DID you catch the finale of Gentleman Jack on Sunday? If not, you missed a treat. Ninety per cent of Press readers polled admitted they loved it, and can’t wait for a second series.

Based upon the life and secret diaries of Anne Lister, who defied the conventions of her day to live more or less openly as a lesbian 200 years ago, Gentleman Jack was scripted by Sally Wainwright. And York itself was right at the heart of the storytelling.

One of the seminal events of Anne’s life - her ‘marriage’ to Ann Walker in 1834 - took place right here, at Holy Trinity Church in Goodramgate. That ‘marriage’ is now considered by many to be a key moment in LGBTQ+ history.

To commemorate it, York Civic Trust teamed up with the Churches Conservation Trust, York LGBT Forum and York LGBT History Month to a create special blue plaque with a rainbow border which was put up at the entrance to the churchyard.

Sometimes, the best of intentions can go wrong, however. While the plaque was ‘welcomed in principle’, the wording came in for criticism. It described Lister as ‘gender nonconforming’ - prompting an angry response from some members of the LGBT community, who said she should have been described as a lesbian. The Trust held its hands up, launched a review, and earlier this year a new rainbow plaque was installed, with revised wording. “Anne Lister, lesbian and diarist, took sacrament here to seal her union with Ann Walker, Easter 1834,” it says.

This time, it seems, it really has been universally welcomed. In fact, it may be serving as an inspiration.

When the Wandsworth LGBTQ+ Forum started crowdfunding for a rainbow plaque to honour Oscar Wilde, it cited the York Civic Trust’s plaque as an example. “The Rainbow Plaque is a new scheme that was established by York Civic Trust with York LGBT Forum last year as a way to identify people and moments of Queer History,” the Forum said.

Dr Duncan Marks of the York Civic Trust admits he’s thrilled and proud that the Lister plaque is inspiring other communities to put up their own rainbow plaques.

“Following the success of ‘Gentleman Jack’, our rainbow plaque to Anne Lister in Holy Trinity Church, Goodramgate, has become something of a focal point for visitors,” he says.

“This is good news for York – but the bigger story is how a plaque in honour of a lesbian figurehead has had a near-universal positive response. This would have been unimaginable even a generation ago”.

And even more unimaginable in Lister’s own time, of course.

So who was this woman who defied convention to lead the life she wished to lead - and 200 years later is inspiring others to do the same?

Born in 1791, the daughter of a Halifax cloth merchant, Lister was a traveller, adventurer and businesswoman who made no secret of her preference for the ‘fairer sex.

At the Manor House School in York she was known as a ‘tomboy’. Her friendships with other girls became increasingly flirtatious. Her first serious love affair was with Eliza Raine, with whom she shared a bedroom at school. The pair kept journals, and invented a secret code to write about their relationship. Eliza referred to Anne as ‘my husband’.

Anne kept a diary for the rest of her life, recording her numerous affairs with different women, as well as her widespread travels. In an entry from 1817, she makes clear how completely she rejected the conventions of the age. She describes burning some ‘farewell verses’ from a Mr Montagu. “I love only the fairer sex... my heart revolts from any love other than theirs,” she wrote.

Anne’s first serious love, Eliza, was declared insane in 1814. But Anne continued to have relationships with other women. By 1834, she and Ann Walker were living openly as a couple at Shibden Hall near Halifax, which Anne inherited on the death of her uncle.They had already exchanged rings and vows, before blessing their marriage by attending an Easter Sunday service at Holy Trinity Church in Goodramgate.

Lister was no saint. But her refusal to be constrained by the male-dominated conventions of the day marked her out as a true social pioneer.