‘First modern lesbian, Gentleman Jack' and her secret code the subject of latest lecture from Burnley and District Historical Society

Burnley and District Historical Society has begun a new programme of lectures following a large period of inactivity due to the Covid pandemic.

The latest lecture came courtesy of Christine Booth, a volunteer at Shibden Hall, Halifax, who presented “Gentleman Jack – Anne Lister: the life and loves of a lady”.

The subject of a recent racy television series starring Suranne Jones, this lecture covered a longer period of Anne Lister’s life which has been compiled from correspondence to and from Anne together with information contained in 26 volumes of diaries which Anne wrote.

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The diaries had originally been hidden behind a panel at Shibden Hall and when they were discovered by John Lister, a member of Anne’s family a long time after her death, one sixth of the content had been written in code.

Anne Lister and her secret code. Courtesy of Shibden Hall.

When the code was deciphered the family were so shocked by what the diaries revealed that they put them back behind the panel.

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Denise North, chairman of the society, said: “The lecture was enjoyed by the well attended audience. Lectures are held on the second Wednesday of each month and take place at 2pm at St John’s Church Hall on Ivy Street, Burnley.”

Current members, new members, and guests are welcome to attend and entry is free to members with guests asked for a donation of their choice. The next lecture will take place on December 14th. The speaker is Steven Illingworth and the title of the lecture is “How Sawley Abbey nearly brought down Henry VIII”.