Exploring LGBTQ+ history at National Trust places

Many of our places were home to, and shaped by, people who challenged conventional ideas of gender and sexuality.

The National Lottery Heritage Fund’s Digital Skills for Heritage Initiative has made a generous donation to the Queer Heritage Collections Network (QHCN), of which we are a founding member. Find out more about the QHCN and our plans below. You can also look back on 2017, when we marked 50 years after the partial discrimination of homosexuality.

LGBTQ+ history at our places

We look after special places, for everyone for ever. LGBTQ+ heritage plays an important part in the history of the nation and a vital role in unlocking the histories of some of our places.

With the investment from the National Lottery Heritage Fund received in March 2021, we're going to be able to develop our digital skills programme to support our work on LGBTQ+ heritage.

Vita Sackville-West's desk at Sissinghurst

Heritage Lottery funding received for our LGBTQ+ heritage partnership 

We’re pleased to share that the Queer Heritage Collections Network (QHCN) has recently received almost £100k in funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund’s Digital Skills for Heritage Initiative to support a new digital skills programme.

Looking back at 'Prejudice and Pride'

in 2017, we marked 50 years after the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality. We explored our LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer) heritage with a programme called Prejudice and Pride.

Visitors in 2017 were able to discover hidden histories of love and relationships at our places, exploring the stories of persecution and the expressions of personal identity that shocked and challenged societal norms.

We worked with artists to create new exhibitions and installations to bring these stories to life and uncovered previously untold stories with help from academic experts. 

We particpated in community celebrations including Pride festivals around the country and Heritage Open Days in order to build an understanding of LGBTQ+ histories in local communities.

We also launched a podcast series and a guidebook to allow visitors to dive deeper into the LGBTQ+ history of National Trust places.

How we explored LGBTQ+ history in 2017

What does LGBTQ+ mean?

In exploring gender diversity and same-sex love we are using the acronym LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer) and seeking to acknowledge the widest diversity of lives and experiences.

‘LGBTQ+’ is widely accepted as an inclusive term to reference the diversity of gender and sexuality that go beyond the ‘hetero-normative’ (that is, binary definitions of gender and of ‘one man with one woman’) conventions. 

‘Queer’ was once a term of abuse that has now largely been reclaimed by the LGBTQ+ community. It has also begun to be used as a term that encompasses all aspects of difference across gender and sexuality. It is a way to look at gender and sexuality as a spectrum rather than a series of definite, fixed categories.

We have adopted the approach taken by Historic England in their recent Pride of Place project and acknowledge that ‘in the past, as today, there is no single LGBTQ+ community, terminology or uniform identity that defines all LGBTQ+ people or heritage’. 

The 2017 anniversary

2017 marked 50 years since the Sexual Offences Act (1967), which partially decriminalised homosexuality in England. A wide variety of museums (e.g. British Museum, V&A, Brighton Museums, People’s History Museum), heritage organisations (Historic England, Heritage Open Days), Parliament, the media and many others marked and celebrated LGBTQ+ culture and heritage. We all have an opportunity to understand our heritage better as we reflect on the legacy of those LGBTQ+ individuals whose stories have not been fully told. 

In Prejudice and Pride we built upon the work of Historic England’s Pride of Place project. We are working with LGBTQ+ equality charity Stonewall and academics at Leicester University to ensure a strong legacy for LGBTQ+ histories at our places beyond 2017.