Many National Trust places were home to, and shaped by, people who challenged conventional ideas of gender and sexuality. 50 years after the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality, we’re exploring the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer) heritage of Kingston Lacy as part of the Prejudice and Pride programme.
You can’t mention the history of Kingston Lacy without talking extensively about the influence of William John Bankes. A huge personality and visionary, William John created much of the house you see today.
William John, a traveller, collector and talented draughtsman with an eye for beauty, set about making dramatic changes to his home. Just seven years later he was caught with a soldier in ‘an indecent act.’ It was the second such incident and, at a time when intimate relationships between men could be punishable by death, William John had no choice but to leave the home he loved for exile in France and later Italy.
From 18 September until 12 November, EXILE will examine Bankes’ exile and his contribution to the house and its decoration from afar and also consider his extraordinary story within a broader context of intolerance and persecution of LGBTQ lives from Henry VIII to modern times.
EXILE features three distinct installations, linked by a series of new interpretive panels. As visitors enter the house, they will encounter ‘In Memoriam’ (pictured above), a tribute to the 51 men who were hanged under laws that criminalised same-sex acts during Bankes’ lifetime. It is a reminder of the brutality of the times and the context of his actions.
Further into the house, the second installation – ‘Displaced’ – uses projection and sound to make connections between Bankes’ story and the ongoing persecution of LGBTQ people, drawing on contemporary experiences of those forced to leave their homes in the UK and abroad.
The final installation – ‘Prejudice, Persecution, Pride’ – sets Bankes’ story within a global history that examines how the law has shaped – and continues to shape – LGBTQ lives. Facsimile copies of legal documents from the Parliamentary Archives will be exhibited alongside a timeline that reveals familiar and surprising stories of persecution and intolerance, liberation and equality.
The installation is part of the National Trust’s ‘Prejudice & Pride’ programme which is celebrating the stories of LGBTQ people at a number of its places and acknowledging the contributions they have made to history and society.
" Kingston Lacy holds a story that deserves to be known more widely – as with all those we have researched and shared through our ‘Prejudice & Pride’ programme. These stories show how deeply and widely LGBTQ heritage goes back into our shared history and how this resonates with our lives today."
The rainbow flag will be flown at Kingston Lacy from 18 September, the day that William John Bankes went into exile, until 12 November.
The programme has been researched and developed by the University of Leicester’s Research Centre for Museums and Galleries (RCMG) in collaboration with the National Trust and with support from Stonewall.
Exile is in the house at Kingston Lacy from Monday 18 September to Sunday 12 November. The house is open 11am – 5pm (last entry 4pm) until 29 October and 11am – 4pm (last entry 3pm) from 30 October - 12 November. Entry will be via timed entry tickets which can be booked through our What's On page or by phone on 0344 249 1895. More details about timed tickets for the house can be found on our house ticket FAQs page.