Day out: Shibden Hall, West Yorkshire
Inspired by a true story, Gentleman Jack tells a tale of hidden love in a 600-year-old medieval house on the outskirts of Halifax
"Shabby little Shibden”. That is how Anne Lister (1791–1840) describes her family home in Gentleman Jack, the BBC period drama that portrays the real-life romance between Anne Lister and her neighbour Ann Walker.
Shabby isn’t how you would describe the 600-year-old manor house today. Owned by the Lister family for over 300 years, Shibden Hall is where Anne Lister once lived and wrote her famous encrypted diaries. They remained here, hidden within the walls until John Lister, the last inhabitant of Shibden Hall, found them. The diaries weren’t decrypted until long after Anne Lister’s death and proved to be of great historical importance. They offer an understanding of her life in West Yorkshire and a deep insight into her romantic relationships with the “fairer sex”.
Visiting Shibden Hall
Shibden Hall sits within the wonderfully restored grounds that form Shibden Park. Anne Lister was extremely important to the development of the estate, commissioning many of the changes made to the hall and surrounding land.
The 32-hectre estate has a boating lake, model railway, walking trails and a wilderness garden from which a tunnel leads to the newly planted Cunnery Wood Local Nature Reserve, the site of the old kitchen garden.
Lister was adventurous – an avid walker and climber – and travelled the world. Shibden Hall was her home however, and it is here that she eventually lived with Ann Walker. A savvy business woman, Lister sank a coal pit on the estate and named it after her love – the ornate ventilation shaft of Walker Pit remains visible to this day.
In the first episode of Gentleman Jack, the opening scene is a panoramic view of Halifax filmed near the Wainhouse Tower, the tallest folly in the world. When Covid-19 conditions allow, the tower will be open to the public on bank holiday Mondays (10am–4pm). You can climb the 403 steps to get amazing views across the Calder Valley to the Pennines.
The TV series culminates with a romantic reunion played out in front of views over the Shibden valley, a landscape as breathtaking as the drama itself.
Laura Phillips enjoys nature walks – and roller skating – in her local area.