The He-She Barman, and other Bermondsey characters

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Some of Bermondsey’s characters are highlighted in London News Online.

James Allen was killed by a falling plank in a wood yard. James Allen, who was married, was in fact a woman. After her death, a post mortem found she might have had a child at some stage. It became known as the case of “The Female Husband”.

The London Standard commented “her equivocal lord” was “beautifully shaped, and his legs and feet particularly well made”.

Allen’s wife’s father said: “Allen was as handsome a young man as ever the sun shone upon” when he married his daughter.

London Online notes:

Public interest in James Allen led to the publication of pamphlets and ballads. No law barred women from cross-dressing. But some were prosecuted for financial fraud – marrying a woman to take her dowry.

Then there was Thomas Walker, the ‘She-He Barman of Southwark’, who profited from public curiosity about how a weak and feeble woman could live as a man by touring the country singing songs about his life.

The Southwark QueerStory exhibition will be on at Peckham Levels from Thursday, February 15 until Wednesday, February 28 from 10am to 11pm each day. The exhibition includes 1930s photographs of Bermondsey lad Ralph Hall, living a life of domestic happiness with his lover Monty, and their love letters written when Ralph was posted off to war.

Pub drag culture of the 1960s is celebrated as well as the emergence of the gay disco scene pioneered by DJ Tricky Dicky in 1970s Camberwell, as well as the saucy drag shows and boozy dancing at the Ship & Whale.

https://www.londonnewsonline.co.uk/celebrating-the-rich-history-of-gay-and-transgender-culture-in-south-london/

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William John Bankes

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William John Bankes | National Trust Images/Angelo Hornak/NTPL/Angelo Hornak | 17161gh

A two-month project examining the life and exile of a man has gone on display at the stately home he inherited in 1834 but from which he later had to flee.

William John Bankes of Kingston Lacy, Dorset, was forced out of Britain because of his gay relationship with a soldier.

His stately home is now owned by the National Trust, who are mounting an exhibition to mark the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of male homosexuality in Britain. The exhibition includes a facsimile copy of the 1533 “Act for the punishment of the vice of buggery” alongside the 1967 Act and the 2004 Civil Partnership Act.

There are also a collection of 51 ropes hanging in the entrance hall, representing men aged between 17 and 71 who were hanged for same-sex acts during the lifetime of the house’s owner. The last two ropes hang next to each other representing two labourers, John Smith and John Pratt, who were caught together and executed together.

Bankes would have suffered the same fate because it was the second time he had been caught with a man. His wealth allowed him to escape and live in France and later Italy, from where he continued to remotely transform the house into a Venetian Renaissance palazzo.

The Exile exhibition will run from from 18 September 2017, the day Bankes went in to exile, until 12 November 2017, with a rainbow flag flown from the property for the duration.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/sep/18/william-john-bankes-forced-into-exile-after-gay-liaison-celebrated-by-national-trust

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/kingston-lacy

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