Anne Lister diaries win heritage prize

The diaries of Anne Lister, which reveal her life at Shibden Hall, Halifax, and her affairs with women, have won a top heritage award
The diaries of Anne Lister, which reveal her life at Shibden Hall, Halifax, and her affairs with women, have won a top heritage award
0
Have your say

THE 19th century diaries of Anne Lister have been awarded a top heritage prize.

The writings of Shibden Hall’s most famous owner have been recognised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation.

Spread across 27 volumes, the journals chart Miss Lister’s life and loves from 1806 to 1840, running to four million words.

Around a sixth of the text was written in a code she invented to conceal her affairs with women.

Yet she lived relatively openly as a lesbian, flouting convention by “marrying” and living with the wealthy heiress Ann Walker.

Though she is most notorious for her sexuality, Miss Lister was also a pioneering industrialist, businesswoman, and traveller.

A BBC drama based on her diaries was filmed last year.

Actress Maxine Peake, who played her, said: “Aside from her sexuality, they are absolutely such detailed documents of that period of time.”

Her code, a combination of Greek and algebraic terms, was eventually cracked by Miss Lister’s heir John Lister and his friend Arthur Burrell.

Halifax historian Helena Whitbread set about fully dechiphering the diaries in 1982, and they were published in two volumes in 1988 and 1992.

The 27 original journals are held by the West Yorkshire Archive Service.

Spokesman Graham Hebblethwaite said: “To receive an award from such a widely-respected international body is a tremendous honour and helps to reinforce the importance of record-keeping. It’s a tribute to the hard work of staff and researchers who have helped preserve, transcribe and make available this unique collection.”

The diaries are one of 20 collections across the country to win the UNESCO Best of UK Heritage award this year and be added to its Memory of the World register.

Also among them are the court rolls of Wakefield Manor, which cover its business across a large part of West Yorkshire, including Halifax, from the 13th to 20th century.