Council House, Old Market Square - photo by Mo Edwards

February has been observed as LGBTQ+ History month in the UK since 2005 – but what actually is our history?

The UK has a 50% satisfaction rate on LGBTQ+ rights in Europe according to Stonewall. But, unfortunately it’s not always been easy.

Homosexuality was illegal until 1967, and many people – especially gay men and transgender women – have been killed and imprisoned because of their sexual orientation and gender identity.

James Pratt and John Smith were hung in public in 1835 and in 1895 poet Oscar Wilde was sentenced to two years of penal labour. Stella Boulton and Fanny Park were transgender women who were arrested and treated horribly for their gender identity in 1870.

Being LGBTQ+ in the past was punishable by:

Fines: which were usually high, meaning that ‘working class’ people who couldn’t pay, were instead jailed.

Imprisonment: Most people were sent to jail for two years just for having a gay relationship, and many of them between 1787 and 1868 were sent to Australia and never returned home.

Death – Capital punishment was used until the late 19th century, but even today there are countries, such as Brunei, who stone LGBTQ+ people to death.

LGBTQ+ history in Nottingham doesn’t just start in the 20th century. Nottingham Castle has had LGBTQ+ people within their walls for hundreds of years.

In the Nottinghamshire Castle Archives, its been recorded from 1381 to 1388 William Neville was Constable of Nottingham Castle, and he was engaged in a ‘wedded brotherhood’ with a fellow knight – Sir John Clanvowe.

The wedded brotherhood is seen by scholars today as an early form of same sex marriage. The two died within days of each other and are buried together. On their tombstone is a carving of the two with their helmets facing together, as if they were kissing.

Also the coats of arms from their two respective families are ‘impaled’ which means the two designs are linked with a sword, which was used in the past to symbolise marriage.

Nottingham Castle

William and John are just one example of LGBTQ+ people though out history – and by finding a way to show their love for each other back then, they have inspired others to come out and show their love in a similar way.

“A lot of homophobia is caused by ignorance, and using LGBT History Month is one way of dispelling that ignorance”

David Edgley, LGBT+ Network

Notts LGBT+ Network are an all-volunteer organisation who have made it their mission to help LGBTQ+ people. David Edgley is a volunteer who believes the LGBTQ+ History Month is important for raising awareness.

Audio: David Edgley on LGBTQ+ History Month

Nottingham has, historically, always been a city with a large LGBTQ+ community. It has the first officially licenced gay club, the first professor of gay and lesbian studies, the first trade union LGBT support group and the first permanent rainbow crossing.

Some of the places you walk by everyday were once and still are a major part of LGBTQ+ history in Nottingham. For example, The Flying Horse Walk shopping mall was once the main gay bar of the city centre in the 1960s.

The Old Dog and Partridge pub on Lower Parliament Street was one of the most popular gay bars of the 1970s. They has a back room in the pub, with a sign which would say ‘private party’ to try to keep straight people away. The landlord at the time played an important role in helping keep LGBTQ+ safe in Nottingham.

There are many places in Nottingham which are LGTBQ+ friendly, and it seems that Nottingham is happy to be allies of the LGBTQ+ community.