LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer, Questioning +) History

The new Progressive Pride flag designed by Daniel Quasar, 2018 (Courtesy of dezeen magazine)

The new Progressive Pride flag designed by Daniel Quasar, 2018 (Courtesy of Dezeen Magazine)

Surrey’s LGBTQ+ History

Harry in uniform, 1940s.<br /> (From <em>This Small Cloud: a Personal Memoir</em> (London, 1987))

Harry in uniform, 1940s.
(From This Small Cloud: a Personal Memoir
(London, 1987))

Surrey has many famous LGBTQ+ personalities who at one time made the county their home. JR Ackerley, Dirk Bogarde, Edward Carpenter, Noel Coward, Quentin Crisp, Denholm Elliott, EM Forster, John Gieulgud, Robert Graves, Beverley Nichols, Peter Pears, Terence Rattigan, Dame Ethel Smyth, Alan Turing, Horace Walpole and Gwen Farrar and Norah Blaney all have connections with the county.

Surrey History Centre uncovers more famous LGBTQ+ connections every year but uncovering the life stories of the LGBTQ+ 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.

There are areas of LGBTQ+ history where little is known and even less written about, one example is homosexuality in the armed forces during the Great War. At the time it was illegal and those caught were subject to corporal punishment, so there would have been little reason to publicise liaisons. However, some of Surrey’s LGBTQ+ personalities wrote about their experiences and they are featured on the Surrey in the Great War website where you can also discover more about the harsh treatment of homosexuality during the First World War.

Surrey Heritage is committed to making LGBTQ+ history more accessible by adding more biographical stories and research pages to this LGBTQ+ online resource on a regular basis. If you have information that can help us research Surrey’s LGBTQ+ past please contact us on email: [email protected]

Discover more Surrey LGBTQ+ history

Image of Ethel Smyth, 1913 (SHC ref 9180/9/27)

Ethel Smyth, 1913
(SHC ref 9180/9/27)

Surrey History Centre has a number of guides to help you research LGBTQ+ history in the county and discover what sources are available click here to read more.

Crime and punishment – see how cases of homosexual activity in Surrey in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were viewed and dealt with at the court of Quarter Sessions click here to read more.

Click here to see a pdf () copy of an LGBTQ+ bibliography listing a range of published works held at Surrey History Centre.

Image of Dirk Bogarde (Cobblestone House sale particulars SHC ref SP/4080)

Dirk Bogarde (Cobblestone House sale particulars
SHC ref SP/4080)

Click here for a full list of Surrey’s LGBTQ+ icons that have been researched click here to read more.

Discover links to Surrey LGBTQ+ personalities in Hitler’s Black Book.

Read how LGBT on Tour’s youth group project revealed the treatment of the LGBTQ+ community during the Second World War (LGBT on Tour Youth Project page).

See Surrey History Centre’s February 2017 Marvel of the Month celebrating LGBT+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans +) History Month.

See Surrey History Centre’s Marvel of the Month celebrating the life of E.M. Forster and friends for LGBT+ History Month 2020.

As part of Pride in Surrey 2020, Di Stiff, Collections Development Archivist at Surrey History Centre in Woking, talks about Harry Daley of Dorking and his memoirs: This Small Cloud.

Download a pdf (PDF) copy of a transcript for this video.

Discover how Gay Rights activism is celebrated at Runnymede.

Developing Surrey’s LGBTQ+ collections

Image of GAGS banner at Pride, London, 29 June 1985 (SHC ref 9745/4/5)

GAGS banner at Pride, London, 29 June 1985
(SHC ref 9745/4/5)

Surrey Heritage is committed to improving the diversity of its collections and access to them. Working with LGBTQ+ organisations and encouraging them and individuals to contribute to the archive is key to helping grow our collections and make them relevant to a wider audience. Preserving records of LGBTQ+ 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 LGBTQ+ history is not lost. If you have material relating to the LGBTQ+ 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 Surrey History Centre on 01483 518737 or email [email protected]

Many Surrey LGBTQ+ organisations have placed their records with us for posterity, such as Outline and GIRES (Gender Identity Research Education Society). Read more about Gay Surrey’s records and Guildford Area Gay Society, Surrey first gay support group. See which organisations are featured in the archives click here to read more.

Learn more about Surrey Heritage’s work with the LGBTQ+ community and how we celebrate LGBT+ History Month each February and commemorate IDAHOBIT (International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia & Biphobia) on 17 May.

POP banner ESPMapping Surrey’s LGBTQ+ buildings and spaces are a vital part of preserving local history. Surrey Heritage took part in Historic England’s ‘Pride of Place’ project to help map the country’s LGBTQ+ heritage. Find out about Surrey’s involvement in Historic England’s Pride of Place project.

Click here to see Surrey Libraries LGBT+ History Month iCloud collection.

Outlit logoSurrey Libraries OutLit LGBTQ+ virtual book collection can be found online at

Tune into Pride in Surrey Radio, part of Radio Woking, and find out more about LGBTQ+ events and support in the county

2019 saw the first Pride in Surrey event. Link to the Pride in Surrey wesbite.

Help with LGBTQ+ research

Pink triangle badge given to homosexuals during the Nazi regime of World War Two, courtesy of The Holocaust Explained

Pink triangle badge given to homosexuals during the Nazi regime of World War Two, courtesy of The Holocaust Explained

Tracing LGBTQ+ history through historical sources can be challenging but it is not impossible. Often there may only be negative stories and sources, such as references in court records, reflecting society’s attitude towards homosexuality over time, rather than positive events which would never come to light as part of everyday life. Lesbian lives are almost invisible in the historical record. Not every archive is lucky enough to have a ‘Gentleman Jack’ diary and rarely are collections deposited purely because they relate to a known, documented LGBTQ+ person. 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 LGBTQ+ community would not always have openly advertised their lives.

With historical and modern terminology being very different we catalogue all our LGBTQ+ collections to ensure that they can easily be found by researchers and we have expert staff who can help.

Memoirs, biographies, photographs, and other papers do exist which can help piece together the lives of LGBTQ+ people in history. The state’s attempt to suppress sexuality and regulate gender in the past has paradoxically left us with many potential sources for the experiences of LGBTQ+ individuals, as well as information regarding significant moments and milestones such as the 1967 Sexual Orientation Act.

See a full list of LGBTQ+ sources held at Surrey History Centre in our guide.

Download LGBT+ History Month’s wallchart ‘Voices and Visibility: Uncovering hidden histories’

Read an historical overview of LGBTQ+ history here.PDF.gif

PDF.gifClick here to see an LGBTQ+ history timeline prepared by Sussex Downs College.

Read more about the Pride movement and the history behind the Rainbow flag.

2 thoughts on “LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, Queer, Questioning +) History”

  1. Richard Byrt says:

    Thank you for your very good, interesting information about LGBT history in Surrey, and the links. Unless, of course, you object, I’m about to include your LGBT history web page and link to your bibliography onto a bibliography of LGBT literature, which I’m compiling as part of the “Untold Stories” project: an LGBT oral history covering Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland.

    Thanks and best wishes


    (Richard Byrt, Untold Stories volunteer, Leicester LGBT Centre)

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