Oscar Wilde’s House, Five Other Sites Recognized For Significance To Gay History
The former home of writer Oscar Wilde is one of six sites recognized by Historic England, an arm of the British government, for having significance to LGBTQ history.
Duncan Wilson, the chief executive of Historic England, said in a telephone interview with The New York Times that the decision was “part of a deliberate policy of looking at what we protect and commemorate by a listing, to see that it is more representative of society as a whole.”
Wilde lived in the house, at 34 Tite Street, with his wife, Constance Lloyd, and their two children from 1884 until his trial for “gross indecency” in 1895.
The listing on Historic England’s website reads:
It was the family home of Oscar Wilde and his wife Constance Lloyd from their marriage in 1884, and that of their children, Cyril, born in 1885, and Vyvyan, 1886. The family lived there until Wilde’s trial for ‘gross indecency’ in 1895, when he was sentenced to two years with hard labour after being found guilty of engaging in sexual acts with other men. Following his conviction, Constance took the surname ‘Holland’ in a bid to disassociate herself from the scandal, and moved her sons to schools in Europe. The house has a London County Council (LCC) plaque on it, recording the association with Wilde. Brick-built with two-storeyed bay window. Three storeys, basement and attic. E W Godwin decorated the interior for Wilde in 1884.
Another site designated significant to LGBTQ history in England is the Red House, in Aldeburgh, where composer Benjamin Britten and his partner, singer Peter Pears, lived together from 1957 until Britten’s death in 1976. It is run by the Britten-Pears Foundation and is open to the public, unlike the Wilde house which is still a private residence.
Two other homes made the cut as well.
Shibden Hall, in Halifax in West Yorkshire, was the home of Anne Lister, which she shared for several years with her partner, Ann Walker. Lister kept diaries, partly in code, about her relationships with women.
St. Ann’s Court, in Chertsey, a suburb in Surrey, was home to two men, Gerald Schlesinger and Christopher Tunnard, who designed it in response to laws that made homosexual sex a crime, even in one’s own home. The master bedroom was able to be separated into two, so as to give the illusion that they slept apart.
The Burdett-Coutts Memorial Sundial at St. Pancras Gardens in London was also selected. It honors, among others, Chevalier d’Eon, a French spy and diplomat, who fought in the Seven Years’ War and presented both as male and female at various points throughout life.
The grave of Amelia Edwards, a writer, musician and founder of Egyptology, rounds out the sites considered an important part of “queer history.”
It is located in St. Mary’s Churchyard, Hendon. She and her partner, Ellen Braysher, lived in the nearby town of Weston-super-Mare.