Designed by architect Robert Adam, Kenwood House is considered one of the great examples of the architecture of the 18th century. It's also world-renowned for the important collection of paintings it houses by artists such as Rembrandt, Vermeer, Turner, Gainsborough and Reynolds. Less well-known is Kenwood's connection to LGBTQ history.
Home of the chief justice of the King’s Bench
The house was the property of one of the greatest figures in legal history - William Murray, 1st Earl of Mansfield.
Murray's career coincided with the growth of English Law. As a judge he is remembered today for his central role in modernising the legal system, reforming laws regulating commerce and also court procedure. Significantly, he also championed the legal rights of a number of minorities, such as Roman Catholics but especially of slaves and he termed the slave trade 'odious' in court.
The Adam Library at Kenwood was designed by Robert Adam to be a 'shrine' to Murray's role as a judge and the presence of this legal and social reformer can still be felt there today.
Murray's involvement with social issues included the law surrounding homosexuality - or sodomy as it was then termed. He presided over two trials as judge. The first was a case involving a well-known celebrity of the day - the actor, dramatist and theatre manager Samuel Foote.
Foote, who due to an accident had only one leg, was famous for cross-dressing in his roles as a comic character 'Lady Pentweazel' in the play Taste which Foote himself had written.
Foote pleaded not guilty and despite the fact that both the jury and Murray acquitted him of any crime, the ordeal of the trial seems to have been too much. He sold his theatre and died the following year. It is not known what happened to Sangster.
Despite pleading innocence Wright was found guilty. Although not sentenced to death, as he would have been if convicted of actually committing sodomy, he faced either imprisonment or time on the pillory. The Laws penalising homosexuality would only be repealed in 1967.