The first ever Surrey History month was celebrated in February 2010, following Surrey Heritage’s work with the charity Gay Surrey. Since then, the archives and local studies collections have been researched to discover all aspects of Surrey’s LGBT past.
LGBT History Month enables the stories of the county’s LGBT community, past and present, to reach a wider audience. This stimulates interest, promotes research and encourages further records to be placed with Surrey History Centre for posterity. Each year, more stories from the past are uncovered through detailed research using the archives and local studies at Surry History Centre. This builds a bigger and better picture of LGBT community in the county and more and more material can now be searched using the online Collections Catalogue.
If you would like to be involved in LGBT History month at Surrey History Centre, please contact Di Stiff on 01483 518737 or email [email protected]
Spanning three centuries, here are just a few of the many LGBT lives that have links with Surrey. In most cases there are more detailed pages on the individuals listed below, click on the name to find out more.
JR Ackerley (1896-1967)
Novelist, dramatist, poet, editor served as a captain in the East Surrey Regiment. He was taken prisoner at Arras, May 1917. His wartime experiences led him to write his play Prisoners of War (1925), now considered to be the first openly pro-gay play produced in London in the C20th.
Dirk Bogarde (1921-1999)
Actor, officer in the Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment and resident of Cobblestone House, Hascombe.
Lucy Broadwood’s Circle of Friends (1858-1929)
The diaries of Lucy Broadwood, folk song collector, musician and composer of Capel, contain references to the wide circle of artists, writers and musicians with whom she socialized. Some of these were gay or bisexual, including Ethel Smyth, James Campbell McInnes, the famous baritone, and Graham Peel, composer.
Edward Carpenter (1844-1929)
English socialist poet, anthologist, early gay activist and resident of Guildford. Carpenter was instrumental in the foundation of the Fabian Society and the Labour Party and is buried at the Mount Cemetery, Guildford, in the same grave as his lifelong partner, George Merrill.
Sir Noel Coward (1899-1973)
Actor and playwright, was conscripted into the East Surrey Regiment in 1918. He features in the recruitment registers of the East Surrey Regiment.
Quentin Crisp (1908-1999)
Author, actor and gay icon, of Sutton. Crisp’s acclaimed work The Naked Civil Servant, encompasses his uncompromising attitude to sexuality and individuality.
Harry Daley (1901-1971)
Served in the Metropolitan Police for 25 years and was the lover of the novelist E M Forster.
Denholm Elliott CBE (1922-1992)
English Character Actor and former Surrey Schoolboy. Elliott started acting whilst at Ripley Court Preparatory School. His career lasted for 47 years and included working with Dirk Bogarde in They who Dare.
E M Forster (1879–1970)
Novelist, critic and former resident of Weybridge and Abinger Hammer. Forster is best known for novels such as A Room with a View and Maurice, which examine class difference and attitudes towards gender and homosexuality in early Twentieth Century British society. He was also a member of the Bloomsbury Set.
Sir John Gieulgud (1904-2000)
Actor, director and former schoolboy at Hillside Preparatory School in Godalming, where he developed his interest in theatre.
Maundy Gregory (1877-1941)
Theatre impresario, political fixer, and resident of Thames Ditton. Gregory was a controversial figure: a flamboyant homosexual, and described as the most mysterious character the police ever had to deal with.
Beverley Nicholls (1898-1983)
Author of more than 60 books and plays writer, broadcaster, and resident of Ashtead and Ham. Nichols is perhaps best remembered as a writer for Woman’s Own magazine.
Edward Onslow (1758-1829)
The second son of George, 1st Earl of Onslow. Edward left England to live in Clermont-Ferrand, France, in 1781, following a homosexual scandal.
Sir Peter Pears (1910-1986)
Tenor and partner of Sir Benjamin Britten, and born in Farnham. Peter Pears is best known for his long partnership with the composer Benjamin Britten, but he was a talented, well known musician in his own right. As an excellent singer, actor and teacher, Pears made an outstanding contribution to music; he and Britten were a driving force of creativity in both their professional and personal lives.
Sir Terence Ratigan (1911-1977)
Playwright, former schoolboy at Sandroyd Preparatory School, Cobham & resident of Windlesham.
Dame Ethel Smyth (1858-1944)
Composer, suffragette and resident of Woking. She was also possibly the lover of suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst.
Alan Turing (1912-1954)
Mathematician, cryptanologist and former resident of Guildford. Turing endured ‘chemical rehabilitation’ and committed suicide. His ashes are buried at Woking Crematorium.
Hitler’s Black Book was compiled in 1940, and listed 2,820 people, prominent in British public life, including European exiles and refugees, Jews, homosexuals and socialists, who were to be taken into ‘protective custody’ following the success of Operation Sea Lion – the invasion of Britain by Nazi Germany. The list also includes Surrey LGBT personalities, including author EM Forster, and actor Noel Coward.
Gwen Farrar (1897-1944) and Norah Blaney (1893-1983)
Gwen and Norah were well-known music hall performers of the 1920s and 1930s and on and off stage partners. They had a wide social circle of friends and connections with Effingham Bohemian Set.