Celebrating our LGBTQ heritage: Exhibitions, installations and events at our places

In 2017 we explored themes of gender and sexuality as we marked 50 years since the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality.

We hosted events and exhibitions that told the stories of the men and women who challenged conventional notions of gender and sexuality and who shaped the properties in which they lived.

Look back on our events from 2017:

Disabled femaile artist painting a man in drag

Beningbrough Hall, Yorkshire

In 2016, Beningbrough took part in Portraits Untold, a project that reflected on creativity, identity and difference. The resulting portrait of performance artist David Hoyle by award-winning disabled artist Tanya Raabe-Webber is on display until 5 November. From 12-15 October, Raabe-Webber will return as artist in residence, in conversation with different sitters, giving them the opportunity to share their stories of diversity, in front of an audience. The event will be interactive with visitors in the room, and through social media, invited to take part in the conversation, or get involved by sketching both traditionally and digitally.

Stephen Fry

Felbrigg Hall, Norwich 

A new short film The Unfinished Portrait narrated by local resident, actor, writer and presenter Stephen Fry, tells the story of the last squire of Felbrigg – Robert Wyndham Ketton Cremer. This gentle man restored Felbrigg and bequeathed it to the nation. Robert’s sexuality has never been publically discussed before; we’re exploring this side of Felbrigg's story using new information uncovered by the University of Leicester including Robert's poetry, scholarship and circle of friends – all of which has been used to create the film.

Wall paintings at Hanbury Hall by Sir James Thornhill

Hanbury Hall, Worcestershire 

Uncover the hidden messages concealed within the dramatic Sir James Thornhill wall paintings that adorn Hanbury’s central staircase – a cutting satire of art and 18th-century politics with depictions of Queen Anne as Achilles. Installations and performances by artists will explore the chaotic nature of love, desire and LGBTQ issues as they reveal the stories hidden within Thornhill’s paintings.

The pride flag flying at Kingston Lacy, Dorset

Kingston Lacy, Dorset 

Discover a new exhibition and installation celebrating the contribution of William Bankes to Kingston Lacy. Forced to flee England to avoid prosecution and a possible death penalty for same-sex acts, Bankes was exiled in Europe, from where he sent back a vast collection of art to develop the house. In collaboration with the University of Leicester, this exhibition explores Bankes’ experiences against the wider history of the persecution of LGBTQ lives. In memory of his exile, the rainbow flag will be flown at Kingston Lacy throughout the installation.

The Gatehouse Tower dominates Knole’s west front

Knole, Kent 

Knole will be celebrating Virginia Woolf’s iconic novel ‘Orlando’, inspired by her lover Vita Sackville-West, who was born and brought up at Knole. A copy of the book, signed by Woolf for Vita’s cousin Eddy Sackville-West recently acquired at auction, will form the centre piece of events including an immersive theatrical performance of Orlando as well as a screening of Sally Potter's film adaptation. New displays will also bring to life the loves of Eddy Sackville-West.

Readings in the garden at Monk's House

Monk's House, East Sussex 

This summer Monk's House, the home of novelist Virginia Woolf, will be celebrating the love letters between Virginia and Vita Sackville West. An artist will be invited to respond to the evocative writing room where Woolf composed many of her most iconic works.

Vita Sackville-West's desk at Sissinghurst

Sissinghurst Castle Garden, Kent 

Sissinghurst’s owners Harold Nicolson and Vita Sackville-West enjoyed a loving marriage while also engaging in same sex affairs. From 27 July you can explore a new display in the tower – the space most closely related with Vita – with photos, letters and objects related to Sissinghurst’s queer inhabitants. From 9 September to 29 October, a display in partnership with the National Portrait Gallery, will present photographs and drawings of Vita’s lovers and portraits of the couple’s artistic and literary contemporaries.

The 17th century barn theatre at Smallhythe Place

Smallhythe Place, Kent 

In an exhibition called Playwrights, Pioneers and Provocateurs you can delve into the life of Edy Craig who lived with two female partners at Smallhythe. Items on display will explore the ménage a trois and their queer creative circle. A small exhibition in the Barn Theatre is also open, exploring the prosecution of actor John Gielgud in 1953 for "importuning for immoral purposes"; an event which nearly destroyed his career and his life.

Artist Jacob V Joyce performing

Sutton House, Hackney 

Sutton House is hosting a year of exhibitions, activities and events around the theme ‘Sutton House Queered’ where you’ll be able to explore the themes of LGBTQ activism and protests, banners and flags. Queer artist Jacob V Joyce will be creating an interactive in-house exhibit alongside a series of family activities including displays and trails ranging from Alice in Wonderland to 1980s squatters.

Wightwick Manor near Wolverhampton decorated in the style of the Arts and Crafts movement

Wightwick Manor, West Midlands 

At Wightwick you can explore the same sex relationships of Oscar Wilde, Evelyn De Morgan and Wightwick’s Housekeeper Emma Smith. Wightwick houses many objects by these artists and we’re exploring how the sexualities of these artists informed the art that they created. Videos, displays and talks will explore the different ways in which men and women were treated, and how their relationships affected their careers.

Artist in residence Simona Piantieri at Smallhythe Place, Kent

LGBTQ artist residencies 

As part of our programme of contemporary art, we worked with two national artists in residence, Simona Piantieri and Michele D’Acosta, to respond creatively to the LGBTQ heritage of our places. They've created three short films that tell the broader story of the importance of this heritage across over a hundred years of history.

Fitzroy Square Raid

Queer city: London club culture 1918 - 1967 

In March 2017, the National Trust and The National Archives re-created The Caravan, ‘London’s most bohemian rendezvous’, a queer-friendly members club of 1934.