York Castle Museum

York Castle Jail as it existed originally on Castlegate in the 19th Century, was the site where, upon confessing to sodomy, Thomas Rogers was tried and hanged in 1834.  He was buried in York St. Mary’s Castle Churchyard. According to the accompanying rainbow plaque set up on the site of York Castle Museum, he was not the first, nor the last.

York Castle Museum now stands in its place, featuring exhibits that discuss the site’s history as a prison, and the recreation of a Victorian street called Kirkgate manned by costumed interpreters. York Castle Museum was the centre of the display of the York Out of the Closet: 50 Years of LGBT History exhibition in 2017 to commemorate 50 years since partial decriminalisation of sex between men in England and Wales. This was curated by representatives of York LGBT History Month, York Pride and the York LGBT Forum. Set up in the 1960s pub in the Castle Museum, the exhibit featured information about the first gay and lesbian protest march, the Lesbian Arts Festival at the Racecourse, and also content from oral-history interviews of people’s memories growing up queer in the city. Notably, one of them discussed attempting to get trans-affirming health care in Bootham in the late 90s.

Other venues that are part of the Museum’s Trust, including York Art Gallery, have sought to diversify their curating process with partnerships such as the Queering Group. The Burton Gallery at the York Art Gallery was targeted as part of this process, and now features signposting in its permanent display about the collection’s queer artists.

Assistant Curator and Volunteer Coordinator Philip Newton has organised many of York Castle Museum’s LGBTQI+ events and content highlights. One of these was the LGBT Roadshow, an event playing on television’s Antiques Roadshow, calling for community members to bring in items to diversify the museum’s collections. Some of the items already part of the museum include the 1960s gallery’s section on the 1967 Sexual Offences Act, liberation badges from the 1980s not currently on public display, and the dancing shoes of Edith Craig, a theatre director and costume designer born in 1869 who lived in a throuple with two other women.