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Historic England lists more buildings to recognise queer history

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Historic England has listed two Devon buildings in recognition of their Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) heritage and architectural quality 

As part of the organisation’s ongoing programme celebrating the nation’s queer history, the heritage body has Grade II listed The Cabin in Bucks Mills, Devon, which became the summer retreat of artists and lovers Judith Ackland and Mary Stella Edwards.

It has also given a Grade II listing to The Chapel of St Anne in Saunton, Devon, which was designed by architect Frederick James Commin. Built in 1898, the chapel includes stained glass windows installed in 1906 by artist Mary Lowndes, a suffragette and partner of fellow suffragette Barbara Forbes.  

The listing entries of 14 historic buildings have been amended to recognise their LGBTQ history.These include Reading Gaol (Grade II) in Berkshire, which was the subject of Oscar Wilde’s poem The Ballad of Reading Gaol, and the homes of 20th-century artists and writers Vita Sackville-West, Hannah Gluckstein and Lytton Strachey.

The move is part of the Pride of Place project, spearheaded by the heritage group and led by historians at Leeds Beckett University’s Centre for Culture and the Arts and the Leeds Sustainability Institute. 

It aims to recognise the LGBTQ history surrounding the listed architecture, which has previously gone untold and unrecognised. The announcement comes just before the 50th anniversary of the Sexual Offences Act 1967 on 27 July, which partially decriminalised male homosexuality.

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.’

In September last year, Historic England amended the listings of five buildings to include their queer history. These included Oscar Wilde’s 19th-century red-brick terraced house in Tite Street, London, and the late medieval timber-framed Shibden Hall, in Halifax, home of ‘the first modern lesbian’ Anne Lister.

At the same time, it awarded a Grade II* listing to a memorial in St Pancras Gardens commissioned by 19th-century philanthropist Angela Burdett-Coutts, who lived with her partner Hannah Brown for 52 years.

The Gothic memorial, decorated with mosaics and figurative carvings, stands within the Grade II-registered historic landscape of St Pancras Gardens and includes a dedication to Chevalier d’Eon, a celebrated Georgian spy, who lived the first part of their life as a man and the latter part as a woman.

In 2015, the Royal Vauxhall Tavern – a gay pub in south London – received a Grade II listing. Campaigners including celebrities Ian McKellen, Paul O’Grady and Graham Norton, as well as prominent architects such as Simon Atkinson, Nigel Coates, Fernando Rihl and James Soane fought to protect the pub’s future after the closure of other iconic LGBTQ venues in London such as the Black Cap and Madame Jojo’s.


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