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. www.saltsmill.org.uk

Saltaire Village: www.saltairevillage.info/

© Text and photographs copyright Lesley Jackson

Glorious Gardens

Dove Cottage Nursery and Garden

Shibden, near Halifax

 

An outstanding nursery specialising in hardy perennials with a wonderful hillside garden  featured several times on Gardeners World, most recently in August 2017. The planting is lush and impressionistic, mixing grasses with tall herbaceous perennials to create a wild naturalistic effects with plants cascading over the winding paths. The garden is open from mid to late summer when the flowers and grasses are at their peak. Most of the plants in the herbaceous border at Elmet Farmhouse came from Dove Cottage Nursery.

Shibden Hall Road, Halifax HX3 9XA

Tel. 01422 203553

Email: info@dovecottagenursery.co.uk

www.dovecottagenursery.co.uk

Nursery open March-September. Garden open June – September

 

Slack Top Alpine Nursery and Garden

Heptonstall, near Hebden Bridge

 

 

If you’re interested in alpines, the award-winning Slack Top Alpine Nursery and Garden near Heptonstall, above Hebden Bridge, is the place to come – not just in Yorkshire, but nationwide. Situated in a stunning location on top of the Pennines above Hardcastle Crags, the nursery specialises in hardy alpine plants which flourish at high altitude. Run by  alpine experts Michael and Allison Mitchell, Slack Top Alpines has been profiled in the RHS magazine The Garden and featured on Gardeners’ World. All the plants are grown on site and many  can be seen in the adjoining garden in specially-made troughs and striking rock and scree beds. Whether you’re an alpine lover or a novice gardener, Slack Top  is an inspiring place to visit and offers one of the best selections of alpines in the UK.

Slack Top Nursery and Garden, Alpine House, 22A Slack Top, near Heptonstall, Hebden Bridges, West Yorkshire HX7 7HA

Tel. 01422 845348

Email: enquiries@slacktopnurseries.co.uk

www.slacktopnurseries.co.uk

Open from March to September, Fridays-Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays, 10am – 5pm

 

Parcevall Hall Gardens

Skyreholme, near Skipton

 

A renowned plantsman’s garden located at the heart of Wharfedale in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Located at the head of a small valley, there are 24 acres of formal and woodland gardens which rise up the hillside for 200 feet giving wonderful views in every direction. The gardens were laid out by the late Sir William Milner from 1927 onwards, and are planted with specimens from around the world, many collected from Western China and the Himalayas. The gardens have many different facets, including woodland walks, formal south facing terraces, a bedrock limestone rock garden and a beautiful rose garden, all set against the stunning back-drop of the Yorkshire Dales.

Parcevall Hall Gardens, Skyreholme, Skipton BD23 6DE

Tel. 01756 720311

Email: parcevallhall@btconnect.com

www.parcevallhallgardens.co.uk

Open daily from April – October, 10am – 6pm

 

Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal

near Ripon

 

 

The picturesque ruins of 12th century Fountains Abbey, near Ripon, make a splendid excursion from Elmet Farmhouse. Adjoining the abbey grounds are the serene 18th century water gardens created by John and Wiliam Aislabie on their Studley Royal estate. Newly restored by the National Trust, who own both properties, the gardens consist of a series of lakes, ponds and canals adorned with classical statues, overlooked by temples, towers and viewpoints. These vistas, along with the stunning views of nearby Fountains Abbey, combine to create an unforgettable landscape experience.

Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal, near Ripon, North Yorkshire HG4 3DY

Tel: 01765608888

Email: fountainsabbey@nationaltrust.org.uk

www.nationaltrust.org.uk/fountains-abbey-and-studley-royal-water-garden

Open daily 10am – 6pm

 

York Gate Garden

Adel, near Leeds

 

 

An exquisite one-acre garden lovingly hand-crafted by the mother and son duo of Sybil and Robin Spencer during the second half of the 20th century. A highly personal creation, York Gate is divided into small intimate areas by yew and beech hedges, with beautiful paving and choice plants. Highlights include the Herb Garden with its unusual topiary and the Dell with its attractive shrubs and hidden stream. A wonderful combination of architectural structure and inspired planting, York Gate is run by the charity Perennial (formerly known as the Gardeners’ Benevolent Society), to whom it was bequeathed in 1994.

Back Church Lane, Adel, Leeds, West Yorkshire LS16 8DW

Tel: 0113 267 8240

Email: yorkgate@perennial.org.uk

www.perennial.org.uk/garden/york-gate-garden/

Open Sunday to Thursday (and Bank Holiday Mondays) 12.30 am – 4.30 pm

 

 

© Text and photos copyright Lesley Jackson and Ian Fishwick