Hampshire’s LGBT+ History

February is LGBT+ History Month, a celebration of queer history, gay rights, and LGBTQIA+ icons. It was established in 1994 by Rodney Wilson, a high school history teacher in Missouri, and is the perfect excuse to look at some important figures in Hampshire’s LGBT+ history.

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Lord Montagu of Beaulieu


Hampshire has been home to many an icon, and one of the most important court cases for gay rights has links to Beaulieu on the edge of the New Forest. Lord Montagu of Beaulieu Palace House was at the centre of a pivotal case when he was arrested in 1954 for “homosexual offences”. He was imprisoned for twelve months, and the resulting media frenzy was influential in reforming the law criminalising homosexuality.

Photo credit: By Allan warren – Own work allanwarren.com, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9700040
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Dame Ethel Smyth


Dame Ethel Smyth lived near Frimley Green during her childhood, and came to prominence due to her success as a composer while the music field was still very much dominated by men. She was also a pioneer of the suffragette movement, and is rumoured to have had an affair with Emmeline Pankhurst, who founded the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU).



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George Ives


George Ives was another key figure in bringing about reform. Ives grew up in the Hampshire village of Bentworth, and tirelessly campaigned for gay rights throughout his life. He founded the Order of Chaeronea in 1897, which was a secret society for gay men, and some lesbian women, to socialise and campaign together.



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Clare Balding

Clare Balding is a broadcaster, journalist, and author who was born in Kingsclere in Hampshire. In 2013, Women’s Hour claimed her as one of the 100 most powerful women in the UK, and in 2022 she was awarded a CBE for her services to sport and charity. She has been in a long term relationship with newsreader Alice Arnold for many years; in 2006 they entered into a civil partnership and in 2015 the couple married in a private ceremony.

Photo credit: By Herry Lawford – https://www.flickr.com/photos/herry/23156075139/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=106144180


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