Gentleman Jack: Not the Only Lister in Town

Posted on by Anita O'Donovan

If you’ve happened to be keeping up with the TV series Gentleman Jack, you’ll be familiar with the story of Anne Lister: the woman who, upon taking over the management of her family’s home, Shibden Hall, discovered a significant amount of coal that could be mined for a considerable profit.

But did you know that Anne wasn’t the only Lister woman working in the coal industry within the area? And what has it got to do with  Caphouse Colliery?

Emma Lister-Kaye (1825-1905), daughter of Caphouse owner Sir John Lister-Kaye and Matilda Arbuthnot, was an educated woman and had been involved in founding schools in the area around Denby Grange where her family lived, as well as supporting the Middlestown Church and schools.

Upon her father’s death in 1871, the Listers were one of only four families who still ran their own collieries, therefore  Emma was left the colliery business while the estate and baronetcy were left to her eighteen-year-old nephew.

After being inspired by reading French and German books about mining, under Emma’s management, the collieries thrived and were developed for greater production. In fact, if you head over to the Steam Winding House, you’ll be able to see the second-hand twin-cylinder steam winding engine (originally from a woollen mill), as well as the inscription ‘ELK 1876’ on the date stamp on the wall of the building!

Following her death in 1905, Emma’s manager, Percy Greaves, described her in his book ‘Black Diamonds’ as “an aristocrat to her fingertips, and an excellent business brain, which could not be said for her father.”





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