NOEL COWARD © Horst / National Portrait Gallery

Gay Blue Plaques: Where famous LGBTQ+ people lived in London

For most of its long history, London has been in denial about the gay men and women who have made an indelible impact on it. In every profession and walk of life, LGBTQ+ people have contributed to the city. We will never know the full extent of this contribution, but for the people who forged a reputation that has lived on beyond their death, and whose sexuality became known, we are able to celebrate their lives.

Some of the famous ones get Plaques, particularly the Blue Plaques organised by English Heritage, to mark where notable Londoners have lived. Here’s a rough guide to some of the most obvious ones, but we are also on the hunt for more hidden examples. If you have any suggestions we would love to hear from you. Also check out our London Gay History section. Coming soon, we plan to develop this into a number of walking tours of London.

Famous LGBTQ+ people with English Heritage blue plaques include: Oscar Wilde; Lytton Strachey, John Maynard Keynes and the Bloomsbury Group; Radclyffe Hall; Noel Coward; E.M. Forster; Siegfried Sassoon; Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West; Alan Turing; John Gielgud; Kenneth Williams; Ivor Novello; Derek Jarman; Freddie Mercury; Francis Bacon.

Other gays who have plaques put up by other organisations include: Joe Orton; Mark Ashton; Kenny Everett; Frankie Howerd; J.R. Ackerley; Charles Robert Ashbee.

And plaques that don’t exist yet, but that we would like to see, including: Binkie Beaumont; George Michael; Quentin Crisp; Mary Benson; Howard Hodgkin.

Queer Plaques! Blue Plaques of Famous Gay Londoners

Oscar Wilde

Blue Plaque: Oscar Wilde, 34 Tite Street, Chelsea, SW3 4JA (More)

OSCAR WILDE © National Portrait Gallery

There’s no gay Londoner, no gay man in Britain, more famous – or infamous – than Oscar Wilde. Famed for his plays, prose and poetry; and then forever associated with the conviction he received, and the prison sentence he served. For being gay. Like many thousands of Londoners before and after him.

Wilde’s ghost criss-crosses London: from the Haymarket Theatre where A Woman of No Importance and An Ideal Husband premiered in the 1890s; to his reclining statue on Adelaide Street; and Bow Street magistrates court, where in 1895 he was tried for gross indecency and sentenced to two years hard labour.

He served his time in Wandsworth prison and Reading goal, and then left for Europe, bankrupt and suffering from increasing ill health. He died three years after his release. In his De Profundis letter, written whilst he was in prison and published in 1905, Wilde wrote: 

Society as we have constituted it, will have no place for me, has none to offer; but Nature, whose sweet rains fall on just and unjust alike, will have clefts in the rocks where I may hide, and secret valleys in whose silence I may weep undisturbed.

Other London places connected to Oscar Wilde include 40 Half Moon Street in Piccadilly where his first lover, and his best friend, the journalist Robert Ross lived. Number 14 on the same street – which is now Flemings Hotel – was the inspiration for Algernon Moncrieff’s bachelor pad in ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’.

Maggi Hambling’s statue of Wilde, called A Conversation with Oscar Wilde, is placed at the end of Adelaide Street near Charing cross station.

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Lytton Strachey, John Maynard Keynes and the Bloomsbury Group

Blue Plaques: Lytton Strachey, No. 51 Gordon Square WC1H (More); John Maynard Keynes, No, 46 Gordon Square WC1H (More)

In the early 20th century a set of young, Cambridge-educated men sought to break free of the Victorian morals which had put Oscar Wilde in prison. From their secret society at Cambridge University called ‘The Apostles’, the group, who were liberal in terms of their politics and their personal relationships, eventually settled around Gordon Square in the Bloomsbury area of London, to become known as the ‘Bloomsbury Group’.

At the epicentre of the Bloomsbury Group were the biographer and writer Lytton Strachey and the economist John Maynard Keynes. Both men had numerous gay affairs – including with each other, and the artist Duncan Grant. They refused to conform to the normal moral standards of Edwardian society and were a clear precursor to the sexual liberation that would follow many years later after World War 2.

The Bloomsbury group also included acclaimed writer Virginia Woolf, who famously had an affair with Vita Sackville West; and Virginia’s sister – artist Vanessa Bell.

That’s not to say Strachey, Keynes, Grant and Woolf were strictly gay: Keynes eventually married the ballet dancer Lydia Lopokova, Strachey set up house with the painter Dora Carrington, Grant had a romantic relationship with Vanessa Bell, with whom he had a daughter, and Woolf was married to Leonard Woolf.

Living in Gordon Square in Bloomsbury before the outbreak of the First World War, Keynes recalled the atmosphere of the times: “It was exciting, exhilarating, the beginning of a renaissance, the opening of a new heaven on a new earth, we were the forerunners of a new dispensation, we were not afraid of anything. 

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Noel Coward

NOEL COWARD © Horst / National Portrait Gallery

Blue Plaque: Noel Coward, 131 Waldegrave Road, Teddington, TW11 8BB (More); Plaque: Noel Coward, 17 Gerald Road & 1 Burton Mews, Belgravia, London, SW1 (More)

Noël Coward dominated London’s cultural life in the first half of the Twentieth Century, and his prolific success as an actor, playwright, director and songwriter generated over 50 plays and hundreds of songs.

He was also a famous wit, and a fully-formed, card-carrying gay man – albeit not “out” in any sense we would understand today.

Coward started his life in Teddington, on the fringes of London, before his devoted mother Violet Coward directed him towards the stage, and eventually set up a boarding house in 1917 in Ebury Street, SW1 – presumably to be closer to the West End and London’s theatre scene.

Coward was considered a child prodigy, making his professional début as an actor at the age of 12, and in 1919 taking the lead role in his own comedy, I’ll Leave It to You.

His breakout play, in which he also starred, was The Vortex  in 1924, launching Coward on to the world stage, with hit after hit following in quick succession, including Hay Fever in 1925 and Private Lives in 1930.

His work and life made an enormous cultural and social impact on London and the world, with his plays pushing the boundaries of what was acceptable, and using his trademark wit and glamour to reveal emotional and sexual complexity hiding in plain sight; and his life also pushing boundaries: homosexuality was illegal for much of Coward’s life, and yet he lived as openly as possible as a gay man, albeit a rich, famous, glamorous and exceedingly witty one! His bitchy one-liners were slaying London way before Ru Paul’s Drag Race finally landed on British shores.

Coward spent the last 25 years of his life largely in Jamaica, where he died in 1973.  He was survived by his long-term partner, Graham Payn.

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Radclyffe Hall

Blue Plaque: Radclyffe Hall, 37 Holland Street, Kensington, W8 4LX (More)

Novelist Radclyffe Hall rebelled against the social prejudices suffered by LGBTQ+ people in the early 20th century, writing her extraordinary novel The Well of Loneliness in 1928. She had this this to say to publisher:  “I have put my pen at the service of some of the most persecuted and misunderstood people in the world… So far as I know nothing of the kind has ever been attempted in fiction.

These “misunderstood people” were, like her, people whose natural gender was different to their biological one, meaning that their sexual impulses were towards people of the same biological sex. At least, that’s what the early scientific studies of sexuality said, there being little difference at that time between transgender identity and homosexuality.

Hall dressed in men’s clothes and often used the name John, though she referred to herself as ‘she’. In 1907 she fell in love with the singer Mabel Batten and their romance lasted until Batten’s death in 1916. Hall later formed a long-term relationship with Batten’s cousin, Lady Una Troubridge, living with her from 1918 until Hall’s death in 1943. 

Although both Hall and Ellis considered sexual inversion to be an affliction, they also believed it to be a condition people were born with and something which should be accepted. It was for this reason Hall wrote The Well of Loneliness, which was banned three weeks after it was published in 1928, and not seen again until 1949!

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E.M. Forster

Blue Plaque: EM Forster, Arlington Park Mansions, Sutton Lane, Turnham Green, W4 4HE (More)

EM FORSTER © National Portrait Gallery

Novelist EM Forster, along with Virginia Woolf (see below), defended The Well of Loneliness at its 1928 obscenity trial.

EM Forster had also written a novel about homosexual love – Maurice – between 1910 and 1913, just before he had his first gay affair. But the novel remained as a manuscript for EM Forster’s whole lifetime, and was only published in 1971 after his death.

Forster had been inspired to write Maurice after visiting the early gay rights advocate Edward Carpenter and his partner George Merrill.

In its frankness about homosexuality, Maurice was revolutionary for the times. It was also, Forster thought, completely unpublishable. He only shared the manuscript with friends during his lifetime and Maurice wasn’t published until 1971, the year after Forster’s death. Forster wrote of the novel:  “A happy ending was imperative… I was determined that in fiction anyway two men should fall in love and remain in it for the ever and ever that fiction allows. 

Forster himself was 51 when he experienced that happiness for the first time, although there had been lovers along the way including Met policeman Harry Daley; but it was another policeman, Robert Joseph ‘Bob’ Buckingham, who stole his heart. In Hammersmith in 1930 he formed a loving partnership with Bob that lasted until his death. Although Bob married in 1932, the three developed a triangular relationship that appeared to work for all of them. Two years after meeting Bob, Forster wrote:  “I have been happy, and would like to remind others that their turns can come too. It is the only message worth giving“.

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Siegfried Sassoon

Blue Plaque: Siegfried Sassoon, 23 Campden Hill Square, Holland Park, W8 7JY (More)

In the early 1920s the poet Siegfried Sassoon toyed with writing a novel about homosexuality – or as he termed it, a â€˜Madame Bovary of sexual inversion’. He had come to accept and understand his own sexuality, helped in part by Edward Carpenter’s 1908 book The Intermediate Sex, which made a case for social acceptance of same sex relationships. Like EM Forster (above) – who became a friend of Sassoon’s in London – Sassoon revered Carpenter as ‘the leader and the prophet’. In a letter to Carpenter before the First World War, he wrote: 

What ideas I had about homosexuality were absolutely prejudicial and I was in such a groove that I couldn’t allow myself to be what I wished to be… the intense attraction I felt for my own sex was almost a subconscious thing and my antipathies for women a mystery to me…

I cannot say what it [The Intermediate Sex] has done for me. I am a different being and have a definite aim in life and something to lean on. 

After the war Sassoon had affairs with Prince Phillip of Hesse, Ivor Novello and the actor Glen Byam Shaw. Towards the end of the 1920s he started what would be his most consuming love affair – with the ‘Bright Young Thing’ Stephen Tennant. ‘You are the person I’ve most loved in my life,’ Sassoon wrote to Tennant, describing him in his diary as ‘the most enchanting creature I have ever met’. On their first night together they drove from a party at Tennant’s Wiltshire home to Stonehenge and stayed out until dawn, during which time Sassoon recalls Tennant making ‘the most passionate avowals and simply intoxicating my senses.’ 

The affair came to an end in 1932 and Sassoon surprised his friends by marrying Hester Gatty in 1933. They had a son together but the marriage broke up in 1944.

Sassoon never wrote his Madame Bovary. In 1929 he read the manuscript of Forster’s Maurice and Forster told him of the difficulties he’d had writing the novel. He felt he had achieved something original, Forster said, ‘though possibly the real right thing, shaming our clumsy efforts, lies buried in a hundred drawers.’

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Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West

Blue Plaque: Virginia Woolf, 29 Fitzroy Square, Fitzrovia, W1T 5LP (More), and 34 Paradise Road, Richmond, TW9 1SE (More); Vita Sackville-West, 182 Ebury Street, Belgravia, SW1W 8UP (More)

VIRGINIA WOOLF © National Portrait Gallery

While Radclyffe Hall, EM Forster and Siegfried Sassoon struggled to write openly about homosexuality, Virginia Woolf published Orlando (1928) – a daring but playful novel which unravelled socially accepted categories of gender and sexuality. Released in the same year Hall’s lesbian novel The Well of Loneliness was banned, Woolf dedicated Orlando to the writer Vita Sackville-West, with whom she had fallen in love three years earlier. The title character – inspired by Sackville-West – is a time-travelling, gender-changing aristocrat who has affairs with both men and women across continents and centuries. Sackville-West’s son, Nigel Nicolson, later called the novel ‘the longest and most charming love letter in literature’.

Woolf first met Sackville-West in 1922, when she described her in her diary as a ‘florid, moustached, parakeet coloured’ aristocrat. But by 1925 their correspondence had developed into a love affair which lasted until the 1930s. ‘I am reduced to a thing that wants Virginia,’ Sackville-West wrote to Woolf in 1926. The following year, Woolf seemed similarly love-struck: “Look here Vita — throw over your man, and we’ll go to Hampton Court and dine on the river together and walk in the garden in the moonlight and come home late and have a bottle of wine and get tipsy, and I’ll tell you all the things I have in my head, millions, myriads — They won’t stir by day, only by dark on the river. Think of that. Throw over your man, I say, and come. 

The man in question was Harold Nicolson, Sackville-West’s husband. Nicolson and Sackville-West maintained a more-or-less happy open relationship, in which both had homosexual affairs. Sackville-West had already had one particularly passionate affair with Violet Trefusis, in which the two women eloped to France and Sackville-West adopted the persona of ‘Julian’ to pass as a man.   

Woolf identified Sackville-West as a ‘Sapphist’ but she never applied the term to herself. She was married to Leonard Woolf from 1912 until her death, and the union was largely a happy one. For Woolf, sexuality was never easily defined.  

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Alan Turing

Blue Plaque: Alan Turing, 2 Warrington Crescent, Maida Vale, W9 1ER (More)

Although the writings of Edward Carpenter and the liberal attitudes of the Bloomsbury Group signalled the start of a gay liberation movement, the state lagged far behind. In 1952 the brilliant mathematician and pioneer of computing Alan Turing was convicted for gross indecency under the same laws that ruined Oscar Wilde in 1895. Unlike many gay men of the time, Turing was open about his sexuality. When his house was burgled in 1952, he told police that the culprit was a friend of his lover, Arnold Murray, and Turing was subsequently arrested for his homosexuality. At his trial in March that year, Turing didn’t deny the charges and told the court he saw no wrong in his actions.

His punishment was severe. To avoid prison, Turing was forced to take injections of oestrogen. Called a ‘chemical castration’, the drugs were designed to render him asexual. He wrote to a friend: “I have had a dream indicating rather clearly that I am on the way to being hetero, though I don’t accept it with much enthusiasm either awake or in the dreams. 

Although he continued to work, developing his morphogenetic theory and renewing an early interest in quantum physics, his conviction barred him from continuing his role at GCHQ. His sexuality was regarded as a security risk and he was monitored closely by the government.

He died two years after his conviction in an apparent suicide.

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John Gielgud

Blue Plaque: Sir John Gielgud, 16 Cowley Street, Westminster SW1P 3LZ (More)

Sir John Gielgud was one of the nation’s most famous actors when he was prosecuted for ‘persistent opportuning’ in 1953. His arrest in a Chelsea lavatory – just a few weeks after he was knighted – caused a national scandal. Gielgud had given the ‘gad eye’ to a young man who turned out to be an undercover police officer. The next day Gielgud appeared before a magistrate, who fined him £10 and told him to ‘see your doctor the moment you leave this court.’ Despite Gielgud’s attempts to hide his identity, a reporter from the Evening Standard recognised his voice in court and the story made front-page news.

His fellow actors and producers in the play he was appearing in – A Day By The Sea â€“ stood by him. Hate mail was redirected from the stage door to Dame Sybil Thorndike at her request and the public received him warmly. Nevertheless Gielgud suffered a personal breakdown five months later and never spoke in public about the incident.

Coming a year after Turing’s conviction (see above), Gielgud’s arrest has since been placed in the context of a 1950s witch-hunt against homosexual men. But the attention that Gielgud’s case received and the apparent public sympathy for him has led some to suggest that the case helped to bring the country nearer to legalising homosexuality. It was a measure of how far attitudes towards homosexuality had changed when in 1975 Gielgud played his first gay role, in Harold Pinter’s No Man’s Land, directed by Peter Hall.

Gielgud contributed privately to the gay rights organisation Stonewall but had earlier told Ian McKellen that he didn’t want to be known as ‘the first queer to be knighted’ and confined his public political gestures to animal rights. Gielgud died in May 2000, 16 months after the death of his partner of 40 years, Martin Hensler.

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Kenneth Williams

Blue Plaque: Kenneth Williams, Farley Court, Allsop Place, Marylebone, NW1 5LG (More)

‘How bona to vada your dolly old eek again!’* With this oft-repeated catchphrase on the 1960s BBC radio show Round the Horne, an unwitting British public was introduced to polari – the London slang used by gay subcultures. Kenneth Williams and Hugh Paddick played the two camp out of work actors Sandy and Julian, and together they loaded their lines with exaggerated innuendo from the secret language: ‘huge lallies’ was one favourite phrase, ‘lallies’ actually meaning legs. A jumbled mixture of Yiddish, Italian, lingua franca and backslang (saying words as if spelt backwards), polari allowed gay men to communicate and identify themselves as homosexual without risking exposure or censure. When the programme was first broadcast in 1965, homosexuality was still illegal, but following its decriminalisation in 1967 polari fell out of common usage among the gay community.

Kenneth Williams Passage, just off the Caledonian Road

Kenneth Williams did not talk publicly about his own sexuality. His diaries, which were published after his death, reveal that he was attracted to men but it appears he had few, if any, significant romantic relationships. ‘I know how much I long for strong arms and the warmth of unquestioning love; and I know how quickly I would destroy it,’ he wrote in 1965. 

He was less reticent when in character however and his camp persona made visible a homosexual subculture which was only just beginning to secure a place in public society. *Loosely, ‘Nice to see you again!’

There is also a sweet unofficial plaque celebrating Kenneth’s birthplace: Kenneth Williams Passage is near 6 6 Bingfield Street, N1 1EE (see it on Google Street View)

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Ivor Novello

Blue Plaque: Ivor Novello, 11 Aldwych, Covent Garden, London, WC2B 4DG (More)

The composer and actor-manager Ivor Novello is most famous for his West End musical productions Glamorous Night (1935) and Dancing Years (1939). He lived for 38 years at 11 Aldwych in Covent Garden in a top floor flat above the Strand Theatre (now Novello Theatre).

Born in Cardiff as David Ivor Davies, he developed a strong interest in music and the world of theatre from his mother, Clara Novello Davies, who taught singing. In 1927 David changed his name to Ivor Novello by deed poll, having already begun to make his mark with works such as the 1914 song Keep the Home Fires Burning (Till the Boys Come Home). He made his debut as an actor in the silent film The Call of the Blood (1920), and enjoyed subsequent success on stage and screen. He performed in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lodger (1926) and the 1924 play The Rat, which he co-wrote.

Novello was best known for his succession of brilliant musical shows, the bulk of which were composed with Christopher Hassall as lyricist and starred Novello himself. They included Glamorous Night (1935), Careless Rapture (1936), The Dancing Years (1939) and King’s Rhapsody (1949). The latter also starred the actor Bobbie Andrews, Novello’s life partner who he first met in 1916.

Novello and his mother settled at 11 Aldwych in 1913. It was part of a block built in 1905 to the designs of WGR Sprague and situated adjacent to the Waldorf Hotel, on the corner of Catherine Street. The flat remained Ivor’s London residence until his death here at the age of 58 in the presence of Bobbie Andrews.

Novello was noted for his hospitality. He entertained regularly both in London and at his country home, Redroofs, near Maidenhead in Berkshire. ‘The Flat’, as it was known to theatrical London, was the setting for a number of sparkling parties, which were ‘a signal for general rejoicing’. In his memoirs, Noël Coward described how it was accessed either by an ancient and unreliable lift or by seven long flights of stairs. “The big room of the flat had a raised dais running across one end. Upon this, there were sometimes two, at other times no grand pianos . . . The high spots of the parties were reached in this room. Charades were performed, people did stunts . . . Visiting musicians were subtly lured to the piano. Native musicians rushed to it.

Names written in Novello’s guest books include Douglas Fairbanks Junior, Paul Robeson and Vivien Leigh.

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Derek Jarman

Blue Plaque: Derek Jarman, Butler’s Wharf Building, 36 Shad Thames, London, SE1 2YE (More). We would also like to see a plaque at: Phoenix House, 104-110 Charing Cross Rd, West End, London WC2H 0JN

Film-maker, artist and gay rights campaigner Derek Jarman (1913 – 1967). He is commemorated with a blue plaque at Butler’s Wharf Building in Southwark where he lived and worked from 1973 until 1979. He moved into his flat in Phoenix House on Charing Cross Road in 1984, and is credited with spearheading Soho becoming the gay epicentre of London.

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Freddie Mercury

Blue Plaque: Freddie Mercury, 22 Gladstone Avenue, Feltham, London, TW14 9LL (More). We would also like to see a plaque at: Garden Lodge, 1 Logan Place, Kensington, London W8 

Freddie Mercury (1946 – 1991), talented singer and songwriter, and lead singer of rock band Queen, lived in Gladstone Avenue with his family when he was a teenager. He also lived in Garden Lodge in Kensington from 1985 until he died in 1991.

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Francis Bacon

Blue Plaque: Francis Bacon, 7 Reece Mews, South Kensington, London, SW7 3HE (More)

Painter Francis Bacon (1909 – 1992) lived and worked at 7 Reece Mews in South Kensington from 1961 til his death in 1992, producing many of his most important works.

Bacon is one of the most significant artists of the 20th Century. During the 1950s and 1960s he was at the centre of the renowned Soho Colony Room drinking club, whose other members included Lucian Freud, Frank Auerbach, Henrietta Moraes and John Deakin. He would often paint in the morning, and then venture over to Soho in the afternoon for a day of drinking and gambling.

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Other LGBTQ+ Plaques

Of course, not all plaques are the preserve of English Heritage! There are a number of other private plaques, and plaques from public organisations and societies, up on buildings to commemorate the person who lived there. Here are just a few of the notable LGBTQ ones. And some actually are blue!

Joe Orton

Plaque: Joe Orton, 25 Noel Road, Islington, N1 (More)

Infamous Sixties playwright Joel Orton (1933 – 1967), who lived on Noel Road from 1960 until 1967, when he has murdered by his lover Kenneth Halliwell. Orton’s life was immortalised in Stephen Frears 1987 film Prick Up Your Ears, with a screenplay by Alan Bennett based on John Lahr’s biography, and starring a very young Gary Oldman and Alfred Molina.

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Mark Ashton

Plaque: Mark Ashton, Gay”s The Word, 66 Marchmont Street, WC1N 1AB

Anyone who has seen the acclaimed 2014 movie “Pride” will know who Mark Ashton is. He was a co-founder in 1984 of the Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM), which raised £22,000 for Welsh miners who went on strike against the closure of coal mines under Margaret Thatcher. The story was immortalised in Stephen Beresford and Matthew Warchus’s movie, with Mark played by Ben Schnetzer.

Mark also volunteered with the London Lesbian and Gay Switchboard and was the general secretary for the Young Communist League. He died on 11 February 1987 aged only 26, from AIDS related illnesses.

His plaque, positioned on the side of the Gay’s The Word bookshop, says: “Mark Ashton 1960-1987, Political and community activist. LGSM met at Gay’s The Word bookshop on this site 1984/5”. There is also an ongoing campaign to see a plaque put up in Portrush in Northern Ireland, where he spent a large part of his childhood and was a graduate of the Northern Ireland Hotel and Catering College.

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Kenny Everett

Plaque: Kenny Everett, 91 Lexham Gardens, Kensington (More)

Kenny Everett (1944 – 1995) was a revolutionary British broadcaster and entertainer. He lived in Lexham Gardens from 1981 to until his death from AIDS-related illness in 1995.

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Frankie Howerd

Plaque: Frankie Howerd, 27 Edwardes Square, London W8 (More)

Acclaimed comic and entertainer Frankie Howerd (1917 – 1992) had an acclaimed career which spanned six decades.

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J.R. Acklerley

Plaque: J R Ackerley, 17 Star and Garter Mansions, Lower Richmond Road, SW151JN

Joe Randolph Ackerley (1896 – 1967) was resident at 17 Star & Garter Mansions from 1941 until his death in 1967. Ackerley was a writer and literary and arts editor who fostered the careers of a number of major writers such as Philip Larkin, W H Auden, Stephen Spender, Christopher Isherwood and Francis King. A long-time friend and literary associate of E M Forster, he was connected to ‘everyone who was anyone’ in English letters of the time, an intimate of Auden, and venerated by the post-Bloomsbury circle of gay writers. As a writer himself his output was small – but his three autobiographical works, one novel and several poems are considered ‘minor masterpieces’ noted for the candour of their content and bold themes. The novel My Dog Tulip is a comic memoir called by Christopher Isherwood “one of the greatest masterpieces of animal literature”. It gives a moving account of living with his difficult dog Queenie in the flat, and details encounters with Putney residents on his regular trips to bathe in his beloved Queensmere on Wimbledon Common. The book has been made into a feature length animation film starring the late Christopher Plummer as Ackerley.

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Charles Robert Ashbee

Plaque: Charles Robert Ashbee, Onyx House, 401 Mile End Road, E3

Charles Robert Ashbee (1863 – 1942) was a gay British architect and designer , who was a key figure in the Arts & Crafts movement in the UK. His disciplines included metalwork, textile design, furniture, jewellery and other objects in the British Art Nouveau and the Arts & Crafts styles.

He set up his Guild and School of Handicraft in 1888, eventually moving the workshop to Essex House in Mile End Road, where the plaque is located. He also had a shop in Brook Street in Mayfair.

His plaque at Onyx House in East London, where his workshop used to stand, reads: “Onyx House Mile End Road in 1891 C. R. Ashbee, architect and founder of the survey of London, set up the workshops of the Guild of Handicraft in Essex House which formerly stood on this site.”

Charles was gay at a time when homosexuality was illegal, and rumour has it that he was a member of the secret gay society the Order of Chaeronea, which was set up in 1897 by George Ives for the “cultivation of a homosexual ethos”. Like many gay men of the time, he married a woman – Janet Elizabeth Forbes, the daughter of a wealthy London stockbroker, who he came out to just after she had accepted his marriage proposal! They went on to have four children.

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And Gay Plaques We Would Like To See

Binkie Beaumont

Binkie Beaumont, 13-14 Lord North Street, SW1P

BINKIE BEAUMONT Angus McBean Photograph. © Harvard Theatre Collection, Harvard University

Binkie Beaumont (1908 – 1973) was one of the greatest theatrical impressarios of the Twentieth Century, and a darling of the West End for decades, where he produced hundreds and plays and musicals. He lived in in 13 and 14 Lord North Street, which he’d knocked into one house (they are now separate again) and lived there for over 40 years. His famous soirees featured an array of stars including In addition to Monroe, Beaumont’s legendary soirees saw many other well-known names visit the house, including Sir John Gielgud, Laurence Olivier, Vivien Leigh, Katherine Hepburn, Ingrid Bergman, Noël Coward, Terence Rattigan and Cecil Beaton.

He died at his house in Lord North Street in 1973, aged 64.

For more info on Binkie, check out Neil Sean’s profile in this short video; view pictures of Binkie’s former home on Lord North Street; and here is a profile of Binkie on

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Howard Hodgkin

Howard Hodgkin, Coptic Street, London, United Kingdom, WC1A 1NP

Sir Gordon Howard Eliott Hodgkin (1932 – 2017) was a British painter and printmaker, and his work is most often associated with abstraction. Hodgkin is a hugely important figure in British art, and a towering figure as a queer artist.

In 1955, he married Julia Lane, and had two children, but he knew he always knew that he was gay. He spent his last thirty years with the music writer Antony Peattie.

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George Michael

Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou, 5 The Grove, Highgate, N6

Pop superstar George Michael (1963 – 2016) made and left a fabulous impression on the world, primarily with his talent for music, but also for the way he lived his life. A true pop star in the band Wham with Andrew Ridgeley, he went on to forge a solo career that projected him into global superstardom. He was also a gay man, who lived in the closet for the first part of his career, and then made up for the silence by being a strong and vocal advocate for LGBTQ+ rights and freedom.

On 7 April 1998, George was arrested for “engaging in a lewd act” in a public toilet in the Will Rogers Memorial Park in Beverly Hills, California. In a practice that has been happening since public toilets first opened, he was caught in an undercover sting operation by the LA PD, with Marcelo Rodríguez as the undercover policeman who entrapped him. The event led to an international scandal, resulting in George coming out publicly for the first time, and releasing the 1998 hit “Outside”.

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Quentin Crisp

Quentin Crisp, 129 Beaufort Street, Chelsea, London, SW3

Fabulous English writer, raconteur and actor Quentin Crisp (1908 – 1999). In 1940 he moved into a first-floor bedsit at 129 Beaufort Street in Chelsea, where he remained until he emigrated to the US in 1981.

He famously never did any housework, writing in his memoir The Naked Civil Servant that”after the first four years the dirt doesn’t get any worse.”

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Mary Benson

Mary Benson, Lambeth Palace, London SE1 7JU

At the age of 12, Mary Benson (1841 – 1918) was married to the future Archbishop of Canterbury, Edward Benson (1829 – 1896). Despite having six children with him, Mary was a lesbian and had a number of affairs with women during her marriage. The most famous was Lucy Tait, the daughter of Edward Benson’s predecessor, Archibald Tait. After Edward died she lived with Lucy in the Sussex Downs.

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Blue Plaques in Greater London

Ethel Smyth, author and suffragette. Brettanby Cottage, Hook Heath Road, Woking, GU22 0QE. More >

📷 Main photo: NOEL COWARD © Horst / National Portrait Gallery

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