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

  

Elmet Hits the Headlines

‘Big Turn Ups in ‘Trouser Town’, Liverpool Echo, 17 July 2018

 

  

 

Journalist Barrie Mills was bowled over by Elmet Farmhouse during his visit to Hebden Bridge and Calderdale:

‘Home base was Elmet Farmhouse in the tiny village of Pecket Well high up above the bustling market town of Hebden Bridge. From its stone mullion windows or from a seat in the garden, you look out across Hebden Bridge and neighbouring Heptonstall, enjoying the same view immortalised by photographer Fay Godwin on the cover of the book she produced in 1979 with the late Poet Laureate Ted Hughes, entitled Remains of Elmet.’

To read the full article, please click here

Also published in Camarthen Journal, Derby Telegraph, Leicester Mercury, Llaneli Star, South Wales Echo, Newcastle Evening Chronicle, Teeside Evening Gazette and Stoke Sentinel (16-18 July 2018)

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

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.

www.thepiecehall.co.uk

www.squarechapel.co.uk

www.historicengland.org.uk

© Text and photographs copyright Lesley Jackson