This attractive country estate in West Yorkshire’s picturesque Shibden valley has a long, interesting history. The original timber-framed house dates to 1420 but Shibden Hall’s most fascinating story is that in the early 19th century it was home to the infamous landowner and diarist Anne Lister (1791-1840). Anne’s life, and her trailblazing role as one of the first modern lesbians, is the subject of the BBC historical TV drama Gentleman Jack, which was largely filmed here at Shibden Hall. Sally Wainwright, the writer and producer, actually grew up near the estate.
Fans of the TV drama can learn more about Anne inside the main house. A painting of the real-life heroine hangs on the wall, there’s a video about her life, and visitors can even flick through some of her diary entries – originally written in code to hide their explosive contents about her lesbian affairs – on an interactive screen.
During filming of the first series, Shibden Hall was closed to the public for several months so that it could be transformed into a TV set. The house itself, which features heavily, is a mixture of styles reflecting its interesting and varied history. Take a look at Anne’s real-life bedroom and study, which the filming crew found too small to work in – these rooms ended up being recreated as studio sets.
Visitors may also recognise the outdoor spaces, which include a 17th-century aisled barn and workshops; the latter now house a carriage collection and displays relating to different local trades. Surrounding the house are beautifully restored gardens and Calderdale woodland that actor Suranne Jones, who plays Anne Lister in Gentleman Jack, would have roamed through while filming. Off-screen, Shibden estate is home to other attractions such as a cafe, miniature railway and boating lake.
Shibden Hall also featured in Mike Leigh’s 2018 film Peterloo, about the massacre of protestors in Manchester in 1819.