Sources for researching LGBTQ+
(Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans +) history in Surrey

Surrey Heritage is committed to developing the diversity of its collections and access to them. Through events such as LGBT+ History Month we are able to bring the stories of the county’s LGBTQ+ community, past and present, to a wider audience. This encourages further records to be placed with us, stimulates interest and promotes research.

  • many original and published items can be searched using our online Collections Catalogue
  • some local history articles can be searched on our periodicals database using the Exploring Surrey’s Past website
  • the Exploring Surrey’s Past LGBTQ+ theme pages include material from LGBT+ History Month displays, case studies of historic Surrey LGBTQ+ personalities, and project news

LGBTQ+ Sources at Surrey History Centre

Published sources

There are too many published works relating to Surrey LGBTQ+ personalities, history and culture to list fully here but use this link to view Surrey History Centre’s taster bibliography (pdf PDF.gif), which includes biographies of some of Surrey’s LGBTQ+ icons.

Other titles can be searched on the Surrey Libraries catalogue.

Surrey Libraries OutLit LGBTQ+ virtual book collection can be found online here.

Book cover of Alan M. Turing by Sara Turing, (Cambridge University Press, 2012)

Book cover of Alan M. Turing by Sara Turing, (Cambridge University Press, 2012)

Surrey History Centre also holds a good collection of Surrey newspapers dating from the mid-nineteenth century to the present day. These cover local and national events and county court reports.

Article on Ethel Smyth’s suffrage activities from the Woking News and Mail, 26th April 1912.

Article on Ethel Smyth’s suffrage activities from the Woking News and Mail, 26th April 1912.

Click on the image above to see a larger version.

Archive sources

How to research LGBTQ+ history

The term ’LGBTQ+’ is a modern one and over the years the terminology for describing events, actions and individual ’identity’ has changed, for example the terms ’gay’ and ’queer’. This has not always been reflected in the way archivists have catalogued historical papers, which makes finding sources quite challenging. It is better to use broad search terms and as individual file contents are not always listed in detail it is worth looking at anything which might seem relevant to your study.

When searching records of LGBTQ+ crime and punishment the terminology can sound archaic but the following terms should be used: buggery, sodomy, immoral, deviant, cottaging, soliciting, and homosexual.

Surrey History Centre’s LGBTQ+ sources are continually growing and the following list is by no means exhaustive. Please also note that some records of the following organisations may be closed to public access to maintain confidentiality or because they are of a sensitive nature:

LGBTQ+ Community organisations in Surrey

Guildford Area Gay Society (GAGS) (SHC ref 9745) – GAGS was formed in 1976 out the Guildford branch of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality (CHE). The group felt the need for somewhere local for gay people to meet socially and became the longest running gay community group in Surrey, until falling membership and the lack of members willing to stand for office resulted in the decision to close in March 2016. GAGS had male and female members, organised excursions, country walks, parties and cultural activities, and it also raised money for local and LGBTQ+ charities.

For more about the history of GAGS and their archives at Surrey History Centre, see the Guildford Area Gay Society page on the Exploring Surrey’s Past website.
Gay Surrey (SHC ref. 8506) – In April 2009, the charity Gay Surrey deposited their archives with Surrey History Centre, the first of their kind to be placed there. The charity’s records range comprise minutes of meetings, social and support groups papers, fundraising, published articles, newscuttings recording the work of the charity, and lifestyle surveys and reports. The collection also features material relating to Gino Meriano, chair of Gay Surrey, civil rights campaigner, founder of Pink Weddings, and co-author of Civil Partnership: A Guide to the Perfect Day. Read more about Gay Surrey’s archives here.  For further details about Gay Surrey see their website

Gay Surrey logo

Outline (SHC ref. 9240) – Outline is a Surrey-based helpline charity that provides information and support for both the LGBTQ+ community, and those questioning their sexuality. It was formed in 1999, and George Michael was a patron. Outline has also been involved in the celebration of IDAHOT (International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia). Records include annual reports, correspondence and publicity material. For further details of Outline see their website

 Outline logo 2017 ESP

GIRES (SHC ref. 9174) – Ashtead based charity GIRES (Gender Identity & Education Research Society), focuses on improving the circumstances in which trans people live. In recognition of their services, co-founders Bernard and Terry Reed were awarded the OBE in 2010. Their records were deposited in 2013 and include leaflets, publications and annual accounts. The majority of GIRES’ records, such as minutes of AGMs, annual reports and accounts, newsletters, member events, publications, and an e-learning resource, are available on their website


Surrey Harm Reduction Outreach Team (SHC ref. 9087) – Surrey History Centre holds the SHRO team newsletter, ‘Haarden Fazt Herald’, which was produced for the LGBTQ+ community in Surrey by Ian Cole, part of Virgin Care (formerly known as Public Health Outreach Service of the NHS Primary Care Trust). The newsletter features a list of helplines, medical contacts and social services for the LGBTQ+ community, as well as advice on a range of LGBTQ+ health and social issues.

Health records

In the 1980s, the AIDS epidemic had a devastating impact on the gay community in Britain. These health and welfare concerns are reflected in records of Surrey and East Hants Aidslink Ltd, 1988-1998, (SHC ref. 4669), and in the records of East Surrey Health Authority, 1948-2002 (SHC ref. 7219). Gay sexual health education promotion correspondence and reports can be found in SHC ref.7219/Box 37; East Surrey Health Authority AIDS (Control) Act, 1987, report for 1994/95 can be found in SHC ref. 7219/Box 45.

Records of crime and punishment

From the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries the court of Quarter Sessions dealt with any complaints of homosexual behaviour. Survival of records from the arrest to the sentencing of prisoners is often incomplete and many of the accused were acquitted through lack of evidence. Punishment ranged from the equivalent of a good behaviour bond to the pillory or imprisonment for up to two years in one of the local houses of correction. To see how such cases were dealt with click here.

‘Kalendar’ of prisoners, featuring Edward Long,</br>14 Jan 1812 (SHC ref QS2/6/1812/Eph)

‘Kalendar’ of prisoners, featuring Edward Long,
14 Jan 1812 (SHC ref QS2/6/1812/Eph)

Biographies of Surrey’s LGBTQ+ icons

Some famous and not so famous Surrey LGBTQ+ personalities have been researched through sources at Surrey History and elsewhere, including:

Engraving of Edward Onslow, late eighteenth century. From Baudime Jam's book 'George Onslow' (Clermont Ferrand 2003)

Edward Onslow, courtesy of
Baudime Jam

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. See papers of the Onslow Family of Clermont-Ferrand, France, and later Ontario, Canada, 1797-1974 (SHC ref.6888). Read more.

Harry Daley from<br /> <em>This Small Cloud: a Personal Memoir</em> (London, 1987))

Harry Daley from
This Small Cloud: a Personal Memoir (London, 1987))

Harry Daley (1901-1971)

Metropolitan policeman and merchant seaman, who was the lover of local author EM Forster. See the manuscript memoirs of his early life in Lowestoft, Suffolk, and Dorking, 1950s-1960s (SHC ref. 7832). Read more.

Noel Coward, courtesy of LGBT History Month website’

Noel Coward, courtesy of LGBT+ History Month website’

Noel Coward (1899-1973)

Actor and playwright, conscripted into the East Surrey Regiment on 23 March 1918. See the Recruitment registers of the East Surrey Regiment, March 1918 (SHC ref.2496/28). Read more.

Dirk Bogarde</br>(SHC ref SP/4080/1)

Dirk Bogarde
(SHC ref SP/4080/1)

Dirk Bogarde (1921-1999)

Actor, officer in the Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment, and resident of Cobblestone House, Hascombe. See records for the Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment (SHC ref. QRWS/30/BOGA/1958-1996, and QRWS/30/MERR/1 p.359); and Cobblestone House sale particulars (SHC ref. SP/4080/1). Read more.

Lucy Broadwood at home with James Campbell McInnes (SHC ref 2185/LEB/9/113)

Lucy Broadwood at home with
James Campbell McInnes
(SHC ref 2185/LEB/9/113)

Lucy E. Broadwood (1858-1929)

Folk song collector, musician and composer of Capel and London. See Lucy’s diaries and notebooks, 1882-1929, for references to several of her famous gay friends, such as Percy Grainger, James Campbell McInnes and his partner Graham Peel (SHC refs. 2185/LEB and 6782). Read more.

Edward Carpenter and his partner George Merrill, c.1900 (Courtesy of the University Librarian and Director, The John Rylands University Library, Manchester)

Edward Carpenter and his partner George Merrill, c.1900 (Courtesy of the University Librarian and Director,
The John Rylands University Library, Manchester)

Edward Carpenter (1844-1929)

English socialist poet, anthologist, early gay activist and resident of Guildford. Carpenter was also a member of the Guildford Trades and Labour Council. For papers of Guildford Trades and Labour Council, including plans for a memorial hall for Edward Carpenter, see SHC ref. 1364. Read more.

Gwen Farrar and Norah Blaney, nd [1920s], (permission of the National Portrait Gallery, London, under license <strong><a href="" target="_blank"></a></strong>)

Gwen Farrar and Norah Blaney, nd [1920s], (permission of the National Portrait Gallery, London, under license)

Gwen Farrar and Norah Blaney

Gwen Farrar (1897-1944) and Norah Blaney (1893-1983) were well-known music hall performers of the 1920s and 1930s. They met whilst working as wartime entertainers for Lena Ashwell’s pioneering concert parties, touring behind the lines in Northern France during the First World War. As well as their on-stage relationship, the two were also lovers, of which they made no secret. Defying convention, they lived together, and at one time Gwen leased a property in Effingham, Surrey.

Book cover of<br /><em>EM Forster</em><br />by Nicola Beauman (Sceptre, 1994)

Book cover of
EM Forster
by Nicola Beauman (Sceptre, 1994)

E M Forster (1879–1970)

Novelist, critic and former resident of Weybridge and Abinger Hammer, Surrey. For papers relating to The Pageant of Abinger, written by EM Forster for a performance in aid of the Abinger Parish Church Preservation Fund, with music composed and arranged by Ralph Vaughan Williams, see SHC ref. 6536/35. Read more.

Dame Ethel Smyth (Courtesy of LGBT History Month campaign website)

Dame Ethel Smyth (Courtesy of LGBT+ History Month campaign website)

Dame Ethel Smyth (1858-1944)

Composer, suffragette and resident of Woking, she was also the lover of suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst. For Lewis Orchard’s research papers relating to the life and work of Ethel Smyth, see SHC ref. 9180. Read more.

For many other Surrey LGBTQ+ icons we may not hold specific archive collections but we have researched them using the sources held here, such as electoral registers, Ordnance Survey maps, census returns, parish registers, published works and periodicals, and our illustrations collections:

JR Ackerley

Robert Graves

Alan Turing

Quentin Crisp

Maundy Gregory

Beverley Nichols

Denholm Elliott

Terence Rattigan

John Gielgud

Peter Pears

Horace Walpole

Other more recent famous gay Surrey residents include:

Kenny Everett (born Maurice James Christopher Cole), comedian, spent much of his childhood at a children’s home in Peper Harrow.
Sir Elton Hercules John, CBE (born Reginald Kenneth Dwight), former resident of ‘Hercules’ located on the Wentworth Estate, Virginia Water.
Freddie Mercury (born Farrokh Bulsara) front man of rock band Queen and one-time resident of St George’s Hill, Weybridge.
Brian Paddick, former Deputy Assistant Commissioner in London’s Metropolitan Police Service, mayoral candidate for London (2008) and contestant on I’m a Celebrity get me out of here (2008), was born in Balham and attended Sutton Manor High School for Boys.

Sources for LGBTQ+ history held elsewhere

Many libraries and archive offices hold LGBTQ+ collections and it is worth looking at their research guides to get a fuller view of what might be available as they may relate to other life events. For example, homosexuality was frequently cited in divorce proceedings in the twentieth century and some records may be searched online via The National Archives; pre-1967 Police cases may be still held by the force in question and where State intervention is concerned files may be held at The National Archives (see below). It is also worth remembering that some sensitive records may be closed to public access. Under the Data Protection Act some records are closed to public inspection but may be accessible through a Freedom of Information request.

The National Archives collates annual lists of archive accessions submitted from 300 archive organisations across the UK, which includes a LGBTQ+ section. The lists can be found on their website

Here are some of the main archive resources held across the UK:

The National Archives

The state has played a major role in repressing, controlling and censoring the lives of gay and bisexual people whom it considered a threat to the ‘natural’ order of society. Evidence of this can be found in police and criminal records as well as policy and legislation records. A guide to LGBTQ+ history, research, and methodology can be found online at

The National Archives, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, TW9 4DU.

Click here to listen to LGBTQ+ history podcasts at The National Archives.

The British Library

The collection of LGBTQ+-related material at the British Library is vast, dating from the 16th century to the present day. Sources include legislative material such as the 1533 Act of Parliament which was the first official prohibition of same-sex sexual activity. Other sources include literary works, plus a whole range of newspapers and magazines. The collection also comprises The Hall-Carpenter Oral History Archive at the National Sound Archive (see additional entry below).

For the British Library’s timeline of LGBTQ+ community and groups see

British Library, Manuscript Collections, 96 Euston Road, London, NW1 2DB


The British Museum

The museum’s collection holds a variety of objects that reflect LGBTQ+ themes from cultures and countries all over the world from ancient times to the present day. They can be viewed online at:

British Museum, Great Russell Street, London, WC1B 3DG


The Museum of London

LGBTQ+ sources here include printed matter and artefacts relating to a whole range of LGBTQ+ topics, including health awareness, religion, civil rights, 18th and 19th century satirical drawings, Oscar Wilde and the theatre, and the Suffragette movement. Interviews with LGBTQ+ activists can also be heard and the museum presents a number of objects from the collection online.

The Museum of London, 150 London Wall, EC2Y 5HN


The Women’s Library

The collections cover a variety of topics primarily relating to women in Britain, such as suffrage, sexuality and employment.

The Women’s Library, London Metropolitan University, Old Castle Street, London E1 7NT


Hall-Carpenter Archive

Based at the London School of Economics and founded in 1982, this is the largest source for the study of gay activism in Britain.

Archives Division, Library of the London School of Economics & Political Science, 10 Portugal Street, London WC2A 2HD.


Lesbian and Gay Newsmedia Archive

A collection of 200,000 press cuttings covering all aspects of lesbian and gay life from the 1930s to the present.

Lesbian and Gay Newsmedia Archive, Middlesex University, Cat Hill Campus, Barnet EN4 8HT


Regional archives

Several regional archive offices have LGBTQ+ collections leaflets which gives a good idea of the range of archives and local studies material available for the study of LGBTQ+ history. These include:

London Metropolitan Archives (click on the Reseach Guide tab and then scroll down to find any of the folowing words: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender).

Manchester Archives

Pride in Plymouth Website

Rukus! The Black LGBTQ+ Archive in London (click on the Reseach Guide tab and then scroll down to find Rukus (R box)).

The National Trust has linked LGBTQ+ stories to their historic sites, find out more at

Useful LGBTQ+ websites and addresses

Details of county wide services for young and LGBTQ+ people can be found on the Surrey County Council website

Gay Surrey

Outline Surrey: A charity run by volunteers advising and supporting the LGBTQ+ community. The website provides a good list of links to other sites related to LGBTQ+ community, news and socializing.

Haarden Fazt Herald is Outline Surrey’s monthly news magazine

Gender Identity Research and Education Society (GIRES). This Surrey based charity provides support for and research into gender variance.

LGBT+ History Month website. LGBT+ History Month is a national campaign held every February. The organisation encourages participation, supports and advertises events, and provides source material on famous LGBTQ+ personalities.

Stonewall. Founded in 1989, the charity campaigns for all areas of LGBTQ+ equality, in particular education and employment rights.

Amnesty International UK. The charity includes a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Network.

The LGBT+ History Project. The national LGBT+ History Project, founded by Jonathan Harbourne in June 2011, is an online archive of information about LGBTQ+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Trans +) life in the United Kingdom from Julius Caesar to the present day. The archive, at, takes the form of a Wikipedia-style encyclopaedia with over 3,000 articles, covering every region, county, and local government district in the UK, and many famous and not so famous LGBTQ+-related people, places, organisations  and events. The articles in the encyclopaedia have been viewed over four million times. The Project has recently become a Key Partner of LGBT+ History Month.

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