Where is it?
Until recently, LGBT history was a tricky subject for heritage organisations but it is now emerging through collections and displays across the UK. It is a heritage that is being celebrated and not kept ‘in the closet’.
In The Closet – The Nature of Archives
It is very difficult to trace LGBT lives through historical sources. Often there will only be references in court records, reflecting society’s attitude towards homosexuality over time. Lesbian lives are almost invisible in the historical record. Rarely are collections deposited with archive organisations purely because they relate to a known, documented LGBT person.
This makes uncovering evidence for LGBT lives incredibly difficult and often leaves us with negative stories of crime and punishment rather than positive events which would never come to light as part of everyday life. Add to this the fact that homosexuality was illegal until 1967, with earlier punishments ranging from hanging, to the pillory and ‘chemical rehabilitation’ (as in Alan Turing’s case), and it’s easy to understand why members of the LGBT community would not always have openly advertised their lives.
See how cases of homosexual activity in Surrey were dealt with at the court of Quarter Sessions click here to read more.
Read Surrey History Centre’s guide to researching LGBT history in Surrey and discover out what sources are available click here to read more.
Find out more about their LGBT History Month work at http://www.sussexdowns.ac.uk/news/lgbt-history-month/
Surrey’s LGBT History
Surrey has many famous LGBT personalities who at one time made the county their home. JR Ackerley, Gwen Farrar and Norah Blaney, Quentin Crisp, Dame Ethel Smyth, Alan Turing, EM Forster, Terence Rattigan, Noel Coward, Dirk Bogarde, John Gieulgud, Edward Carpenter, Horace Walpole and Denholm Elliott all have connections with the county and each has been celebrated as part of LGBT History Month. More famous connections are uncovered every year but given the reasons cited above, uncovering the life stories of the not-so famous is much harder. One exception is the story of Harry Daley, who served in the Metropolitan Police for 25 years. Harry was always open about his homosexuality and was the lover of the novelist E M Forster, who lived in Abinger Hammer.
Click here for a full list of Surrey’s LGBT icons that have been researched click here to read more.
Increasing Access to Surrey’s LGBT History
Surrey Heritage is committed to improving the diversity of and access to its collections. Records of LGBT organisations as well as personal records, such as letters, diaries, poems, stories or film, are all ways in which the collections here can be developed to ensure Surrey’s LGBT history is not lost. If you have material relating to the LGBT community in Surrey or would like to add a story of your own experiences to the archive, we would be delighted to hear from you.
Please contact Di Stiff on 01483 518737 or email [email protected]
Learn more about Surrey Heritage’s work with the LGBT community and how we celebrate LGBT History Month. Discover how LGBT on Tour’s youth group project revealed the treatment of the LGBT community during the Second World War (LGBT on Tour Youth Project page) and discover further sinister links to Surrey LGBT personalities in Hitler’s Black Book.
Click here to see a pdf () copy of an LGBT bibliography listing a range of published works held at Surrey History Centre.
Surrey Libraries OutLit LGBT virtual book collection can be found online at http://new.surreycc.gov.uk/people-and-community/libraries/borrowing-items-from-the-library/books-and-films/books-and-reading/out-lit-our-lgbt-virtual-collection