Diaries of Anne Lister Digitised

Tuesday 1 May

The diaries of Anne Lister of Shibden Hall in Halifax are being digitised to make them available online as high quality images. The images will be available from late 2018 / early 2019 for researchers to access online and the project also aims to provide transcripts of the diaries to open up the many stories they include.


Anne Lister was born 1791 and from the age of 15 she began to keep a diary. Her diary keeping grew into what could be called an obsession and by the time of her death in 1840, while traveling through Russia and Georgia, the diaries had reach 27 volumes, 6600 pages and almost 4 million words (compared to the 1.25 million words of the more famous diaries of Samuel Pepys).


About a sixth of the diaries are written in a code devised by Anne to conceal her sexuality, which would have been seen as unorthodox in the early 19th century, and records with extraordinary frankness and detail her diverse affairs with women. The diaries are held at West Yorkshire Archive Service, Calderdale as part of the Lister Family of Shibden Hall collection and are a wealth of information about a huge range of subjects; from politics, business, estate management and coal mining to religion, education, science, travel, local and national events, as well as many others.


In 2011 the diaries of the remarkable landowner, business woman, intrepid traveller, mountaineer and lesbian received a prestigious award from UNESCO when they were inscribed on the UK Memory of the World Register in recognition of their cultural significance to the UK.


The joint project between West Yorkshire Archive Service and Calderdale Museums Service is to coincide with of a new BBC drama entitled ‘Gentleman Jack’ which will explore Anne’s life and relationships at Shibden Hall estate in Halifax. The drama is written by Sally Wainwright (Yorkshire play and screen writer, ‘Last Tango in Halifax’ and ‘Happy Valley’) and Suranne Jones (‘Dr Foster’) will play the role of Anne Lister. Filming will take place during 2018 and will be aired on BBC and HBO early 2019.