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Places With Queer Histories Listed to Mark 50th Anniversary of the Partial Decriminalisation of Homosexuality

  • Two new listings - a coastal retreat shared by the artists and partners, Judith Ackland and Mary Stella Edwards and a chapel exhibiting a stained glass window created by artist and suffragette, Mary Lowndes - announced today
  • Homes of 20th century artists and writers including Vita Sackville-West, Hannah Gluckstein and Lytton Strachey have been re-listed, to recognise their untold queer histories
  • 'England has a rich and colourful history … yet there's a gap when it comes to recording our LGBTQ heritage'
  • 'It is ... important that we reflect on the history and challenges faced by LGBTQ communities' says Heritage Minister
  • Do you have some LGBTQ history to share? Public encouraged to contribute their knowledge and pictures to the National Heritage List for England

St Anne's Chapel, Saunton
St Anne's Chapel, Saunton, Devon. View from South West. One of its stained glass windows was created by the artist Mary Lowndes in 1906, at the height of her career. Lowndes, inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement, was well known for her designs of suffragette posters, postcards and banners. © Historic England DP196616

The studio and cottage retreat shared by the artists Judith Ackland and Mary Stella Edwards has been listed by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) on the advice of Historic England, in addition to a chapel that features a stained glass window made and signed by the artist and suffragette, Mary Lowndes. Both buildings are in Devon.

The two new listings come ahead of the 50th anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act 1967 [on 27 July] - which partially decriminalised homosexuality - and are part of Historic England's Pride of Place research project, which is working to reveal the untold stories of Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) heritage.

Detail of stained glass windows in St Anne's Chapel, Saunton
Detail of stained glass windows created by the artist Mary Lowndes in 1906 in St Anne's Chapel © Historic England DP196617

Historic England has also re-listed 14 places in light of their newly-discovered significance to LGBTQ history. They include the Sussex home of artist Hannah Gluckstein; a property lived in by the poet and novelist Vita Sackville-West, and the grave of a leading military doctor, James Barry, who was discovered on his death to be biologically female.

The research, carried out by historians at Leeds Beckett University's Centre for Culture and the Arts for the Pride of Place project, is helping Historic England to construct a more complete picture of the nation's queer history.

Members of the public are also being encouraged share their knowledge and pictures of historical places on The List, which now has almost 400,000 entries and is a unique record of England's evolving history. Contributions enable Historic England to broaden understanding, and even unlock the secrets of some places.

Deborah Williams, Historic England's Listing Team Leader for the West, said: "England has a rich and colourful history and yet there's a gap when it comes to recording our LGBTQ heritage. That's why we want to uncover and share the untold stories of these buildings and places. They have a rightful place in our nation's history. Anybody who wants to should be able to get a glimpse into the lives of the remarkable people who lived, worked in and visited them- to understand their achievements and the challenges they faced decades and even centuries ago. Many of the places listed were homes - safe havens for people in the LGBTQ community, making it all the more important that they are recognised on the National Heritage List for England."

Heritage Minister, John Glen, said:
"Our rich heritage is made up of a wonderful range of backgrounds and cultures, and it is vital that we remember all the communities that have shaped our past.

"As we mark the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality, it is particularly important that we reflect on the history and challenges faced by the LGBTQ communities. I am delighted that we are recognising the significant contribution made by these outstanding people and protecting the places where they lived and worked for future generations."

The Cabin on the beach slipway at Bucks Mills, North Devon
The Cabin on the beach slipway at Bucks Mills, North Devon. This former 19th century fisherman's store was shared by the artists and couple, Judith Ackland and Mary Stella Edwards. © National Trust Images/Chris Lacey

New listings

The Cabin, Bucks Mills, Devon (Grade II). This studio and summer cottage shared by the artists Judith Ackland and Mary Stella Edwards sits on the cliff above Bideford Bay. The women met as students in London, and fell in love. They travelled extensively throughout the country, painting and selling their work but The Cabin - a former 19th century fisherman's store - became their studio and retreat from 1924. After Judith's death in 1971, Mary Stella closed The Cabin and did not return. It has been left unchanged.

The Chapel of St Anne, Saunton, Devon (Grade II). Designed by the architect Frederick James Commin, this chapel was built in 1898. One of its stained glass windows was created by the artist Mary Lowndes in 1906, at the height of her career. Lowndes, inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement, was well known for her designs of suffragette posters, postcards and banners. Unusually for a woman at this time, Lowndes lived an independent life and was a successful entrepreneur in London where she lived with her partner, Barbara Forbes - a fellow suffragette.

Re-listings

The following 14 places were already listed but now their connections to LGBTQ history have been included in the descriptions on the National Heritage List for England. Their grades have not changed.

The grave of James Barry in London (Grade II). When this leading military surgeon died in 1865, it was discovered that Barry was biologically female. Born Margaret Ann Bulkley, he began life as a man from 1809, when he enrolled at university as a literary and medical student. Soon after graduation, he enlisted in the medical services of the British Army. Serving around the world, he carried out a caesarean section in Cape Town in 1826, in which both mother and child survived - an operation not performed in Britain until 1833. He served in countries across the world, ending his career in Canada as Inspector General of Hospitals. Barry, one of the most successful and respected military doctors of his time, insisted on rigorous hygiene and adequate living conditions for patients long before such demands became the norm.

Chantry House in Steyning, West Sussex (Grade II*) was home to the painter Hannah Gluckstein - and her partner, the journalist Edith Shackleton Heald - from 1944 until her death in 1978. Gluckstein adopted the name 'Gluck' in 1918, and began to dress in traditionally masculine clothes. Gender subversion, non-conformity and queer sexualities played an important role in Gluck's art. Edith Shackleton Heald was the first female reporter in the House of Lords.

Sissinghurst Castle in Kent (Grade I) was purchased in 1930 by the poet and novelist Vita Sackville-West, who lived there with her husband Harold Nicolson in an unconventional marriage. They both had numerous same-sex affairs throughout their married life, including Sackville-West's romance in the 1920s with the writer Virginia Woolf.

Reading Gaol (Grade II) in Berkshire was immortalised in Oscar Wilde's poem The Ballad of Reading Gaol, published in 1898. Wilde was imprisoned in 1895 for 'acts of gross indecency with other male persons' and served two years with hard labour. Wilde was convicted under the Section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act, known as the Labouchère Amendment (1885), which was part-repealed in 1967 by the Sexual Offences Act.

Ham Spray House in Ham, Wiltshire (Grade II) was home to artist Dora Carrington and the writers Ralph Partridge and Lytton Strachey, from 1924. They shared a ménage à trois, and had open relationships, often with same-sex partners. Strachey wrote his books in the first floor library, which was designed by Carrington and retains fireplace tiles with Strachey's monogram, and a false bookcase with book spines with humorous titles. Strachey died in 1932, and Carrington committed suicide shortly after.

The Priest's House, Kent (Grade II*) was home to the successful theatre producer, director and costumier Edith Craig from 1899, who lived there in a ménage à trois with her female partners Chris St John (Christabel Marshall) and Tony (Clare) Atwood. They would welcome fellow suffrage activists to the house and were visited by other women who had same-sex relationships, including the writers Virginia Woolf, Vita Sackville-West and Radclyffe Hall.

Sissinghurst Castle Garden in Kent
Sissinghurst Castle Garden in Kent © JR P via flickr

The following listings have also been updated to record their LGBTQ histories:

  • Clifton Hill House in Bristol (Grade I), the home of writer John Addington Symonds and his wife Janet Catherine North from 1871 to 1877 - Symonds's writing was inspired by his sexuality and affairs with other men
  • Henley Bridge in Berkshire (Grade I), on which the sculptures of Isis and Tamesis carved by Anne Seymour Damer (1748-1828) can be seen - Damer's affairs with other women following her divorce from her husband in the mid-1770s became the subject of much gossip
  • Ham Hill House in Powick, Worcestershire (Grade II) was the birthplace of Lord Alfred Douglas - also known as Bosie - the long-term lover of Oscar Wilde
  • 8 Royal College Street, Camden, in London (Grade II) was home to the French poets and lovers Paul Verlaine and Arthur Rimbaud in 1873
  • Ingress Abbey in Kent (Grade II) was frequented by the Victorian poet and journalist Eliza Cook who wrote her most famous works there - Cook's lover was the American actress Charlotte Cushman from 1845 to 1849
  • Gaveston's Cross, Blacklow Hill, in Warwickshire (Grade II) marks the site of the execution of Piers Gaveston, the favourite, and supposed lover, of Edward II, in 1312
  • 25 Noel Road in Islington, London (Grade II) was the home of author and playwright, Joe Orton and his partner, Kenneth Halliwell, and the scene of their tragic deaths on 9 August 1967
  • Chapel House in Horham, Suffolk (Grade II) where the composer Benjamin Britten lived with his partner, the singer Peter Pears.

Henley Bridge 1890
Henley Bridge 1890 © Historic England CC72/01279
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