Gentleman Jack

Anne Lister (1791 – 1840) of Shibden Hall, near Halifax – whose story is told in the major BBC TV series Gentleman Jack – was a remarkable woman; a landowner, business woman, diarist, mountaineer and traveller.

Celebrated today as the ‘first modern lesbian’, the diaries kept by Anne Lister from her teenage years until her death at the age of 49 run to around 5 million words. Tall and boyish, she dressed in black and wore her hair in tight curls on either side of her face. With her neck ruff, stout boots, black coat and round hat (rather than a bonnet) she looked distinctly masculine. Nicknamed ‘Captain Tom Lister’ locally during her lifetime, she was later referred to as “Gentleman Jack”.

Anne’s diary entries chronicle her daily life, as well as social, political and economic events and her business interests. Approximately one sixth of the diaries are written in code. This clever combination of Greek letters and algebraic symbols was referred to by Anne as her ‘crypt hand’. The crypt hand entries describe quite graphically Anne’s deepest emotions, her private affairs and relationships with a number of women, including the tactics she used for seduction.

Born on 3 April 1791, Anne Lister lived at Shibden Hall, 2 miles outside Halifax, from 1815 until her death in 1840. As well as rent from farms and cottages, the Shibden estate drew income from its reserves of coal, water, stone and timber. Further income was generated from canal shares, turnpike road trusts and pew rents. Anne inherited the estate in 1836 after the death of her Father and Aunt and made great changes to both Shibden Hall and the estate, adding to their size and grandeur.

Following a series of intimate relationships with female friends over the years, which often ended unhappily, Anne was keen to find a ‘wife’ to live with her at Shibden Hall. In 1832 Anne became reacquainted with Ann Walker, a wealthy young heiress who had inherited the nearby Crow Nest Estate. Their friendship developed rapidly, the two became lovers and Ann Walker came to live at Shibden Hall in 1834.

Anne Lister’s story is told in an 8-part BBC/HBO co-production called Gentleman Jack, starring Suranne Jones as Anne Lister and Sophie Rundle as Ann Walker. Written by BAFTA award-winning screenwriter Sally Wainwright (of Happy Valley and Last Tango in Halifax fame), who grew up in Calderdale, Gentleman Jack was filmed at Shibden Hall and the surrounding area. For more information about the film locations used in the series, please click here.

Shibden Hall near Halifax – Home of Anne Lister – ‘Gentleman Jack’

Shibden Hall, which dates back to the 15th century, is run by Calderdale Museums and is open to visit. For further information about Shibden Hall, please click here


Saltaire UNESCO World Heritage Site

Saltaire near Shipley – only 16 miles from Elmet Farmhouse – is great place for a day out. A model village built in the mid 19th century by the philanthropic industrialist Sir Titus Salt (1803-1876), it was created to provide high-quality housing for the thousands of workers at Salt’s Mill, his huge complex of textile factories next to the River Aire.

Almost every aspect of this extraordinary development was the brainchild of this visionary man, from the magnificent Italianate Salt’s Mill (1853) designed by Lockwood and Mawson, to the elegant Congregational Church (1859) with its circular tower, and the imposing Saltaire Institute, 1869, flanked by four majestic carved stone lion sculptures by Thomas Milnes. Saltaire is so unusual and well-preserved that the whole village has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Take a walk around the village and admire the handsome stone terraced houses designed in a variety of different styles. Don’t miss the shops and cafes on Victoria Road in Saltaire Village and the regular vintage fairs in the grand Victoria Hall. There’s more to see in Roberts Park (opened in 1871) across the footbridge over the river, where you can watch the cricket, stroll along the promenade, listen to the band or take tea in the Half Moon Cafe. Nearby Shipley Glen Tramway, dating from 1895, is open during the summer months.

Salt’s Mill                                                                                                                            

Although the textile industry is long gone, Salt’s Mill has been resurrected as an exciting cultural and creative hub. Beautifully restored, it houses a dynamic complex of galleries, shops and restaurants, including two enormous bookshops, an antiques centre, a buzzing diner and a design shop called The Home.

A unique feature of Salt’s Mill are the hundreds of works of art by multi-talented Bradford-born artist David Hockney, informally displayed all over the building. Hockney’s work is lively and colourful, and the work on show spans his long and varied career, including paintings, prints, photomontages and posters, as well as his latest digital paintings created using an ipad.

Complementing Hockney’s vibrant paintings is an exuberant collection of Victorian ceramics made by the Burmantofts Pottery in Leeds. Decorated with brightly-coloured glazes, these large pots are a visual delight and reflect another aspect of the creativity in the West Riding.

Saltaire’s Textile Heritage                                                                                                                                                            

Saltaire’s textile heritage is recorded in a fascinating series of paintings by Leeds-born artist Henry Carr R.A. illustrating textile manufacturing processes. Specially commissioned by Salt’s Mill between 1957-59, many of the paintings are on unusual irregular-shaped canvases. They accurately record each stage of the manufacturing process, from sorting, scouring and combing the wool, to spinning the yarn and weaving the cloth, to dyeing and inspecting the fabric. Recently restored, these wonderful paintings are now displayed in various parts of the mill.

Salt’s Mill, Saltaire BD18 3LA. Tel 01274 531163.

Saltaire Village:

© Text and photographs copyright Lesley Jackson

Architectural Gems of Leeds

Architectural Gems of Leeds


Leeds is a splendid Victorian city with a treasure trove of colourful flamboyant buildings dating from the late 19th and early 20th century. Architectural highlights include the Leeds Corn Exchange with its domed wooden roof resembling the hull of a boat, designed by Cuthbert Brodrick in 1864. 



The stunning County Arcade designed by theatre architect Frank Matcham, built between 1898-1904, is one of several well-preserved Victorian shopping arcades in Leeds. The glazed faience decoration that adorns the interior of this arcade was made by the local firm of Burmantofts.



 The terracotta cladding on the facade of  nearby Leeds City Market on Kirkgate is also very spectacular. Designed by Joseph and John Leeming in 1904, the market hall’s cast-iron structure is painted in polychrome. The market itself is one of the most vibrant in the UK.



On the other side of the city is Leeds Civic Hall with its dazzling golden owls, a late Art Deco building designed by Vincent Harris dating  from 1931-3.



Dominating the Headrow is the imposing Leeds Town Hall, another highly ornate Victorian building designed by Cuthbert Brodrick, built between 1853-8.



Next door is Leeds Art Gallery, whose newly-restored top-lit galleries provide a stunning setting for its excellent collection of 20th century paintings and sculpture. The Art Gallery’s fabulous Victorian tiled café is not to be missed. 



On the other side of the Headrow in the elegant setting of Park Square is St Paul’s House. A Victorian warehouse and cloth cutting works designed in the Moorish-Venetian style by Thomas Ambler in 1878, this extraordinary building is another of the architectural gems of Leeds.




Just 30 miles from Elmet Farmhouse, Leeds is easily reached by train from Hebden Bridge and makes an excellent day out.

For more information about Leeds, follow these links:


Tourist information

Piece Hall Halifax

Halifax Piece Hall – An Architectural Gem

Following a major renovation, Halifax’s magnificent 18th century cloth market – The Piece Hall – reopened in 2017. Originally built in 1779 as a market hall for merchants selling hand-woven woollen and worsted cloth produced by independent yeoman clothiers from the surrounding area, this spectacular Grade I Listed building is an architectural masterpiece.

Constructed from fine-grained local sandstone with a stone slate roof, the Piece Hall is the most significant surviving monument to the domestic textile industry in Britain. The building takes its name from the 30 yard lengths of cloth, known as ‘pieces’, which were the mainstay of its trade, along with raw wool.

A large rectangular building housing 315 small rooms, the Piece Hall is believed to have been designed by Thomas Bradley, a Halifax architect and builder who was Surveyor for the Calder Navigation Company. Taking the form of a quadrangle, the Piece Hall has a large open square in the centre measuring approximately 110 yards by 91 yards. Constructed on a slope, the western side has a ground floor with one upper storey, while the east face is on three levels, with internal staircases at each corner.

Classical in style, the Piece Hall draws inspiration from Roman and Italian Renaissance buildings. The merchants’ rooms are set back behind elegant colonnades. The lower arcade has round-headed arches on square piers. The middle level has Rustic pillars with Tuscan capitals. The upper colonnade has circular Doric columns.

There are arched gateways on three sides of the buildingThe north gateway, which was originally the main entrance, has a pediment topped by  a classical urn, and is inscribed ‘Opened January 1st 1779’. The west gateway has a classical cupola with a bell, surmounted by a Golden Fleece and a weather vane. The south gateway features elaborate multi-coloured cast iron gates dating from 1871.

Trading at the Piece Hall was strictly regulated and took place between 10 am and 12 noon each saturday morning. Originally cloth was transported to the Piece Hall by packhorses after being collected from farms and cottages on the surrounding uplands where it was made. The cloth was then distributed throughout Britain and Europe.

Following the Industrial Revolution, textile manufacturing processes were mechanised and production shifted to water- and steam-powered mills in the valleys. This radically altered the system of trade, as a  result of which the Piece Hall rapidly became defunct. From the early 19th century onwards the building was used for a variety of additional purposes, including firework displays, religious sermons and political rallies. In 1867 the Piece Hall was transferred to the Halifax Corporation and from 1871 onwards it was used as a wholesale fish, fruit and market. This continued for the next 100 years.

By the early 1970s when the wholesale market ceased, the Piece Hall had fallen into disrepair and was threatened with demolition. Thankfully it was saved, however, and after being renovated, the building reopened in 1976 housing shops and an outdoor market.

Following another major restoration project grant-aided by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Piece Hall was given a new lease of life in 2017. Now managed by the Piece Hall Trust, it incorporates shops, galleries, cafes and bars, as well as displays about the history of this iconic building. A varied programme of outdoor events – from street theatre to art installations and concerts – is held in the repaved central square, a stunning public space.

Adjoining the Piece Hall  is the newly-extended Square Chapel Arts Centre, a lively arts complex including a cinema, theatre and cafe bar. Housed in the historic Square Chapel, a red-brick Georgian chapel dating back to 1772, this is a key element in Halifax’s new Cultural Quarter, along with the new Central Library and Archive incorporating the spire of the 19th century Square Church. The library houses a Visitor Information Centre and provides direct access to the Piece Hall from Halifax railway station and  neighbouring Eureka! The National Children’s Museum.

© Text and photographs copyright Lesley Jackson

Hepworth 2017 Museum of Year

The Hepworth


Winner of Museum of the Year for 2017, The Hepworth showcases an outstanding collection of sculpture by Barbara Hepworth in a stunning modern building by leading architect David Chipperfield. One of the greatest sculptors of the 20th century, local artist Barbara Hepworth was inspired by the Yorkshire landscape where she grew up. The Hepworth celebrates her achievements and forms part of the Yorkshire Sculpture Triangle, along with the nearby Yorkshire Sculpture Park and Leeds Art Gallery. The museum also hosts a stimulating programme of exhibitions, mainly focusing on 20th century and contemporary art. 

Gallery Walk, Wakefield WF1 5AW

Tel. 01924 247360 


Yorkshire Sculpture Park

West Bretton, near Wakefield



Part of the Yorkshire Sculpture Triangle – along with Leeds Art Gallery and The Hepworth in Wakefield – the award-winning Yorkshire Sculpture Park is a fantastic indoor-outdoor venue for exhibitions of modern sculpture. Major exhibitions are held in the museum’s striking hillside galleries and on the surrounding landscaped estate at Bretton Hall. The nearby chapel provides another stunning venue and large-scale works by Henry Moore sculptures are also displayed in the open countryside in the adjoining country park. Museum of the Year for 2014, YSP is an excellent place to visit for both adults and kids.

Yorkshire Sculpture Park, West Bretton, Wakefield WF4 4LG

Tel. 01924 832631

Bronte Bicentenary 2016 – 2020

Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë

During the mid 19th century the small Pennine village of Haworth witnessed an extraordinary literary phenomenon. In the space of six years between 1847 and 1853, three remarkable sisters, Charlotte Brontë (1816-55), Emily Brontë (1818-48) and Anne Brontë (1820-49), wrote some of the most powerful and evocative novels in the history of English literature. 


Above: Haworth Parsonage, now the Brontë Parsonage Museum

The Brontë sisters grew up at Haworth Parsonage, where their father,  the Reverend Patrick Brontë (1777-1861), was vicar of Haworth from 1820. It was here that their novels were written and it was this area that provided the inspiration and setting for most of their work.

Educated partly at boarding school but mainly at home, along with their brother Branwell Brontë (1817-48), Charlotte, Emily and Anne were destined to become governesses as their father did not have sufficient means to support them. Writing was their passion from an early age, however, so they aspired to earn their living by this means instead.

In 1846 the Brontë sisters published a joint collection of poems. Their novels appeared shortly afterwards, initially published under the male pseudonyms of Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell. Charlotte Brontë‘s Jane Eyre, Emily Brontë‘s Wuthering Heights and Anne Brontë‘s Agnes Grey were all published in 1847, followed by  The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë in 1848.

Within a year, however, tragedy struck. Emily died of tubercolosis in December 1848, aged only 30, a few months after her brother Branwell. Anne was also struck down by the same disease and died the following year in 1849 at the age of 29. 

Charlotte published two further novels during her lifetime, Shirley (1849) and Villette (1853), but she too died young, at the age of 38, in 1854. Her first novel, The Professor, initially rejected for publication in 1847, appeared posthumously in 1857.


Memorial window to Charlotte BronteMemorial to the Brontes in the church

Above: Commemorative window and Brontë memorial in Haworth Parish Church


The Bronte Parsonage Museum is celebrating the Bicentenary of the birth of the Bronte Sisters between 2016 – 2020. To discover more about their exhibitions and events during this period, click here


Haworth and Brontë Country

The atmospheric village of Haworth, home of the  Brontë sisters, is less than 7 miles from Elmet Farmhouse. Steeped in character, its precipitous cobbled main street leads up to the parish church where the Reverend Patrick Brontë preached. Across the graveyard is Haworth Parsonage, where Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë grew up and wrote their extraordinary novels.



Above: Main street and parish church in Haworth

The world-famous Brontë Parsonage Museum is a shrine for all self-respecting Brontë fans. Here you can see where the Brontë sisters lived and worked, admire rare artefacts, such as the tiny manuscripts they wrote as children, and discover what triggered their imagination and prompted them to write such compelling novels and poems.

For information about Brontë200, the Brontë Society’s 5-year programme of events celebrating 200 years since the births of Charlotte, Branwell, Emily and Anne Brontë, please click here


Wood engraving of Top Withens, throught to be the inspiration for Wuthering HeightsWadsworth Moor

Above left: Top Withins, wood engraving by John Greenwood.  Above right: Heather moorland above Pecket Well, near Haworth



Elmet Farmhouse is in the heart of Brontë Country, so if you want to get a flavour of the rolling Pennine hills and heather moorland landscape that inspired the Brontë sisters and fired their imagination, this is the perfect place to stay. Haworth and Top Withins – the ruined moorland farmhouse said to be the inspiration for Wuthering Heights – are both within hiking distance of Elmet Farmhouse. 


Meadows above Crimsworth Dean looking towards Old Town MillPecket Well from across the valley at Slack Heptonstall

Above left: Crimsworth Dean.   Above right: Pecket Well village with heather moorland above

The Haworth Old Road forks off just above the village of Pecket Well and runs through Crimsworth Dean before climbing up over Oxenhope Moor over towards Haworth. Pecket Well Mill, completed in 1858, was built during the Brontë era, and the ancient stone-built hill-top villages of the Upper Calder Valley, such as Heptonstall and Midgley, are very much part of the Brontë sisters’ world. Crimsworth is the surname of the hero in Charlotte Brontë’s first novel, The Professor.


Pecket Well War Memorial in the mist from Elmet FarmhouseP1030571

Above left: Crimsworth Memorial.  Above right: Heather on Wadsworth Moor

Elmet Farmhouse itself – a yeoman clothier’s house dating back to the early 18th century – is built in the same vernacular style as Wuthering Heights, with stone mullion windows and a huge carved stone fireplace. Curl up in a window seat and read the Brontës’ novels and poems, copies of which await you in the Elmet Farmhouse library. The countryside that inspired these astonishing literary achievements is literally on the doorstep here, so if you want to commune with Charlotte, Emily and Anne, this is the place to come.


Elmet Farmhouse - Exterior 3 NewThe houses are tightly knitted together

Above left: Elmet Farmhouse.  Above right: Heptonstall

To discover more about local buildings and places associated with the Brontës, please click here

Brontë Family Chronology

1815 Reverend Patrick Brontë appointed curate of Thornton, near Bradford.

1816-20 Charlotte Brontë is born in 1816, Branwell Brontë is born in 1817, Emily Brontë is born in 1817 and Anne Brontë is born in 1820. The family move to Haworth in 1820 after Patrick Brontë is appointed perpetual curate of Haworth, Stanbury and Oxenhope.

1821 Following the death of Patrick’s wife Maria Brontë, his sister-in-law Elizabeth Branwell takes over the running of the Parsonage and oversees the upbringing of his five daughters and son.

1824-5 The Brontë sisters are sent to Clergy Daughters’ School at Cowan Bridge near Kirkby Lonsdale in 1824, later used as the model for Lowood School in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. The two eldest daughters Maria and Elizabeth both become ill at school and die shortly after returning home in 1825, aged 11 and 10 respectively.

1825-30 Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë and their brother Branwell are subsequently educated by their father at home. As children, they start to write their own miniature illustrated books.

1831 Charlotte attends Miss Wooler’s school at Roe Head, Mirfield in West Yorkshire, to prepare for becoming a governess. She subsequently teaches there and is joined by Emily and Anne.

1839 Emily returns to Haworth after a brief unsuccessful stint as a teacher at Miss Patchett’s School at Law Hill, Halifax.

1840-45 Anne spends five years as a governess with the Robinson family at Thorp Green Hall, near York.

1841-42 Charlotte and Emily spend a year studying in Brussels, with a view to learning French so that they can open their own school in Haworth, although this never comes to fruition. Emily returns to Haworth in 1842 following her aunt’s death.

1843-44 Charlotte remains in Brussels until 1844, where she falls in love with her married teacher Monsieur Heger. The story of her unrequited passion later forms the subject for her novel Villette.

1846 Charlotte, Emily and Anne use their aunt’s legacy to publish a book of poems under the pseudonyms Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell. After this they focus their attention on writing novels.

1847 Charlotte Brontë’s first novel, The Professor, is rejected, but her second novel, Jane Eyre, is published in October 1847 and causes a literary sensation. Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights and Anne Brontë’s Agnes Grey are both published in December 1847, prompting considerable speculation about the authors.

1848 Following the publication of Anne’s second novel, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, the true identities of the Brontë sisters  are revealed. Before they can enjoy the fruits of their literary success, their bother Branwell dies of tuberculosis in September 1848 at the age of 31. Tragedy strikes again as Emily is struck down by the same disease and dies on 19 December 1848 at the age of 30.

1849 Shortly after Emily’s death, Anne is also diagnosed with tuberculosis and dies in Scarborough on 28 May 1849 at the age of 29. Grief-stricken, Charlotte immerses herself in writing. Her third novel, Shirley, is published in October 1849.

1850-53 Charlotte is feted as a successful novelist and meets other literary figures such as William Thackeray and Elizabeth Gaskell, but is still weighed down by grief for the death of her siblings. Her last novel, Villette,  is published in 1853.

1854-55 In June 1854 Charlotte marries her father’s curate, the Reverend Arthur Bell Nicholls, but her happiness is short-lived as she dies on 31 March 1855 in the early stages of pregnancy at the age of 38.

1857 Charlotte’s first novel, The Professor, is published posthumously in 1857. Elizabeth Gaskell’s memoir The Life of Charlotte Brontë, is published the same year.

1861 Patrick Brontë dies at Haworth at the age of 84, having outlived all his children.

For more detailed information about the Brontës’ family history, please click here 


© Text and images copyright Elmet Farmhouse