LGBT+ History in the New Forest

Author: Nfknowledge

The following contribution was written by New Forest Heritage Centre volunteer Chris Blake.

LGBT+ history has until recently been quite biased towards public figures whose lives were subject to greater public scrutiny, and whose private correspondence was archived. Most people in the New Forest have not historically lived such public, well-recorded lives. Irrespective of fame, many people in the past and present alike would prefer privacy from stigma and scrutiny, or would have chosen to focus their lives on different legacies within their local community. Unfortunately, before the decriminalisation of same-sex relationships in 1957, secrecy was also a very real imperative. Sometimes this literally involved burning diaries and letters. It is unsurprising that these details of people’s private lives have often not been preserved.

As a result, there are few openly LGBT+ life stories recorded in the New Forest Heritage centre archives. The late Lord Montagu of Beaulieu is largely represented by his contributions to the local community and the study of local heritage. However, the decriminalisation of homosexuality owes a lot to the inquiry that resulted from public response to his trial in the 1950s.

Thanks to that decriminalisation, LGBT+ people now have greater choice as to how they live those aspects of their lives. Stigma is still a persistent challenge, but that is after all why these stories must be told.

Sources:

Dr Clifford Williams (2019) A Queer A-Z of Hampshire, Cuthbert Creme Books: Andover. Available at: https://nfknowledge.org/record/nfc-165455/
Lord Montagu of Beaulieu (2000) Wheels within Wheels: An Unconventional Life. Weidenfeld and Nicolson Ltd. Available at: https://nfknowledge.org/record/nfc-152861/

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