Yorkshire Tales

Two weeks ago I was very fortunate to visit Yorkshire with my printer partner and go to a Wayzgoose. For a long definition of that word click here: Wayzgoose but a short answer is that a wayzgoose is a meeting/fair of printers showing, selling and discussing/demonstrating printing methods. It’s very popular in the US and there are Wayzgooses held in the UK as well, often at established printing places like the amazing St Bride’s in London. The one we attended was held in Shipley.

Damien Hirst – Yorkshire Sculpture Park – Image: Y. Keyani

This was my second trip to Yorkshire, the first being a work trip to York in the early 2,000s, and I was so happy to see another part of this wonderful county. We visited a couple of nice pubs, had some lovely food and went to the Hepworth Wakefield and the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, which were both very interesting.

The other place we wanted to visit was Shibden Hall in Halifax. This was the home of Anne Lister in the late 1700s-mid-1800s. Lister was famous locally as a landowner and resident of a fine house. But she is now better known for her ‘secret’ life as a lesbian. I use the word ‘secret’ because living with another woman as your wife was not seen as acceptable in her lifetime. Instead, her partner, Ann Walker, was viewed as her live-in ‘companion’

Shibden Hall – Image: Calderdal Council

Their relationship has been dramatised on the BBC as ‘Gentleman Jack’ (worth reading more about this from the excellent BBC link here: Gentleman Jack) with Suranne Jone as Anne Lister and Sophie Rundle as Ann Walker. The drama is wonderfully made with great work done on representing the lives of these women from nearly 200 years ago. The filming of the Yorkshire landscape is a beautiful backdrop to the drama and the detail of the costumes is brilliant.

Lister was a devoted diarist and wrote about every aspect of her life in rather obsessive detail. From her business dealings in her coal mine, the old hall she had inherited and lived in (Shibden) and the alterations and improvements she made to it. She also chronicled her travels in this country and abroad, her dealings with her family (her father, sister and aunt) and the servants she employed.

As such, Lister gives the reader a rich, primary source of information about the 1700s and the state of women in Britain. Although Lister was rich, she was not allowed to stand as a member of parliament and if she had married, all her wealth would have been under her husband’s control. Lister never married a man.

Despite her wanting to document her life, for her own enjoyment and later reading (and possibly for prosperity and others to read?) some parts of her diaries were impossible for other people to read as she used her own code. These hidden writings were about her interest in and romantic dealings with what she called ‘the fairer sex’. She had no interest in men beyond friendship or business and certainly not for sex or marriage and is now known as the first modern lesbian because she lived with her female lover as a wife, Ann Walker, and left her an inheritance in her will.

Lister’s diary was partially decoded in the past and later work found out more about her hidden life. Though Lister was undoubtedly a very interesting woman, I did find the lack of hearing her wife’s story a bit sad. There isn’t even a portrait of Ann Walker! But then I found this website: In Search of Ann Walker and thoroughly recommend people check it out. As a very religious woman, Ann Walker suffered greatly from living a hidden life as a lesbian when the church told her she should marry a man and have children. This was despite her loving Lister and enjoying the freedom Lister encouraged in her with the foreign travel for example.

As a writer, I always like looking into untold stories, like Ann Walker’s. The Gentleman Jack drama did try to give Ann Walker a voice, but it was often submerged under the more dominant Anne Lister story. Despite this, I really did enjoy the Gentleman Jack series and appreciated how an outsider’s, hidden story had finally been brought back to life in the 21st century. I also like to think that Anne Lister would have approved of this.

Painted portrait of a lady with a high collar and a ruff underneath and an old fashioned hairstyle
Portrait of Anne Lister (1791-1840), by Joshua Horner, ca. 1830

Published by Yasmin Keyani

Writer

3 thoughts on “Yorkshire Tales

  1. Lucky you! I’d like to visit Shibden Hall too, though that’s unlikely in the near future, and not just for the undoubtedly fascinating Lister connection.

    One biography of the Brontës suggests that the girls at Haworth knew about Lister and Walker – Emily may even have met them – and there’s even the possibility that Charlotte’s novel Shirley was inspired by their relationship; there are two female leads, one strong, the other a little more insipid, and ‘Shirley’ of course was originally only a male name, popular as a female name only after the novel was published. https://calmgrove.wordpress.com/tag/shirley/?orderby=date&order=ASC

    Needless to say, I’ve also yet to visit Haworth… 🙁

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh that’s so interesting! Thank you. We didn’t have time to go to Haworth, but I’d happily go back to see it as the countryside is so lovely. I shall also now have to read Shirley. What was so lovely was to see the Yorkshire dales and sing Wuthering Heights in my head!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting post, Yasmin. I grew up in West Yorkshire & still go back regularly to visit my mum. I have been to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and Shibden Hall several times.
    Loved the first series of Gentleman Jack, but not so keen on the second series.
    Thanks for educating me on what a Wayzgoose is!

    Like

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