets are £10.00, available from Eventbrite or via the Minster Office.
More Halifax Minster Summer Festival event information can be found at halifaxminster.org.uk
David C Glover
Please find further details of my July Talks on page 59 of the directory.