LGBTQ+ Histories of 40 Places in England
From castles and colleges to pubs and clubs, LGBTQ+ history is woven through our national heritage. To celebrate our LGBTQ+ history, we have collated 40 places where Queer history happened.
This map plots the places that make us proud and below it, we highlight the amazing stories behind them.
We use the term 'Queer' as an inclusive term to indicate the complex experiences of sexuality and gender diversity across history. In the past, 'Queer' has been used both as a term of derision and also of self-identification. Many others, scholars and community members alike, have reclaimed the term today, but use it differently: to capture the complexity of gender and sexuality not otherwise addressed by LGBT+ - it is also with this in mind we use the acronym LGBTQ+.
Featured places 1-4
St George's Hall, Liverpool
April Ashley MBE was one of the first British people known to have had sex reassignment surgery. After modelling for Vogue and acting alongside Bing Crosby, Ashley was publicly outed as transgender by a tabloid newspaper in 1961. Ashley talked about her life at St George’s Hall during Liverpool’s Homotopia Festival in 2008, and the Museum of Liverpool featured a hugely successful exhibition about her life, ‘Portrait of a Lady’.
St Catharine's College, Cambridge
Physician and co-founder of the League of Coloured Peoples, Barbadian-born Cecil Belfield Clarke won a scholarship to study medicine at Cambridge University. His devotion to St Catharine’s College endured until his death; he served as President and Vice President of the College Society, and the Clarke Prize for Natural Sciences is still awarded today. He lived with his lifelong partner, Pat Walker, for over 30 years. Their home was left to St Catharine’s College.
The Mount Cemetery, Guildford
George Merrill was a working-class man from the slums of Sheffield with no formal education. Edward Carpenter was a privately educated, middle-class philosopher, poet, and a prominent early gay rights activist. This unlikely match met, fell in love, and lived together from 1898 until their deaths. Their cross-class relationship even influenced D H Lawrence’s 1928 novel 'Lady Chatterley’s Lover'. They are buried together, in the same grave, in the Mount Cemetery.
Royal Vauxhall Tavern, Kennington, London
Internationally known for its ground-breaking alternative cabaret performances, the Royal Vauxhall Tavern has been a hub for the LGBTQ+ community since the 1950s. One of the most historically significant LGBTQ+ venues in London, possibly in England, the RVT has a history of providing a safe space for the community, and continues to do so today through activism, campaigns, and fun. It was listed at Grade II in 2015.
Our featured places 5-7
Balliol College, Oxford
Known for his appearances on Radio 4’s 'Thought for the Day', Lionel Blue was the first British rabbi to publicly declare himself as gay. Blue lost his faith at age five, when his prayers for the removal of Adolf Hitler and Oswald Mosley were not answered. While at Balliol College, Oxford, Blue regained his faith, and went on to become one of the first two students at Leo Baeck College for training rabbis.
St Clement's Church, Old Romney, Kent
Director, designer, and gay rights activist Derek Jarman is buried in the churchyard of St Clement’s. Known for his experimental films, Jarman’s work includes Sebastine, among the first British films to depict gay sexuality positively (with an entirely Latin script); Jubilee, described as Britain’s “only decent punk film”; and The Tempest, a weirdly wonderful Shakespeare adaptation. Jarman was outspoken about the fight for gay rights, and his personal struggle with AIDS.
Poet Sir John Clanvowe and Sir William Neville, Constable of Nottingham Castle, were buried together in Istanbul. The men were joined in adelphopoiesis, a Christian ceremony that united two people of the same sex. Often referred to as ‘wedded brotherhood’, it was mentioned in Chaucer’s ‘The Knight’s Tale’. Neville and Clanvowe’s coats of arms were combined, as with married couples, so it is commonly accepted that they were lovers.
Our featured places 8-10
37 Holland Park, London
Radclyffe Hall was an English poet and author. She is best known for The Well of Loneliness, a ground-breaking lesbian novel. When Hall was 27, she fell in love with Mabel Batten, a 51-year-old singer. Eight years later, she fell for Batten’s cousin Una Troubridge, a sculptor with whom Hall would live for the rest of her life. They lived at 37 Holland Park 1924-1929.
Church of Holy Trinity, Westerham, Kent
Octavia Hill, one of the founders of the National Trust, is buried in the churchyard at Crockham Hill with her long-term companion Harriot Yorke. The two lived and worked together for 30 years. Though it is difficult to interpret historical relationships, Hill and Yorke were clearly devoted to one another, and there is evidence of Hill having a romantic relationship with Sophia Jex-Blake, one of the first female doctors.
Snape Maltings, Suffolk
Benjamin Britten lived at the Old Mill in Snape, on and off, for a decade. At first, he shared the house with composer Lennox Berkeley, but later called it home with his muse, collaborator, and partner Peter Pears. It was during this happy time that Britten wrote 'Peter Grimes', often acclaimed as the rebirth of English-language opera. In 1947, Britten and Pears moved to Crag House, Aldeburgh.
Our featured places 11-14
Greenham Common, Berkshire
In a world before dating apps, lesbians often met through activities associated with women’s rights and the peace movement. One meeting place was the women’s peace camp at Greenham Common in the 1970-80s. Established to protest against nuclear cruise missiles, the peace camp also hosted a strong lesbian community, giving the community new visibility in the media that attracted others, especially young women just coming out.
Nicholas Chamberlain, current Bishop of Grantham, was the first bishop in the Church of England to come out as gay on 2 September 2016, after being pressured by a British newspaper. Chamberlain and his partner have been in a relationship for over 30 years, and he continues to support the wider LGBTQ+ community. He was ordained deacon at Durham Cathedral in 1991.
Royal College of Art, London
Photographer Sunil Gupta studied at the Royal College of Art 1981-1983. His 1988 project ‘Pretended’ Family Relationships began as a series of photos, complemented by poetry by his then partner Stephen Dodd, exploring the ambivalence surrounding interracial gay male relationships in London. After Thatcher’s government enacted Clause 28 (from which the project title is taken), Gupta extended the project to include lesbian relationships and images of protests against the clause.
Photographer Rotimi Fani-Kayode moved to England at the age of 12 to escape the Nigerian Civil War, and attended Brighton College. His photography explored the tension between sexuality, race, and culture, and he was also a co-founder of Autograph ABP, an international photographic arts agency. He lived with his life partner and artistic collaborator, Alex Hirst. Fani-Kayode had a huge impact in his short life, passing away at just 34.
Our featured places 15-18
Club Kali, London
Based at The Dome in Tufnell Park, North London, Club Kali is a successful LGBTQ+ club. Open since the 1990s, Club Kali is known for its Bollywood, bhangra, and world music playlists. Often touring to other venues, the club represents and provides a safe space for the diverse Queer community of London.
Plas Wilmot, Oswestry
One of the best known First World War poets, Wilfred Owen’s works are taught across the country. His best-known works include “Dulce et Decorum Est”, “Anthem for Doomed Youth”, and “Futility”, among others. Owen’s poetry depicted the realities of war as opposed to the staunch patriotic verse of earlier war poets. It is now widely recognised that Owen was gay, and much of his writing includes homoerotic undertones.
University of Cambridge
In 1965, author James Baldwin was invited to debate William F Buckley on the 'American Dream' at Cambridge University. Baldwin was openly gay and advocated for gender equality and androgyny. He depicts gay relationships and sexuality in well-known works such as 'Giovanni’s Room', 'Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone', 'Another Country', and 'Just Above My Head'.
Garrick's Head pub, Bath
The Garrick’s Head was the first known gay pub in Bath, with a reputation dating back to at least the 1930s. Next to the Bath Theatre Royal, the pub had two bars, with the side for gay clientele known as The Green Room. Its status as a gay bar was well known, even being referenced in a 1976 Bath Pubs guide. The Garrick ceased to be a gay pub in the late 1990s.
Our featured places 19-21
Euston Lodge, London
In the late 1990s, The Glass Bar at Euston Station became popular with the lesbian community. Close to several railway stations, the bar was frequented by locals and out-of-towners alike, and hosted women’s groups such as Kiss, a social network for Asian women. To get in, patrons would have to knock loud enough to be heard over the noise inside.
Hut 8 at Bletchley Park, Milton Keynes
Mathematician Alan Turing, face of the £50 note, is most famous for his work at Bletchley Park during the Second World War. Turing led the Hut 8 team, responsible for analysing German naval ciphers, improving pre-war techniques and devising his own. In 1952, Turing was prosecuted for ‘gross indecency’ for a homosexual relationship and underwent chemical castration. He was posthumously pardoned in 2014; the ‘Alan Turing Law’ pardoned 75,000 others convicted of similar ‘crimes’.
Eltham Palace, London
Partners in life and business, John Seely and Paul Paget were remarkable architects in the interwar period. Their architectural magnum opus was Eltham Palace, a medieval palace that they transformed into a stylish art deco mansion in 1936. Seely and Paget met at university and lived and worked together for the rest of their lives. This prolific partnership referred to each other simply as ‘the partner’.
Our featured places 22-25
Trafalgar Square, London
London’s first official Gay Pride Rally was held in 1972, organised by the Gay Liberation Front (GLF). The GLF was formed in 1970 in response to the New York Stonewall riots, and one of the key influences was Ted Brown, a civil rights and LGBTQ+ campaigner. The pride rally started with a march through London, and was followed by a mass ‘kiss-in’ at Trafalgar Square.
Born in Kenya, and of Indian decent, filmmaker Pratibha Parmar studied at Bradford University where she was awarded a BA Honours Degree and went on to do a postgraduate degree at the Contemporary Cultural Studies Centre at Birmingham University. Her award-winning work exploring race, feminism, and sexuality has been widely exhibited at international film festivals and broadcast globally. Her films spotlight women’s and LGBTQ+ rights around the world.
Lily Parr statue, Manchester
Which English footballer has scored the most goals? Not Beckham, not Charlton, but Lily Parr. Parr made her debut at age 14, during the First World War, and quickly became a star. During her 30-year career, despite the Football Association ban on women’s football, while training as a nurse, Lily scored around 1,000 goals. A lesbian icon as well as a football legend, Parr was partly paid in cigarettes.
Shibden Hall, Calderdale
Often called ‘the first modern lesbian’, Anne Lister was an entrepreneur, landowner, and diarist. One later Lister, John, discovered Anne’s diaries and deciphered their secret code. It revealed Anne’s relationships with women, including Ann Walker, whom she unofficially married. Though advised to burn the diaries, John instead hid them at the Lister home, Shibden Hall. Decades later, Anne’s diaries were published, giving voice to the passions she was forced to hide.
Our featured places 26-29
The Shim Sham Club, London
The Shim Sham Club first opened as a ‘bottle party’, a type of members club that dodged licensing restrictions because customers would bring their own booze from late-night wine shops. A crowd of creatives, as well as Queer, Black and Jewish Londoners would tap dance into the early hours. One of the principal musicians was gay African-American pianist Garland Wilson, who performed on Shim Sham’s opening night in 1935.
Hadrian’s Wall is a fixture of the British landscape, but Emperor Hadrian’s reign went beyond the wall. Uniquely, Hadrian made Antinous, a beautiful Bithynian youth, his “official consort”. When Antinous died on the Nile in 130 CE, Hadrian was consumed by grief. He named a city in Egypt, Antinopolis, for his lover, and even deified him.
Some of the earliest gay relationships evidenced in history are between partners with a significant age difference, which was not unusual at the time.
Tottenham Court Road, London
During the 1720s Julius Caesar Taylor, likely a free Black man, ran what was then referred to as a 'molly house' on Tottenham Court Road; visitors were given a female name and had a glass of gin thrown in their faces. Taylor was arrested and found guilty of having ‘indecent relations’ with another man, and ‘keeping a disorderly House, and entertaining wicked abandon’d Men’. See the Old Bailey digitised record of court proceedings 16 October 1728.
Grave of James Barry, Kensal Green
Physician James Barry was one of the most successful military doctors of his time, insisting on rigorous hygiene long before it was the norm. After death, Dr Barry was discovered to have been assigned female at birth. Born Margaret Ann Bulkley, Dr Barry had been living as a man since enrolling at university in 1809. There is debate over whether Barry was a transgender man living his truth, or a woman doing what she had to in order to become a doctor.
Our featured places 30-33
Porchester Hall / Centre, London
Dancer Ron Storme came from a working-class family. During the Second World War, Storme toured in all-male drag revue shows; following the mid-1950s anti-gay clampdown, he moved to Tunisia and worked as a stripper and singer. After returning to London, Storme and his partner George were renowned for their house parties. When the parties outgrew their property, regular guests the Kray Twins suggested Porchester Hall, which became known for its drag balls.
St Botolph's Church, Quarrington, Lincolnshire
Said to be the inspiration for Basil Hallward in Oscar Wilde’s 'The Picture of Dorian Gray', artist Charles Haslewood Shannon was the son of the Rector of Quarrington. After meeting as teenagers, Shannon and his partner, fellow artist Charles Ricketts, lived together for over 50 years. Following a fall, Shannon spent the last few years of his life disabled by amnesia. Shannon rests at the Church of St Botolph’s, Quarrington.
Stamford High School, Lincolnshire
Sarah Outen MBE, the adventurer who completed a four-year, round-the-world journey by bike, rowboat, and kayak, attended Stamford High School. While crossing the North Pacific Ocean, Outen proposed to her long-term girlfriend Lucy, shouting down a satellite phone and struggling to hear the answer – which was, of course, yes. Outen is now an author and motivational speaker.
New Penny, Leeds
Call Lane in Leeds is home to the New Penny, which claims to be the oldest continuously operating gay club in the UK. Certainly one of the oldest gay clubs outside London, the New Penny was formerly known as the Hope and Anchor, which punters affectionately referred to using rhyming slang. The New Penny has a Queer history that reportedly dates back to the 1950s.
Our featured places 34-37
Assigned male at birth, a person dressed as a woman and going by the name Eleanor was interrogated by the Mayor of London at the Guildhall in 1394. According to Eleanor Rykener, they had sex with men and women (including friars and nuns). The unusually detailed account does not mention Rykener’s fate, but they are certainly a rare documented example of working-class, marginalised, transgressive sexuality in the medieval era.
Grave of Katherine Beaven, Arnos Vale Cemetery, Bristol
Katherine Beaven and Peter Churchill’s was a marriage of convenience, arranged by Peter's mother, Lady Verena. Lady Verena was in a relationship with Katherine, and, desperate to stop the gossip, she arranged the marriage, enabling the women to live together without scandal. Peter was also bisexual. After the war, Peter refused to live in the ménage à trois and his mother never spoke to him again. Peter and Katherine remained married until her death.
Ferryside and quay walls, Fowey
It was while holidaying at Ferryside that Daphne Du Maurier was inspired to write her first novel, 'The Loving Spirit'. Inspiration struck when Du Maurier discovered the wreck of a schooner, Jane Slade. The figurehead of the ship was gifted by the owner and fitted below Du Maurier’s bedroom window, where she wrote the novel. An article in The Guardian explores Daphne du Maurier’s fluid sexuality and about being a boy stuck in the wrong body.
Eagle House, Bath
Eagle House was an important refuge for suffragettes recently released from prison. Many went on hunger strike, and the chance to recuperate at Eagle House was vital. Some of the houseguests were thought to have same-sex relationships, like Christabel Pankhurst and Anne Kenney. The ‘affairs’ at Eagle House may have provoked romantic rivalries, but the emotional support was crucial for a group so isolated from the rest of society.
Our featured places 38-40
The Cabin, Bucks Mill, Devon
The clifftop studio and cottage shared by artists Judith Ackland and Mary Stella Edwards sits above Bideford Bay. The women met and fell in love as students in London. They travelled throughout the country selling their work, but The Cabin - a former fisherman's store - became their studio and retreat from 1924. The Cabin remains unchanged since Judith’s death in 1971; Mary Stella closed its doors and never returned.
More about The Cabin
Church of Holy Trinity, Penn, Buckinghamshire
Buried in the churchyard of the Church of Holy Trinity is Dr Flora Murray. Murray lived with her lifelong partner and fellow doctor, Louisa Garrett Anderson. They founded the Women’s Hospital for Children, which cared for working-class children and gave women doctors a rare opportunity to gain experience in paediatrics. Though Anderson was cremated, they are commemorated together on Murray's tombstone under the words "We have been gloriously happy."
Lilian Barker was appointed Superintendent of women workers at the Woolwich Arsenal in 1916. Here, she oversaw the work and welfare of 30,000 women munitions workers. Before this appointment, Lilian had grown up in Kentish Town and become a teacher; she had also run an innovative youth club in Paddington. Barker lived with her partner Florence Francis for 40 years, until the end of their lives.