Celebrating Pride and Cultural Heritage
As the rights of LGBTQ+ people come increasingly under attack around the globe, World Monuments Fund (WMF) reiterates our commitment to safeguarding queer historic places as part of our broader project to preserve underrepresented heritage. For this year’s Pride, we’re spotlighting the queer stories and figures tied to some of our projects in the United Kingdom—and celebrating the work that historians and conservation professionals can do to preserve marginalized stories and bring them to light.
A flamboyant Gothic confection in southwest London
Featuring papier-mâché detailing and elegant vaulted ceilings, this exuberant mansion in Twickenham anticipated the Victorian fascination with Gothic architecture by several decades. Its architect, the art historian, politician, and novelist Horace Walpole, has been the subject of speculation by historians in recent years regarding his sexuality, and some have interpreted Strawberry Hill as a camp rejection of contemporary ideas about aesthetics and gender. Since its listing on the Watch in 2004, the home, once in a state of extreme disrepair, has been restored and reopened to the public, welcoming visitors with its lavish interior and rich collection of artworks. In 2022, WMF’s Paul Mellon Lecture (UK) was dedicated to Strawberry Hill and the preservation of queer stories in the cultural sector to mark the 50th anniversary of the United Kingdom’s first Pride celebration.
Home of an icon of English Romanticism
Mourning the steady deterioration of his ancestral home with the passage of time, Lord Byron penned the poem “On Leaving Newstead Abbey” before selling the medieval structure to his friend Thomas Wildman. One of the leading lights of English Romanticism, Byron’s personal life was the subject of near-constant scandal, earning him the moniker “mad, bad, and dangerous to know.” Even so, it is only relatively recently that details about his bisexuality, long concealed, have come to light. In 2012, almost 200 years after Byron lamented that Newstead Abbey “art gone to decay,” WMF listed the site on our Watch, beginning a relationship with the site that was instrumental in securing funds from generous donors and from Historic England to aid in restoration. The same year the restoration work was completed, a rainbow flag was flown over Newstead Abbey for the first time in honor of its most celebrated resident.
A spire ringed by unicorns and lions
This London church by Nicholas Hawksmoor, a student of Sir Christopher Wren, is capped with what has been called London’s most eccentric spire, featuring sculptures of lions and unicorns. The church was an exuberant mélange of references even before Victorian changes radically altered Hawksmoor’s original design, reorienting the nave and obscuring the original spirit of the place. Following the building’s listing on the 2002 World Monuments Watch, conservation and restoration work were undertaken, bringing the interior back in line with Hawksmoor’s vision. In 2023, the church was featured by Mok O’Keeffe (better known online as The Gay Aristo) on his YouTube channel, which highlights the diversity of British heritage with a particular emphasis on queer stories.
World Monuments Fund safeguards cultural heritage around the globe, ensuring our treasured places are preserved for present and future generations.
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