Anne’s home from 1815, Shibden Hall, was a small West Yorkshire manor house, about two miles from Halifax, built about 1420 by the Otes family. It was subsequently lived in by the wealthy Savile family and then by the Waterhouse family. When Shibden was sold in 1612 by Edward Waterhouse, to stave off impending bankruptcy, it was bought by members of the Hemingway family who were cousins of the Listers. The tenant in 1614 was Samuel Lister, a clothier who by the marriage of his sons to their cousins, contrived to bring Shibden into Lister family ownership in 1619.
“You know that as far as place is concerned, every ambition and every wish of my heart are in the welfare of Shibden where in so long a series of generations, we have lived with that unblemished respectability which I cannot think of without a feeling of honest pride, nor ever remember without a sentiment of deep and heartfelt gratitude to my uncle who has done so much towards its support. I am daily more and more sensible of this, and more and more anxious to shew that his kindness to, and confidence in myself, are neither unappreciated not undeserved”
12 Oct 1820 – Letter from Anne Lister, Langton, to her Aunt, Anne Lister [senior] (SH:7/ML/95)
“I have given your message to my uncle and aunt, adding that, tho’ you write with uncertainty, I still hope to see you in January, or soon afterwards – they really do seem pleased at the thought of your coming – But remember my “alarming” account of Shibden. It is not exaggerated, I do assure you a more comfortless house you surely never beheld”
30 Sep 1825 – Letter from Anne Lister, Shibden Hall, to Sibbella Maclean of Coll, Tobermory (SH:7/ML/185)
Anne set herself a programme of self-education so that she could manage the estate of some 400 acres, with revenues from agricultural rents, mining and quarrying and she became an astute business woman in a male-dominated society. Although she came to love Shibden, Anne recognised the shortcomings of the “comfortless house” and wanted a far grander and more imposing property. Once she had full control of Shibden in 1836 following the deaths of her aunt Anne and her father Jeremy Lister, she set about creating it with her architect John Harper. In fact, Anne would probably not recognise the building as we know it today because work was still continuing when she set out for Russia in 1839. The main changes which came about were the terracing of the south lawn, the opening up of the low ceilinged housebody, a Norman style tower at the west end with water closet, and in the park, a cascade through a wilderness, an ornamental lake, and a carriage drive to Godley with gatehouse. Other planned changes were beyond Anne’s budget or died with her.
Watercolour sketch of proposed alterations at Shibden Hall by John Harper, architect of York, 1836 (SH:2/M/2/7)