Pride Month

07 June 2022 by Simon Drayson

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Photo by Ana Simon on Unsplash

This month is the 50th anniversary of ‘Pride Month’, a time for us to celebrate the LGBTQ + community and push for on-going positive change for equality. For us, as a practice run by a same sex couple, it is important to celebrate our LGBTQ + heritage and how far we have come, when so much of our history has marred this by persecution.

We felt an interesting way to honour this month  would be to highlight some architecturally interesting buildings in the south east, with a ‘queer’ history.

The Royal Pavilion, Brighton, East Sussex

The Royal Pavilion is one of the most iconic buildings in the South East, located right at the heart of Brighton, the unofficial ‘gay capital’ of the UK. This flamboyant oriental palace was once a simple lodging house but underwent a radical makeover for George IV. The architect John Nash extravagantly grew the house, completing the unique palace in 1823 which can still be enjoyed today as the Museum of Brighton.

 Externally inspired by Indian style, the palace is an elaborate structure of domes and towers, with an equally opulent Far East inspired interior. The stunning oddity of the building in this British seaside town has been bringing tourists to visit ever since its completion. There is a compelling argument to be had that the building transformed the culture of Brighton, into the forward thinking and liberal city it is today, without the Palace perhaps Brighton would be just another sleepy seaside town.

Monks House, Rodmell, East Sussex

Formerly the county home of Virginia and Leonard Woolf, this pretty 18th century cottage is located in the village of Rodmell, set in rural Sussex countryside within the South Downs. Monks House is now a museum, run by the National Trust to celebrate the writers.

The couple were key members of the vibrant Bloomsbury Group; first founded in 1905 this liberal group of privileged, creatives and intellectuals made an important contribution to the development of modern culture throughout the interwar years. They were known for their unconventional lifestyles, pushing the boundaries at the time with their liberal ideas over politics, relationships and sex, helping to lay the groundwork for the acceptance we enjoy today.

Monks House became the couples retreat from London, and an outpost for many of the Bloomsbury Group to visit, including T.S. Elliot and E.M. Foster. The tranquil setting was a great inspiration on Woolf’s work, it is where she wrote some of her most successful novels such as ‘To the Lighthouse’, ‘Between the Acts’ and ‘Orlando’ which is thought to have been a portrait of her lover, Vita Sackville-West.

Charleston Farmhouse, Firle, East Sussex

The 16th century Charleston Farmhouse was home to the artists Vanessa Bell, her lover Duncan Grant and his other lover, the writer, David Garnett from 1916, having been introduced to the area by her sister Virginia Woolf (who lived nearby at Monks Cottage, as above.)

As all were central figures in the lively Bloomsbury Group the house became a vibrant meeting point for creatives and free thinkers, at odds with the norms of the day. They were able to live their unconventional and bohemian lifestyle here, which in its own way has helped to shape, and progress society for us all.

The house is now open to the public, under the ownership of the Charleston Trust charity which was set up in the 1970s to maintain this important property, and to continue with the positive work the Bloomsbury set started. Throughout the year they host exhibitions, events and festivals that promoting new ways of thinking and living through the power of art.  


Chantry House, Steyning, West Sussex

The Grade II Listed, 18th century Chantry House in located in the village of Steyning near Horsham, West Sussex, was once the home of the artist Gluck (also known as Hannah Gluckstien) where she lived with her longtime partner, Edith Shackleton Heald.

The artist was born in 1895, enjoyed a successful career as a society painter. Famously gender non-conforming at a time when this was there was little understanding of transgender, they rejected any forenames or prefixes to simply be known as ‘Gluck’.

One of their most famous paintings was the 1930’s ‘Medallion’, a self-portrait of Gluck with Nesta Obermer, the striking image of the two declares their love for one another, becoming an iconic lesbian statement. 

The home is now still in private ownership and not open to the public.

Palace House, Beaulieu, Hampshire

The Palace House at Beaulieu is a Grade I Listed picturesque country house has been the ancestral home to the Montagu family since the 16th century. The building was originally part of the gatehouse to the medieval abbey on the site, but was extended and transformed in the 1800s into the Victorian home which stands today.

Lord Montagu (the 3rd Baron of Montagu) was involved in a notorious court case for homosexual activities in the 1950s and later sent to prison for 12 months. The case was seen by many as a witch-hunt, gaining much public sympathy for Lord Montagu and the other accused, eventually leading to the Wolfenden Report in 1957. The report recommended the decriminalisation of homosexuality between consenting men over the age of 21, which finally were passed in 1967, with the age of consent being lowered to 18 in 1994 and further to 16 in 2001.

The Palace House was also one of the first stately homes in the UK to be opened to the public, now part of the wider Beaulieu Motor Museum attraction, the home is still privately owned by the Montagu family.

We hope you enjoyed our selection of buildings; do share your selection of LGBTQ + heritage buildings with us, we would really like to explore this topic and learn more about this rich heritage.

It is amazing to look back and see how far we have come in the last 50 years, but there is still so far still to go for true equality for all.

Love is love people.

Take the first small step.

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