Events History

Unearthing LGBT+ history at an historic almshouse in Clerkenwell

The Charterhouse is taking part in LGBT+ History Month for the first time this February.

a flyer with a painting of a man with a 17th century long wig on, and the words The Charterhouse LGBT History Month February 2024
© Will Pryce

The Charterhouse is taking part in LGBT+ History Month for the first time this February, when a resident-led programme will start to tell a previously hidden story about the historic institution. Established as an Almshouse in 1611, it remains home to a community of older people today. The programme created by three of the residents compliments this year’s LGBT+ History Month theme Medicine #UnderTheScope, by creating an opportunity for sharing hidden histories which relate to the provision of housing and care for older people. For hundreds of years and until relatively recently, the Charterhouse held an almost unique position in British society by caring for many gay men when they were no longer able to care for themselves.

a painting of a man in full 17th century finery
George Villiers Second Duke of Buckingham. ©Will-Pryce

From its foundation as a medieval monastery until 2017, when women were admitted, the Charterhouse was a predominantly male community. Many who found a haven in the almshouse from the early 17th century onwards were men who had no family to look after them in their older years, and many were gay men. The LGBT+ History Talk & Tour series will bring to light stories featuring historic governors such as the leading Jacobean intellectual Francis Bacon, Lord St Alban and George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham. More recently they will consider the influence of architects Seely & Paget who restored the bomb-damaged buildings after the Second World War, and residents including the distinguished artist Robert Medley who established The Group Theatre with his partner the dancer Rupert Doone.  

A man with grey hair in a dark, grand room
Mansel David in the Great Hall at the Charterhouse Photo: Sekh-Fei De Lacy

Complementing the History Talk & Tour, Mansel David revives his acclaimed show about A.E. Housman with a special performance in the Charterhouse’s Great Chamber. Housman was a poet and classics scholar whose self-published 1896 poem cycle A Shropshire Lad became a publishing phenomenon and connected deeply with thousands of young men.  Mansel brings a clear, queer eye to his performance of A.E. Housman’s words – both his wistful poems and very funny letters – and discovers the yearning and passion burning beneath them.  His career spans television (including Yes Prime Minster), radio drama and stage roles including in London’s West End andhas toured solo shows extensively in Europe and the United States.  

There is a wealth of information and stories past and present to uncover, and the programme aims to be an informative and enjoyable first step which will also contribute to the LGBT+ History Month aim to ‘claim our past, celebrate our present and create our future’.  

LGBT+ History Talk & Tour 

Thursday evenings 1, 8, 15 and 22 February. Tickets: £20 including a glass of wine or soft drink.  

More information here. Book tickets here.

Take Desire Away: The queer sensibility of A.E. Housman in his own words.  Conceived and performed by Mansel David 

Friday 23 February.  Tickets: £25 including a glass of wine or soft drink.  

More information here. Book tickets here.

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