The weekend before last, I took off into West Yorkshire and spent an afternoon at Shibden Hall, near Halifax. The Hall dates to the early 1400s and was the home of early 18th Century landowner, business woman, diarist and lover of women, Anne Lister.
I’ve known about the Hall and Anne Lister for years, but was content to simply read publications about Anne’s diaries rather than visit her home. Then I started watching Gentleman Jack and figured I’d be silly not to have a look. I only live 37 miles away from the Hall, so it wasn’t a super long trip.
We stopped off on the way to have lunch at a pub.
There was a picturesque river running behind the pub with a weir, complete with a guy fishing in the shallows but I missed him off the photos because he looked nothing like Aidan Turner or Sam Heughan who would have fit the scene perfectly.
After lunch, we headed to Shibden. It was rammed. The car park was full and cars lined the road outside the main entrance for several hundred metres either side. Because I’m disabled and walk with crutches, I got dropped off right next to the Hall while my father tried to find a parking spot. Luckily someone was leaving so he slid straight in to a spot and the guy gave him his parking ticket that was good for another 5 hours. Free parking!
You enter the property through the rear, passing the main courtyard between the house and the tackroom.
Once down the side of the house, you hit the front garden. How very English, there was a queue.
They were only letting a certain number of people into the Hall at any given time, so we hung around in the queue for around fifteen minutes.
After paying the entrance fee (£5), I turned into the kitchen. It does feel a lot smaller than it looks on TV, with most of one wall being taken up by the cooking fire and the other two walls by a table and a giant sideboard (which was so big and the space so small I couldn’t get back far enough to fit it all in the frame!).
Next I made my way through the covered walk way and out into the courtyard and then across to the tackroom.
There were some nifty fire buckets, but like the tackroom, I don’t think they date to Anne Lister’s time.
Next, I wandered into the main area of the house (the housebody). The wood panelling was part of the alterations Anne Lister made to the property. Prior to that it was more traditional whitewashing and beams. She also had the stair case put in and the family motto carved into the woodwork, JUSTUS PROPOSITI TENAX – a just person steadfast to his purpose.
I did love this piece of furniture below. The carving is really detailed. The volunteer guide told me it was Victorian, and it does appear in a painting by Henry Sykes from 1877, so again, something later than Anne Lister’s time.
Next was the Savile Room. This room was renovated by Anne Lister. She had the wood panelling installed and widened the window. She also had the floor dropped by about fourteen inches.
There was another room through this one but I was unable to get to it because it was full with about fifteen people listening to a volunteer guide. I did go back a few times but it was the same situation each time. Nor was I able to get upstairs to have a look because I couldn’t manage it with my crutches. I’m sure Calderdale Council would not have been too impressed if I’d fallen flat on my face and ended up in a twisted heap. So I went back outside and took a few photos out there.
Overall I enjoyed my visit. It was a little annoying there were so many people inside so you were sort of ushered through by the crowd and couldn’t stop for too long to look at anything. However, on the plus side, this means the Hall is getting the recognition it deserves as an important part of the area’s history. In fact, I was reading a couple of days ago that due to demand, Shidben Hall is opening on Fridays. It’s usually closed that day. It just goes to show what happens when a TV show goes viral. I’d like to visit it again in a couple of years when things have calmed down a little.
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