Anne Lister Way of the Setts

NE England, Yorkshire & Humber, 1 day

Anne Lister Way – Pilgrimage of the Setts

3 ½ miles; 1017 feet of ascent

Halifax Train Station and Halifax Bus Station are each a few minutes’ walk from Halifax Minster, where the pilgrimage starts and finishes.
Please be aware that the walk covers some difficult terrain, with some steep ascents and some difficult descents on the return journey.
Please keep to the paths to respect the countryside, and close any gates behind you.

Halifax Minster is a place of refuge and welcome to all humanity, of any faith or none…

The Way of the Setts Anne Lister Pilgrimage is focused around central aspects of the life of Anne Lister (3rd April 1791 – 22nd September 1840). The holy site of the Parish Church (Halifax Minster); Shibden Hall; and the paths which Anne regularly walked between these two historic buildings.

The basis of this pilgrimage is Anne’s strong and unwavering faith, which did not conflict with any aspect of her life, and took her back and forth, from her home at Shibden Hall to the parish church to worship.

The pilgrimage uses the analogy of the start point of the font in Anne’s life, for the beginning of your pilgrimage.  It will take you to the high vistas overlooking some of the Halifax landmarks which include some of the same landmarks which Anne would have seen as she journeyed back and forth – vistas of the parish church; the Piece Hall; and Square Chapel, from high above the town. It will take you to her home at Shibden Hall, and through her land. Having knelt at the high altar on your return, to process your experiences and thoughts, the pilgrimage finally takes you to Anne’s ledger stone as the analogy for the final end to your day’s pilgrimage.

There is the opportunity to then light a candle, and, if you would like, leave your thoughts or a message in the journal provided, to mark your completion of the pilgrimage.

For a fuller text description, please scroll down below the photos

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The pilgrimage starts at the ancient font in Halifax Minster, in which Anne Lister was baptised, and which is still used for baptism today. Pilgrims are invited to light a tea-light and place it in the candle-stand, or on the stonework around the font, using Anne’s point of baptism and start in life as a parallel start point for your own spiritual and personal journey for the day. Set your intention.

Pause For Thought
“For the last month, or six weeks, I have generally, through the grace of the Almighty, contemplated his mercy during my walks.”
Anne Lister, transcribed Helena Whitbread “I Know My Own Heart”, 1988.

The pilgrimage leaves the Minster through the main doors and turns left along the building. Take care as you walk around the building, as it can be slippery underfoot. As you turn the corner of the building at the back, continue straight forward and through a gate at the far side of the building. Go through this gate and exit the Minster grounds onto the public pathway. Turn right onto the pathway, and down some stone steps to the road and a T-junction.  Taking care of traffic, cross straight over into Bank Bottom and continue in a straight line to the junction at Southowram Bank. Here, again taking care of traffic, cross straight over again and you will see a pathway ahead of you. Leaving the road, take this pathway, which bears left after leaving the road. It is a cobbled pathway, which are known as Setts, and is one of many examples of Setts in the Halifax area.

Continue up the Setts of Old Bank; your first view across Halifax will appear as you begin to ascend. In a couple of hundred metres from where you joined the path, you will see a metal fence in front of you on the left of the path. Before you reach this fence, there is another cobbled path through the woods off to the right. Before taking this path, stop and look back over Halifax – Anne would have taken this same route back and forth, and would have taken in some of the familiar landmarks as she approached and left the town.

Pause For Thought
Draw strength from walking in Anne’s footsteps today.
She refused to live a small life, but instead lived life to the full.

Take the cobbled path (more Setts) through the woods and continue uphill until you reach a road. This is Godley Branch Road; as you arrive at the road, look diagonally right, and you will see that the Setts continue on the other side of the road to your right. Cross over, taking care of the traffic, and continue uphill. Before long, the Setts will bear sharply left (at a spot known as Devil’s Elbow); follow the Setts to the left at this sharp bend (there is a smaller path to your right – don’t take this one). The path will emerge out in the open again at a point where many paths meet, and there is a signpost. (Take note of where your path meets this open area, for later when you return this way near the end of the walk.)

To your right there are two paths; take the second of these, which is the broader of the two. This will take you to the top of Beacon Hill – a famous local landmark, where the Beacon is lit on occasions of national importance. There are benches at the top from which you can enjoy the view across Halifax and much further afield. There is an excellent view of the Minster and of the Piece Hall, both of which Anne would have been very familiar with.

Pause For Thought
“With all my faults, Heaven grant me still the virtue of sincerity; and though I walk through many a darksome shade of folly and remorse, still let there be one light, the light of truth to guide me right at last.”
Anne Lister 12th Dec 1824, transcribed Anne Choma

Retrace your steps back down to where the paths meet and where the signpost is. From the signpost, take the path signposted “Permissive Path Shibden Park”, and continue through two green metal gates. The first tower you will see to your right is the Air Vent for the Beacon Hill Railway Tunnel… continuing further along the path you will see, to your right again, the castellated tower of the air shaft for the Walker Pit, built for Anne Lister and named after Ann Walker. The crosses were designed to be reminiscent of medieval arrow slits in a castle tower. The pit was small; opened in early 1836 and is a very rare surviving example of early 19th-century mine architecture.

Continue along the path, passing through another green metal gate and then following the path as it turns to the right through an opening in the dry-stone wall. Continue down the path, and just before you reach a road, you will see a green gate to your right, which takes you through into Cunnery Wood. Take the path through the Wood, and before long you will see a natural archway.

Pause For Thought
Pause before going through the archway…perhaps there are things which you may need to “lay down” and leave here, things which have become a weight which you maybe are ready to shed. Consciously lay these things down before crossing through the archway.

Follow the most natural downwards through Cunnery Wood; the path will meander and zig-zag its way down to a small pond at the bottom, just before the road is reached. There are some small steps down to the pond. Stop at the pond awhile; there is a small platform, and a bench here. Even though there is some road noise from Shibden Hall Road, it is still a very peaceful spot, and quite beautiful if the sun’s rays are coming through the trees.

Pause For Thought
“The mercy of heaven is inexhaustible, and under all possible circumstances we have more to be thankful for than we can know or think of.”
Anne Lister 5th June 1833, transcribed Anne Choma

Return up the little steps to the path just above the pond, and turn left to skirt around the pond, keeping the pond to your left. The path will take you down a few more steps, will then pass under Shibden Hall Road via a short tunnel, and your first glimpse of Shibden Hall awaits you. (The tunnel was constructed in 1836 by Anne Lister’s garden designer Samuel Gray.) The grounds of Shibden Hall are extensive, so take your time to explore, continuing with your thoughts as you contemplate Anne’s life here at Shibden. Opening hours for the house itself and the café in the grounds should be checked on their website:

Having taken your own route through and around Shibden Park, the route now returns the same way you came, back underneath the road through the short tunnel, back past the little pond, through Cunnery Wood, and on up past the pit and shaft, arriving back at the signpost and meeting of the ways at the brow of the hill. During your walk back continue to reflect on where your pilgrimage is taking you in your own heart – what you are discovering about yourself and what you are laying down or picking up. Upon reaching the signpost at the meeting of the ways, pause for thought.

Pause For Thought
There are signposts in life which help to point us in the right direction. Sometimes we follow a good path, and sometimes it only takes us to be a little off the path we intended, to end up diverting further and further away.
Reflect on whether you are following the path in life for you right now that you intend, or whether you feel you need to make adjustments to get back on track.

Once you have paused and reflected, if you wish you can follow the signpost for “Public Bridleway Halifax”  and a few minutes detour will take you a little way alongside a dry-stone wall, which is Miss Lister’s Road, from which views of Halifax open up to your left. Return afterwards to where all the paths meet.

Return down the Setts, taking the downwards path which you ascended earlier, retracing your steps as you track back along the Setts to cross Godley Branch Road via Devil’s Elbow, and finally return via the lower Setts to Halifax Minster. Take extra care or find an alternative route in wet weather for the lower section, as the Setts between Godley Branch Road and the Minster are steep and can become very slippery.

Arriving back at the Minster, enter through the main doors, and turn right up the central aisle to approach the high altar at the east end. A regular worshipper at the Minster (then the Parish Church), Anne Lister admired the altar rails so much she modelled Shibden Hall’s staircase and gallery on them. You may wish to kneel at the high altar rail awhile, where many pilgrims have knelt over the years to receive the sacrament, including Anne Lister and Ann Walker.

When you are ready, leave the high altar and go to see Anne’s ledger stone to finish your day’s pilgrimage. Her ledger stone is on display by the entrance to the Rokeby Chapel. You may wish to light a tea-light at the candle stand in the Rokeby Chapel, reflecting on your thoughts for the day, and your hopes for the future.

Please make an entry in the special pilgrimage journal to mark the fact that you have completed the pilgrimage. Please ask one of the welcomers for the journal, as it is kept in the welcomers desk. If you would also like to add some thoughts from your day, it would enable a record of people’s journeys in Anne’s steps to and from this ancient site of worship to develop. Thank you.

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  1. Stephanie Stewart

    I expect to walk this route in October 22. Looking forward to!!


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