The Early Years – Introduction

At the time of the Enlightenment, science sought to explain and categorise things and so a medical discourse grew around a “normal” sexuality which was required for procreation. As a result. anything else came to be seen as abnormal or even deviant. These deviant acts were named and outlawed, as can be seen in the […]

In His True Element

In May 1936, the Western Morning news reported the story of Mark Weston, a thirty year old Oreston resident who, having always been raised as a woman, was now “in his true element” after two operations to correct his gender to male. In the words of Mr. L. R. Broster, the Harley Street surgeon who […]

The Long Arm of the Law

Photo of Plymouth Borough Prison

Although the church already banned all male sexual relationships, the first known criminal law against sexual relations between men occurred with the introduction of the Buggery Act 1553. Punishable by death, the last execution for the offence took place in Great Britain in 1836. During the 30 years before this, 404 men were sentenced to death with 56 of them […]

Robert Gould Shaw III Nancy Astor’s Son

Charcoal drawing by John Singer Sargent - Robert Gould Shaw III

In the summer of 1931 Bobbie Shaw, the son of Lady Nancy Astor, ex Guardsman, champion steeplechaser and heavy drinker was arrested for ‘a homosexual act’. The arrest came just a week before Lady Nancy and Lord Waldorf Astor were due to take a diplomatic trip to Russia with George Bernard Shaw. It is reputed that the police told the Astors […]

Plymouth-Borough-Prison-Greenbank

Plymouth-Borough-Prison-Greenbank, a photo by Pride in Our Past on Flickr. Via Flickr: Many of the convictions for homosexual offences we have discovered led to a stint in the Plymouth Borough Prison at Greenbank. It was completed in April 1849 and designed in the style of the famous Pentonville Prison. It had 60 cells, with a […]

Cathrine St Plymouth

cathrine-st-plymouth, a photo by Pride in Our Past on Flickr. Via Flickr: 24 year old Henry who was brought to trial over Christmas 1925 for ‘importuning and soliciting men for immoral purposes’ and whose New Year brought with it six months hard labour! ‘Cruising’ streets, parks or urinals was criminalised as the offence of ‘importuning’ […]