Mystery of Anne Lister’s hairdresser solved at last

Grave: Joah Crossley (above) ' hairdresser to Anne Lister of Shibden Hall.
Grave: Joah Crossley (above) ' hairdresser to Anne Lister of Shibden Hall.

WHEN Friends’ star Jennifer Aniston unveiled her new “do” we all rushed to the hairdressers in our droves for a copy cut.

It was the same with Victoria Beckham’s Pob and her pixie crop.

But following the fashions and trends of hair styles is nothing new - ladies have been doing it for centuries.

A trip to or a visit from the hairdresser was a momentous occasion and one which sometimes merited writing about. In fact references made in the famous diaries of one time mistress of Shibden Hall, Anne Lister concerned her hair but until now the hairdresser had never been properly identified.

Thanks to a little research by historian and genealogist David Glover, the name of the coiffeur has been revealed.

He was Joah Crossley, who as well as being a renowned hairdresser was also a great Halifax Choral Society musician who once sang for King George III.

“It was during recent improvements to the churchyard at Halifax Minster, that his gravestone was uncovered,” says David.

“I was keen to look into his background and I was thrilled when I discovered he was hairdresser to Anne Lister. In her diaries she never identified her hairdresser as more than someone called ‘Crossley.’”

David has discovered that Joah was baptised at Halifax Minster (then the Parish Church) on March 11, 1764. He was the younger child of William Crossley, a white smith of Southowram and Deborah (nee Hudson.)

“As a youngster he must have shown considerable musical talent and was one of the children trained by Thomas Stopford, the Church’s second organist who helped launch many local musicians.

David believes Joah was named after Joah Bates, the famous Halifax musicologist who was to become conductor of the Handel concerts at Westminster Abbey.

“Clearly he was known to Mr Bates because as a young adult, Joah Crossley officiated as a counter singer at the first of the Handel commemorations and this notable event was attended by King George III and Queen Charlotte. The 20-year-old also had the honour of singing privately before the King at a party in London.”

Back home, Joah, a talented instrumentalist (he played cello and drums), was also to become one of the earliest members of the Halifax Choral Society (founded in 1817/18) as well as joining the new Halifax Orchestral Society, founded in 1829.

“Fortunately a description of Joah has survived. It was written by a local man, Joseph Sugden, under the pseudonym of Josephus, in 1872,” explains David.

“He describes him as tall, angular and not inelegant.”

And it was in an early 19th century local directory that another of Joah’s talents is highlighted. He is recorded here as a hairdresser (around 1834) as well as a perfumer (1822.)

Joah ran his business from a shop at 3, Union Street, above which he also lived. The street was located on the south east corner of a long-vanished extension of Albion Street, approximately where Halifax’s Jonathan James and William Hill premises are today.

His wife, Margaret, daughter of James Stancliffe who he married in 1794, connected him with a well-known family of local barbers, one of whom served Anne Lister’s uncle, James Lister.

David also reveals that an earlier generation of female Listers, prior to Anne, also employed Joah. In 1806, an entry in Aunt Anne Lister’s account book says: “Paid J. Crossley for a head dress, a present for my sister, £2.0.0.”

“He had previously been paid for hair bands and presumably the head dress in question would be in the nature of muffs or curls,” explains David.

There are various references to Joah in the younger Anne Lister’s diary. In June 1823 we read: “Down the old bank and up to Horton Street to Crossley’s to leave him my false curls to do up.”

Joah also attended Shibden Hall. Two entries in 1818 and 1819 reveal: “Crossley cut my hair this morning, which as usual hindered me full half hour” and “Crossley cut my hair. About half an hour’s job.”

“A number of false curls survive at Shibden Hall today, though these are not known to have been the ones worn by Anne. However they are typical of her time,” says David.

Joah was also patronised by another diarist, Elizabeth Wadsworth of Holdsworth House.

Joah died in February 1837, at the age of 72 and a glowing obituary about his musical abilities appeared in the Halifax Guardian. He and his wife Margaret had 10 children (four of whom died young), and his youngster son, also named Joah took holy orders and became a cleryman in Cornwall and Devon. The couple’s eldest daughter, Elizabeth ran a toy shop in Albion Street and their second, Mary, taught music.

“Some of Joah and Margaret’s offspring are interred with them in the grave at the Minster, while others are buried in the churchyard of St Paul’s, King Cross.”