Tackling prejudice and celebrating with pride: National Trust explores LGBTQ heritage to mark anniversary in 2017

 

Themes of gender and sexuality will be explored and celebrated by the National Trust in 2017 as part of the nation’s commemoration to mark 50 years since the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality.

LGBTQ heritage has an important place in the history of the conservation charity and the places in its care.

The acquisition last week by the Trust of a copy of the novel Orlando, signed by Virginia Woolf to the cousin of her lover Vita Sackville-West, highlights the commitment to LGBTQ heritage that runs through many Trust places. Orlando, inspired by Sackville-West’s family history at Knole in Kent, tells the story of a gender-changing character whose life spans the 400 year history of the house.

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Copy of novel ‘Orlando’ signed ‘Eddy, with love from Virginia’, Oct 1928

During 2017 as part of its ‘Prejudice and Pride’ programme the Trust will tell the stories of the men and women who challenged conventional notions of gender and sexuality and who shaped the properties in which they lived.

A number of events will be taking place at properties with LGBTQ connections and the Trust will also be involved in community-focussed celebrations including Pride festivals around the country.

Over the course of the year, online and published resources will be available including a podcast series and a new guidebook exploring LGBTQ heritage in Trust places.

Tom Freshwater, National Programmes Manager at the National Trust says: “Our places span large historic mansions to small workers’ cottages across England, Wales and Northern Ireland so we have a unique opportunity to bring together those stories that unite them and show how deeply and widely LGBTQ heritage goes back into our shared history.

“Some of the stories are well known already, such as the relationship between Vita Sackville-West and Virginia Woolf, but some have not been explored or fully told until now. This anniversary is giving us the opportunity to reflect on and celebrate the contribution of the people and the places that meant so much to them and offer a greater understanding, accessibility and higher profile for LGBTQ heritage.

“We are pleased to be working in partnership with University of Leicester Research Centre for Museums and Galleries who are bringing their expertise to the Trust in researching and sharing LGBTQ histories in a heritage context.”

The exterior of the north front of Sutton House, London. Constructed in 1525, the house was remodelled in 1700, and has additions dating from 1904.

Sutton House will hold a year of exhibitions, activities and events.

Sarah Waters, author of the bestselling Tipping the Velvet and a contributor to the Trust’s forthcoming LGBTQ articles and publications says: “These days we can all be a bit bolder about exploring and enjoying the UK’s rich heritage of sex and gender diversity. And I’d argue that without an awareness of that heritage our experience of certain National Trust properties is incomplete.”

Among the National Trust properties taking part are:

 Sutton House, Hackney

Sutton House will hold a year of exhibitions, activities and events around the theme ‘Sutton House Queered’. Working with a number of community partners, the programme will unpick themes of exploration, anarchy and campaigning and include a range of displays and trails ranging from Alice in Wonderland to 1980s squatters. Events begin in LGBTQ history month in February. 

 Hanbury Hall, Worcestershire

Hanbury Hall will be focussing on their collection and, in particular, the dramatic Sir James Thornhill wall paintings that adorn the staircase which include depictions of Achilles and his lover Patroclus. Hidden stories will be shared revealing tales of classical love in Ancient Greece and satirically, Queen Anne’s Court. From March onwards. 

The ceiling painting and top of the Painted Staircase in the Hall at Hanbury Hall, Worcestershire. The Staircase was painted by Sir James Thornhill (1675-1734), c.1710. The ceiling painting is a political allusion and depicts an assembly of the classical deities and a portrait of Dr Sacheverell. Mercury is depicted falling between the ceiling and the wall.

The ceiling painting and top of the Painted Staircase at Hanbury Hall

Smallhythe Place, Kent

The former home of actress Ellen Terry will shine a spotlight on her daughter Edy Craig who lived with two female partners in the Priest’s House. Playwrights, Pioneers, Provocateurs will highlight a number of objects in the house, and a production of Wilde Without The Boy, a dramatisation of De Profundis, the letter/s written by Oscar Wilde to Lord Douglas from prison, will take place in the Barn Theatre on 9th and 10th June.

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 which include a partnership with Cinelive and the British Film Institute. A week of events begins Tuesday 27th June.  

 

The west front of Knole, Kent. The central gatehouse was built by Henry VIII between 1543 and 1548, with later additions to the west front in the seventeenth-century.

The west front of Knole, Kent. 

Simon Murray, Senior Director of the National Trust says:

“Our spotlight on LGBTQ heritage is an important one and we have chosen it to begin our ‘Challenging Histories’ programme. Over the next few years we will be exploring some of the complex and often more difficult aspects of the history of our places, stories we have perhaps shied away from but which are important to our understanding of their history.

“In 2018, to mark the centenary of the first Act of women’s suffrage, we will be looking at the role women have played in shaping our places but also how they were often excluded; in 2019, 200 years after the Peterloo Massacre in Manchester, we will look at places which have been the scene of important national events such as Runnymede, Tolpuddle and Mam Tor.

“The programme will be built on new research and will, we hope, stimulate contemporary debate on issues that have their roots in the past but are of continuing relevance today. We will create a programme of events and exhibitions that will be of interest to new and existing audiences alike and remind us all of the importance of our cultural heritage and how vital it is to care for it for future generations to enjoy.”

Read more about LGBTQ activities around National Trust places in 2017.

 

 

Bettany Hughes’s ‘Ten Places, Europe & Us’

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Bettany Hughes at Sutton Hoo, Suffolk

A new podcast series from the National Trust unravels Europe’s influence on our nation through the ages revealing the continental roots that lie buried in locations from Neolithic Avebury ring to modernist Hampstead.

Over ten weeks starting on 24 October, award-winning historian and broadcaster, Bettany Hughes, will explore National Trust sites and uncover their cosmopolitan histories, revealing their links to the wider world in ten 20 minute programmes. Continue reading

Appeal is launched to reinvigorate Winston Churchill’s legacy at his family home and acquire prized possessions for the nation

A £7.1 million appeal has been launched today by the National Trust to reinvigorate the legacy of one of Britain’s greatest statesmen – Sir Winston Churchill – and to acquire hundreds of historic and personal objects that belonged to him at his home, Chartwell in Kent.

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House and collections manager, Katherine Barnett, with some of the objects, including the wooden speech box. Credit National Trust, John Hammond.

It is fifty years since Chartwell, his family home, was opened to the public. The conservation charity is using this anniversary focus to call on its members, supporters, charitable institutions and public bodies to help reach its appeal target and ensure Churchill’s story resonates with future generations.

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Tragic past of Powis Castle remembered for Somme anniversary

One hundred years after the Battle of the Somme began on 1 July 1916, visitors to the National Trust’s Powis Castle in Wales are being transported back in time to experience life in the trenches during the First World War.

An installation, which has transformed the castle’s empty basement rooms into a full-scale replica trench and officers’ mess, tells the story of Viscount Percy Clive, the eldest son and heir of the 4th Earl of Powis. As an officer in the Welsh Guard, he was fatally wounded during the Battle of the Somme.

Powis Castle trench view. Credit National Trust, Steve Rawlin

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‘Chamber of secrets’ brings Cliveden’s ghosts to life

Pic, A historic chamber will open to visitors at the National Trust's Cliveden following conservation work, NT Images-John MillarAs the glamorous Cliveden Estate in Buckinghamshire celebrates its 350th anniversary, an historic chamber located below the South Terrace is opening for the first time in 30 years, inviting visitors to help the National Trust solve the mystery of its past.

From the notorious 2nd Duke of Buckingham who built the first house for his mistress before fatally wounding her husband, to the focus of the Profumo affair in the 1960s, Cliveden has long been a place of scandal and intrigue.

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Clandon Park’s State Bed rises from the ashes a year after the fire

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The State Bed’s elaborate headboard. Credit National Trust, James Dobson

One of Clandon Park’s most iconic objects, its 18th century State Bed, has been rescued from the rubble a year after the fire which devastated the Surrey mansion last April.

Ever since the fire on 29 April last year, National Trust staff had been anxious to reach the State Bed but had to wait for the house to be made safe to enter. Archaeologists then had to work their way through timber and rubble eight feet deep.

As the rooms were gradually cleared, conservators were able to get closer and closer, allowing them to work out the best way to dismantle the bed and carefully move it to safety. Continue reading

Celebrating 300 years of Capability Brown with the National Trust

2016 marks the 300th anniversary of the birth of one of the UK’s most celebrated landscape gardeners, Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown.

A revered designer, entrepreneur and salesman, his nickname came from his fondness for describing country estates as having great ‘capabilities’ for improvement.

He designed landscapes on an immense scale which provided the must-have setting for country houses, surrounded by wooded belts, parkland dotted with trees, carefully contoured ground, and serpentine lakes that resembled artificial rivers.

Many of Brown’s designs can still be seen at National Trust places across England and Wales today, cared for by the conservation charity’s teams of gardeners and volunteers.

We’ve got plenty of activities taking place throughout the year to mark the anniversary and help you explore the landscapes of ‘Capability’ Brown.

Here’s just a small selection to show you what’s on offer.

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