If you've seen HBO's Gentleman Jack (opens in new tab), you might have noticed the acres of pastoral land that Anne Lister's house of Shibden Hall sits on. And if you haven't yet seen the home—or the show—here's why you'll want to get on that right now.
Gentleman Jack tells the story of Anne Lister, a landowner in Halifax, West Yorkshire, England, known for her incredible business skills, world travels, and progressivism when it came to same-sex relationships. She's even been called "the first modern lesbian." Lister didn't rely on a man to supply her with happiness or an income, instead turning her inherited home, Shibden Hall (opens in new tab), and the land around it into a lucrative business through coal mining, rental arrangements, and more.
The home itself has been around since 1420 and is currently a museum, and it's kind of amazing that the show's director, Sally Wainwright, and her team were even allowed to shoot there given how well-preserved and important to England's heritage it is. According to the museum's history (opens in new tab), Lister moved in to Shibden Hall in 1815 and inherited the property in 1826. The Hall was the place where Lister became a pioneering businesswoman and entertained many of her female companions, including her wife, Ann Walker, with whom she made history as the first lesbian marriage in the UK.
Earlier this month, in honor of Lister, Shibden Hall dedicated a blue plaque to its former owner.
The Hall, which offers tours, contains some of the remaining items belonging to Lister, including her travel writing case, signed music book, furniture, and even her funeral hatchment (a kind of plaque to commemorate a deceased person's life and achievements). Also on display are three portraits of Lister, including the one tweeted out by Shibden Hall on Lister's birthday. This is said to have been the first known picture of Lister:
But the best part of the Shibden Hall tour might be the interactive display (opens in new tab) of Anne Lister's diary. Lister kept a 27-volume diary of her life, travels, and sexual encounters, the latter she mostly wrote in a self-created code that wasn't cracked by the public until the 1980s. Now, visitors of Shibden Hall can read its pages and transcribed extracts.
You can learn more about Anne Lister from the new HBO show, Gentleman Jack (opens in new tab), which premiered on HBO on April 22. And trust me: You'll want to pay homage to this amazing woman once you see it.
So, see you in Halifax?
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Alexis Jones is an assistant editor at Women's Health where she writes across several verticals on WomensHealthmag.com, including life, health, sex and love, relationships and fitness, while also contributing to the print magazine. She has a master’s degree in journalism from Syracuse University, lives in Brooklyn, and proudly detests avocados.
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