At English Heritage we tell the story of England through the historical sites and collections within our care. This includes telling stories from history that may have previously been hidden from view. We know that throughout history people have lived lives drastically outside the accepted sexual and gender norms of the time.
Repressive social attitudes and criminal persecution resulted in many expressions of same-sex love and gender non-conformity being constrained and few first-hand accounts of LGBTQ experiences were often destroyed to protect those involved.
However, by uncovering the LGBTQ stories that have survived we can start to represent the true sexual and gender diversity in the history of England. From the London blue plaque scheme to new exhibitions and interpretation English Heritage is working hard to bring these stories to life and highlight their important place in the stories surrounding our sites. Here we’ve highlighted just a few of the ways in which English Heritage is bringing these stories to life.
Many of the famous figures honoured with a London blue plaque lived radical private lives outside the sexual norms of the time. However, often these histories remain hidden from view, which can make it difficult for LGBTQ people in contemporary society to find the sense of identity and belonging that we all develop through our shared histories. That’s why we’re committed to telling the LGBTQ stories associated with some of London’s blue plaques through our website, social media channels and podcasts. You can read more about London Pride: LGBTQ Stories from History here.
“Our Aelred” – Friendship, leadership and sainthood at Rievaulx Abbey
A new exhibition featuring LGBTQ history has just been installed at Rievaulx Abbey. The new temporary interpretation scheme explores the fascinating life of the Abbey’s most famous abbot – Aelred of Rievaulx. The interpretation includes reference to the debate surrounding Aelred’s sexuality, there is some evidence that he was emotionally and physically attracted to men.
Visitors will receive a leaflet that guides them to panels located around the monastery ruins at places important to Aelred’s story as well as continuing into the museum to highlight a few important objects in the collection. If you’re unable to visit Rievaulx Abbey you can find out more about Aelred’s story on here.
Our House – Shout Out Loud
Shout Out Loud is English Heritage’s flagship youth engagement programme which is supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. Shout Out Loud provides a platform for young people to uncover untold stories from our past, and it puts young people’s ideas and voices at the heart of English Heritage.
‘Our House’ is a play created and performed by 30 young people from the National Youth Theatre and METRO Charity in September 2019. It won the 2019 UK Heritage Award for Best Event, Festival or Exhibition.
‘Our House’ takes inspiration from the lives of Eltham Palace’s famous occupants including King Edward II, King Henry VIII, and Courtauld family as well as the untold or even lost stories for the servants, musicians, soldiers whose lives were linked with Eltham and its more famous residents.
You can find out more about Shout Out Loud and ‘Our House’ here.