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Historic England reviews listings to include LGBTQ history

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Historic England has amended the listing entries of several historic buildings – including Oscar Wilde’s home – to recognise their Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) heritage

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.

In total, five buildings have seen their listing entries added to and one – a memorial commissioned by 19th-century philanthropist Angela Burdett-Coutts, who lived with her partner Hannah Brown for 52 years – has been newly listed at Grade II*.

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 his life as a man and her later part as a woman.

Among the five ‘relisted’ buildings are 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 – known for writing diaries in code detailing her same-sex relationships – where she lived with her partner, Ann Walker.

Also included is St Ann’s Court, in Surrey, which is currently on sale for £9 million and was home to couple Gerald Schlesinger and garden designer Christopher Tunnard.

As well as being one of the earliest Modernist houses in the UK, the Grade II*-listed building designed by architect Raymond McGrath is, says Historic England, a significant and notable example of ‘queer architecture’.

Built in the 1930s, the house featured a retractable screen that could be used to split the master bedroom in two because homosexual acts were still illegal at the time.

In addition, the Red House – the late-17th century red-brick home of composer Benjamin Britten in Suffolk – has been relisted, and the gravestone of writer and Egyptologist Amelia Edwards complete with an ankh (Egyptian cross) in St Mary’s Churchyard, Bristol, was newly listed.

Duncan Wilson, chief executive of Historic England said: ‘Too often, the influence of men and women who helped build our nation has been ignored, underestimated or is simply unknown, because they belonged to minority groups.

‘Our Pride of Place project is one step on the road to better understanding just what a diverse nation we are, and have been for many centuries.’

Wilson added: ‘At a time when historic LGBTQ venues are under particular threat, this is an important step.’

Last year, the Royal Vauxhall Tavern – a gay pub in south London – received a Grade II listing. Campaigners including celebrities Sir Ian McKellen, Paul O’Grady and Graham Norton, as well as prominent architects including 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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