June marks Pride Month – a time where we can celebrate LGBTQA+ achievements and their history. Now we’re in June, we thought we would highlight the history of Pride and some of the achievements of the LGBTQA+ community throughout British history.

Pride is celebrated during June because that was the month when the Stonewall riots took place in America. The riots were an important protest that took place in the 1969 and inspired changes towards rights for members of the LGBTQA+ community. These days, Pride is a colourful celebration of people coming together to honour love and friendship in all their forms and to highlight what other changes need to happen.

Global Pride Day is held on 27th June and all over the world, there are concerts and parades celebrating Pride and the LGBTQA+ community. The first ever London Pride took place in London on 1st July 1972, this year’s event will take place on 2nd July, and as well as all the usual celebration, it will also mark the 50th anniversary of the event. You can see what is happening at this year’s pride and check the route here.

As part of our Pride celebrations, here are some British LGBTQA+ icons who should definitely be on your radar. Find out more about Britain’s LGBTQA+ history here.

Mark Ashton

Mark Ashton was an Irish activist who co-founded the Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners movement, which was active during the Miners’ Strikes of the 1980s. Together with his friend Mike Jackson, Ashton worked to raise money for miners and their families who were being affected by the strikes and government policy of the time. The group collected donations at the 1984 London Pride, inspiring the film, Pride. As well as supporting gay rights and the miners, Ashton was also a member of the Young Communist League. He was an unfortunate victim of the AIDS epidemic. In 1987, he was admitted to hospital after being diagnosed, he died just 12 days later. He was just 26.

Where to visit:

  • Gay’s the Word bookshop in London. The shop is on the former site where LGSM held their meetings during the Miner’s Strike. There is a Blue Plaque marking the spot.
  • Portrush, Ireland. There is a blue plaque commemorating him here.

Freddie Mercury

Widely considered to be one of the best musicians in history, Freddie Mercury was best known for being the front man of British band Queen. He was known for having a four octave vocal range and having a flamboyant onstage persona.

He was born in Zanzibar before moving to Middlesex with his family where he met his band mates and they rose to fame. While some claim that Mercury hid his sexuality from the public, others said he was openly gay, while others say he identified as bisexual. He was in a long term relationship with Mary Austin in the 1970s and the pair remained close friends until the end of his life. Later, he was in a relationship with Jim Hutton, who was at his side when he died. Like Ashton, Mercury also contracted HIV, confirming that he had AIDs in 1991 the day before he died.

Where to visit:

  • 22 Gladstone Avenue, Feltham, London. Mercury’s family home, there is a blue plaque to commemorate him here.
  • Garden Lodge, Kensington, London, Mercury’s former home.
  • Imperial College, London. The site of Queen’s first London gig.

Anne Lister

As an upper class woman, Anne Lister was afforded a certain amount of freedom that many of her contemporaries did not, but that didn’t stop her scandalising society after embarking on a relationship with a wealthy heiress. The pair married, but not with any legal recognition. Lister is remembered primarily through her diaries that she kept throughout her life and chronicled her many lesbian relationships.

Where to visit:

  • Shibden Hall, nr Halifax. Lister lived here for a time.
  • Halifax – there are walking tours of Halifax which feature several places associated with Anne Lister.

David Hockney

Originally from Bradford, Hockney now lives between London and California and was most active during the 1960s and 1970s. Much of his art featured explicitly gay themes and he was known to associate with other LGBTQA+ artists of the time, including Andy Warhol and Christopher Isherwood. He is considered to be one of the most influential British artists and has lived as an openly gay man through much of his fame.

Where to visit:

  • The Tate. There are displays of Hockney’s work here.
  • Yorkshire. Hockney took inspiration from the countryside around him when living in Yorkshire and you can recognise many of his landscapes.

Alan Turing

Turing was pivotal in cracking codes that led to the end of WWII and is often credited in helping the war end earlier than expected. He was a talented mathematician who was hugely well respected until he was convicted for having a relationship with another man. His punishment was to undergo chemical castration, which led to him taking his own life. In 2013, Turing was among many gay men throughout history to receive a posthumous pardon after historical gross indecency laws were overturned and was later named the Greatest Person of the 20th Century.

Where to visit:

  • Bletchley Park, Milton Keynes, the home of WWII’s codebreakers

Vita Sackville-West

An English poet, novelist and gardener, Vita Sackville-West is better known these days for her relationship with novelist Virginia Woolf, partly because of Woolf’s novel Orlando. Orlando’s protagonist was inspired by Sackville-West and her disregard for gender norms at the time. As well as being in a relationship with Woolf, Sackville-West was married to Sir Harold Nicolson and was known for having had a relationship with another woman, Violet Trefusis.

Where to visit:

  • Sissinghurst Castle, Kent. Sackville West and her husband created the gardens here and lived here.
  • Knole, Langport, Somerset. Sackville West was born here and grew up at the home.

Oscar Wilde

The Irish playwright was one of the most popular writers living in London in the early 1890s and is best known for his novel the Picture of Dorian Gray. At the height of his fame, he was imprisoned for homosexuality. His trial is one of the best-remembered of the time, he was convicted following a rumour of his association with gay prostitutes and his relationship with Lord Alfred Douglas. He was forced to do hard labour for two years and both his mental and physical health declined during this time. He later moved to Europe where he spent much of his time in poverty. His weakened health made him susceptible to illness and he died five days after contracting meningitis in his forties. He was also pardoned under the same act as Alan Turing.

Where to visit:

  • Poet’s Corner, Westminster, London. There is a memorial to Wilde here.
  • Hatchards book Shop, Piccadilly, London. The Royal’s official bookshop and one of the oldest in London, Wilde was known to frequent here.
  • Courthouse Hotel, Soho, London. The courthouse where Wilde was tried is now a hotel, but the original judge’s bench, witness stand and dock are all still there to be seen.

The Ladies of Llangollen

Sarah Ponsonby and Eleanor Butler were two upper class Irish women who were in a relationship with each other. They lived in Llangollen, Wales and both scandalised and fascinated high society during the 17 and 1800s.

Their Welsh home became a favourite with the more bohemian parts of society and they were frequently visited by the links of Lord Byron, Percy Shelley and Josiah Wedgwood. It is also said that Queen Charlotte was fond of them and convinced King George III to grant them a pension.

Where to visit:

  • St Collen’s Church, Llangollen. The pair are buried together here.
  • Plas Newydd. The pair’s former home is now a museum.
  • Butler’s Hill, Llangollen. The name came from Eleanor Butler.

Marion Barbara ‘Joe’ Carstairs

Best known for being a British Power Boat Racer, Carstairs often dressed as a man and often identified as ‘Joe’. They were known to flout convention during the 1900s by cross dressing and being tattooed as well as with their profession. They were openly gay and had many affairs with women, including Oscar Wilde’s niece, Dolly and actresses, Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich.

Where to visit:

  • The Isle of Wight. Carstairs lived and worked here in the 1920s.




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