Anne Lister – The Early Years

Anne was born on 3 April 1791 in Halifax, the daughter of Jeremy Lister, the younger brother of James Lister, owner of Shibden Hall from 1788-1826. She lived at her mother’s small estate at Market Weighton for most of her childhood, but paid frequent visits to Shibden.

As a 7 year old child, the tomboyish Anne was sent to a dame school in Ripon where she learnt to dance and enjoy music and ultimately in April 1805 at the age of 14 she spent a year at the Manor School, York. Her passions included books and agriculture and it was at York that she began her first relationship with a girl called Eliza Raine.

Following the deaths of two sons in infancy, Anne was one of 4 surviving children, but with the deaths of her brothers, John (1795-1810) and finally Samuel (1793-1813), the 22 year old Anne was chosen by the elder Listers to inherit Shibden with her surviving sister, Marian (1798-1882) inheriting the Market Weighton estate. In 1815, she went to live permanently with her uncle and aunt at Shibden Hall.


“I am happy to find Mrs Lister has got her bed of a daughter, and with her little one is likely to do well”

Anne’s birth – Letter from Jeremy Lister in Galway to his brother, James at Shibden, 15 Apr 1791 (SH:7/JL/101)


“I can with great pleasure assure you how well your Niece has spent her time, she is indeed a very charming Girl, promising to excel in every thing she has undertook. She is to get the prize for writing which is a silver pen and was you to hear her read or repeat you wou’d be highly gratify’d.  Mr [Noke] the dancing Master honored me with a public day –that I might see how much she excelled in Dancing and indeed she does dance in the most elegant style I ever recollect seeing one of her age dance in my life”

Letter from Rebecca Lister, Market Weighton, to Martha Lister, Shibden Hall 24 Dec 1799 concerning her daughter, Anne, aged 8 (SH:7/LL/316)

SH-7-ML-3_fond of books.jpg

“Perhaps I cannot do better than tell you some little of what I have been reading lately, for you know I was always fond of Books. My Library is one of my very greatest pleasures after a good ramble in the Fields…I was always fond of farming and think I have a little taste that way.  Without Agriculture neither Commerce Arts or Sciences could flourish.  The nation would not be so rich as it is and we never could have carried on so long a War as this last without it”

Letter from Anne Lister, Market Weighton,  aged 11, to her aunt, Anne Lister [senior], York, 3 Feb 1803 (SH:7/ML/3)


“the most lamentable event, which has plunged our family into the extremity of affliction …he had gone to bathe about 2 o’clock on Saturday…along with three or four of his brother officers, got beyond his depth almost instantaneously and sunk… when Anne came yesterday, her mother received her alone, and broke the dreadful tidings to her by degrees, but when the word was told, her sorrow and anguish of mind was extreme”

Death of Samuel Lister, Anne’s last surviving brother – Draft letter from Anne Lister [senior], Shibden Hall, to Eliza Raine, York 1 Jul 1813 (SH:7/ML/A/70)


Other Exhibition Pages

Anne Lister – An Introduction

Anne Lister – The Journals

Anne Lister – Love Life

Anne Lister – Shibden Hall

Anne Lister – A Window into History

Anne Lister – The Traveller

Anne Lister – Reading Anne’s Diaries

Anne Lister – Diary Transcription Project