Historic England is about to embark on Pride of Place, a research project that will uncover the untold queer histories of buildings and places people have lived alongside for generations. The public is asked to give examples of places special to them; from the private houses of trailblazing individuals; to the much loved local gay bar; the first venue in town to host equal marriage and everything in between. You can add your examples and also see what’s already on the map here.
1. Shibden Hall, Halifax, West Yorkshire
Home to the famed lesbian diarist Anne Lister, born in 1791. Her masculine appearance and sometimes eccentric behaviour earned her the nickname of “Gentleman Jack.” Anne kept a diary throughout her life where she devised a code to record her innermost thoughts without fear of discovery, including her intimate feelings towards women.
2. Millthorpe, Derbyshire
Carpenter was the founding father of gay rights in Britain, living openly with his partner George Merrill at a time when hundreds of men were prosecuted for homosexuality.. Millthorpe was a place of pilgrimage for many, including the writers E M Forster and Siegfried Sassoon, and ordinary women and men questioning their sexuality, including soldiers during the First World War.
3. Smallhythe Place, Tenterden, Kent
Smallhythe Place was bought by the renowned Victorian actress Ellen Terry. After her death, her daughter Edy Craig, an early pioneer of the women’s suffrage movement and theatre director, continued to live there. Craig lived at Smallhythe in a ménage à trois with the dramatist Chris St John (Christabel Marshall) and the artist Tony (Clare) Atwood until her death in 1947.
4. Reading Gaol, Berkshire
This is where Oscar Wilde spent eighteen months of his two-year sentence of hard labour for gross indecency. He later immortalised the institution, and his experiences, in ‘The Ballad of Reading Gaol’.
5. Strawberry Hill, Twickenham, London
Completed in 1776, Strawberry Hill was extensively remodelled by its most famous owner, Horace Walpole. Walpole was one a group of four male friends who called themselves the “Committee of Taste” and advised each other on architecture and interiors. The decorative style of Strawberry Hill is often described as “queer gothic”. On his death in 1797, Walpole left Strawberry Hill House to his niece, the lesbian sculptor Anne Damer, who lived there until 1811.
6. Carlton House, St James’s, London
Although demolished in 1825, Carlton House is best known as the London residence of the Prince Regent (later George IV) and location of a noted fencing match in 1787 between the gender-crossing Chevalier d’Eon and the Chevalier de Saint-Georges. Having lost a French pension with the onset of the French Revolution, d’Eon’s prowess at fencing and appearance in women’s clothing proved a lucrative spectacle at the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens and other locations across the country.
7. Temperance Hall, Hulme, Manchester
The site of an infamous cross-dressing ball in 1880, raided by Manchester police. Police secured entry by giving the password ‘sister’ to the ‘nun’ guarding the door. Detective Sergeant Caminada reported seeing 47 men in ‘most fantastic fashion’, including 22 in ladies’ wear. Detective Caminada and his officers rounded up the prisoners and took them to Manchester town hall for questioning. Several cab-loads of clothing were taken as evidence. All were arrested and charged the following day with having ‘solicited and incited each other to commit an unnameable offense’.
8. The Gateways, Chelsea, London
Opened in the 1930s by a retired colonel, the Gateways club was the longest running lesbian nightclub of the twentieth century. Lesbian-friendly since the 1940s, in the 1950s and 1960s the Gateways became an almost exclusively lesbian club, under the management of Gina Ware, and an American ex-airforce woman, Smithy, who was herself a lesbian. The club became internationally famous and celebrated after it featured in the film The Killing of Sister George in 1968 – the extras in the club scenes were genuine Gateways members. It closed in 1985.
9. The Jacaranda Ladies Club, Hove, East Sussex
Set up in the early 1960s by Kay Morley. According to an entry in ‘Daring Hearts: Lesbian and Gay Lives of 1950s and 1960s Brighton’ the club was shut down soon after a police raid. Very little is known about the club and it’s hoped this project will lead to more information.
10. Bletchley Park , Milton Keynes, Bedford
During the Second World War, Alan Turing worked for the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS) at Bletchley Park, Britain’s code breaking centre. He was instrumental in cracking intercepted coded messages that helped the Allies to defeat the Nazis. In 1952, Turing was prosecuted for homosexual acts. He accepted treatment with oestrogen injections as an alternative to prison. In 1954 he died of cyanide poisoning, suspected to be suicide.