During the 15th century the main industry in the Pennine valleys of Yorkshire was wool, and it was therefore understandable that William Oates, who made his fortune from wool, should build his new home at Shibden, the valley of sheep.
Set in extensive parkland, when Shibden Hall was built in 1420 it was of typical Tudor timber framed construction, which still gives the hall an outstanding frontage. By the 16th century the hall and estate had been purchased by the Waterhouse family, who extended the house in stone to the rear in 1590.
At the beginning of the 17th century Shibden Hall was purchased by the Lister family, who were wealthy Bradford cloth merchants and mill owners. By the 19th century the ownership of the hall passed to Anne Lister, a niece of the family, famous diarist and noted lesbian, known locally as “Gentleman Jack.”
In 1836 Anne had extensive alterations and renovations made on the house and parklands. As she wanted the work carried out in keeping with the style of the building, she commissioned John Harper a well reputed architect from York to carry out the work, having made a study of local 17th century designs.
Restoration of the Tudor façade with its mullioned windows was carried out, a wing built on the east end of the house, and a tower constructed at the western end. The interior, which I consider to be Tudor Jacobean in stile, constructed in heavy oak joinery rather than carpentry, was renovated and a new carved staircase built. The ceiling removed from the hallway making it two floors in height with an open landing running across the width at the top of the stairs.
Around the house were laid out a formal terrace garden and rock gardens, with a water cascade dropping down the hillside, an underground passage allowing access for the gardeners, and a lake at the foot of the valley.
When Anne died in 1840 the estate passed to her lesbian partner Ann Walker, who died later in an asylum for the insane. The hall, having come back into the Lister families ownership, was given to Halifax Corporation in 1933.
Behind the house a barn and stables house the Yorkshire Folk Museum, displaying carriages and farming equipment, with displays of old country crafts and lifestyles.
Timber Framed South Front
The Eastern Wing Extension
The Wellhead Above the Cascade
The "New" Staircase
The "Gentleman's" Games Room