Georgian Society for East Yorkshire

Gentleman Jack and the East Riding

Anne Lister

Anne Lister

For almost half her life the diarist Anne Lister, ‘Gentleman Jack’ of the hit TV series, lived in the East Riding. Anne was the daughter of Captain Jeremy Lister of Halifax and Rebecca Battle, daughter of a successful Hull grocer William Battle who lived at Welton Hall. Jeremy and Rebecca were married at Welton on 2 August 1788. They lived at Welton 1788-90, and their first child John who died in infancy was baptised there. Anne ‘Gentleman Jack’ appears to have been born at Halifax on 3 April 1791, whilst her father was serving in the army in Ireland.

William Battle died in August 1790 and Rebecca Lister was left his property at Market Weighton and Shiptonthorpe, which included some 820 acres awarded at enclosure in 1776. This made Rebecca, the second largest landowner in Market Weighton, after the Duke of Devonshire. Three new farmsteads were built on the property, and it was to one of these that Jeremy and Rebecca and their two children Anne and Samuel moved, possibly in the autumn of 1793. Three more children were baptised at Market Weighton, John in February 1795, Marian in October 1797 and finally Jeremy in September 1801. At the time of Marian’s baptism the family were living at Skelfer House (now Skelfrey Park), a large farmhouse to the south of the road just to the west of Market Weighton. They remained there until 1803 when they probably moved to Low Grange, another of their farmhouses further south in Market Weighton parish.

Anne was at first educated at home by the Revd George Skelding, vicar of Market Weighton, then at schools in Ripon and York. She went to live, evidently permanently, at Shibden Hall, Halifax with her uncle and aunt in 1815, her father, mother, who died in 1817, and sister Marian remaining at Market Weighton. An entry in Anne Lister’s diary for 3 July 1821 records: ‘Went to Northgate [Halifax] & met there my father & Marian just arrived from the Low Grange, near Market Weighton, by this evening’s mail … Shocked to see them both look vulgar. The first sight of them always makes me low & I feel it now, near nine, exceedingly.’ On 19 Dec 1821 she notes ‘Got ready for setting off to Low Grange’ - she left on 21 Dec.

At the beginning of February 1822 Anne was in York to sort out her father’s affairs. She took a property agent around the estate at Market Weighton. It was decided ‘that the only way for Captain Lister to become solvent was to sell off his property and settle himself and Marian either abroad or in Northgate House, Halifax’. H. Whitbread (ed.) I know my own heart: The diaries of Anne Lister 1791-1840 p. 180.

The estate, of 720 acres and three farms, Skelfer, Grange and Low Grange, was advertised to be sold by auction in London on 20 March 1822. (Yorkshire Gazette 9 March 1822). At that date Jeremy and Marian Lister were living at Low Grange. The estate was not sold and was retained by Jeremy Lister. On 10 April 1822 Jeremy Lister leased Low Grange to Richard Boynton of Ellerker, and Jeremy and Marian evidently moved back to Skelfer House. On 22 June 1822 Anne Lister sent a letter to Marian at Skelfer House, and in her diary on 6 July 1822 Anne records: ‘My father & Marian arrived at 2 from Skelfer having come from York by the Highflier. They are both looking very well…’ This is probably when Jeremy and Marian finally left Market Weighton and went to live initially at Northgate House, Halifax.

On the death of Jeremy Lister at Shibden Hall, Halifax in April 1836, his Market Weighton estate was left to Marian (as he agreed with Anne, who had inherited the Shibden Hall estate). On 13 June 1836 Marian Lister wrote from Market Weighton to her aunt Anne Lister at Shibden Hall. She had evidently taken lodgings at Market Weighton and was visiting her newly acquired estates, which she appears to have kept up to her death in August 1882. She was then living at 20 St Paul’s Square, York.

Another East Riding link comes in Anne Lister’s diaries where she records visits to the Norcliffe family at Langton Hall, near Malton. Isabella Norcliffe was her lover for a time.

David Neave April 2020

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