A Queer History of Hampshire Booklet

What have Clare Balding, Rupert Everett, Lord Alfred Douglas and Patrick Gale got in common?

They all have connections to Hampshire; either having been to school in the county or living in the county, and all can be identified as noteworthy lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans-gender (LGBT+) persons.

Over the last two years Y-Services LGBT+ youth groups have been involved in a Heritage Lottery project discovering some of Hampshire’s LGBT+ history. The aims of the project have included capturing information to archive for the future on aspects of the history of the county that are rarely documented. I have been involved in the project as a volunteer.

Young people have interviewed older LGBT+ people (including myself) and visited archives and libraries to discover more about the past.

Throughout the summer, Hampshire Record Office in Sussex Street, Winchester will be displaying some of those findings.

The display will run until mid-September and is free to view. Opening times are the same as the Record Office.

A Queer History of Hampshire Booklet Page

In addition, I have produced a 36 page guide to accompany the display, called ‘A Queer A-Z of Hampshire’. Copies are on sale in the Record Office at £2.50.

So what are some of the aspects we discovered?

The CHE (Campaign for Homosexual Equality) came to Southampton in 1976 for their annual conference. This was a significant event as Southampton City Council welcomed them after other councils had refused to host the conference.

A special newspaper, called The Daily Gay, was produced for each day of the conference.

CHE even chartered a train from Waterloo to Southampton to take delegates to the conference and back again when the conference ended. In the Hall-Carpenter Archives at the London School of Economics I even found one of the rail tickets used by a delegate ( HCA/CHE8/29)!

Of course old newspapers are one of the main sources for LGBT+ history, mainly because they document the court cases where men were prosecuted for illegal gay sex acts. Punishments were often severe. Execution for buggery was still on the statute books until 1861. In the 1950s Portsmouth acquired a reputation for men looking for gay sex. The Portsmouth City Police dressed in plain clothes, sometimes as sailors, to regularly catch men out.

Hampshire’s most well known LGBT court case was that of Lord Montagu of Beaulieu, who was convicted of consenting gay sexual activity in 1954 following a trial at the Great Hall in Winchester. He was sent to prison for 12 months. His co defendants Peter Wildeblood and Michael Pitt-Rivers received sentences of 18 months. The publicity arising from the case resulted in calls to review the criminal law on homosexual activity. The government then set up a committee of inquiry chaired by Sir John Wolfenden.

A Queer History of Hampshire Display

Ten years after the Wolfenden report there was partial decriminalisation, but prejudice and discrimination continued for the rest of the century.

Gay people in Hampshire started to organise and take action in the 1970s. Setting up branches of the CHE and establishing support networks, like telephone support.

By 1977 Solent Gay Switchboard had been established in Southampton. The telephone number in the 1980s was Southampton 37363 and phone lines were available three times a week.

You can learn more by visiting the display and buying the booklet.

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