Researching LGBTQ+ History at North East Wales Archives

Have you ever wondered what LGBTQ+ archives might be held at North East Wales Archives (NEWA)? 

North East Wales Archives images.
North East Wales Archives images.

Today, we would like to shine the spotlight on some of the initiatives which are helping Wales to uncover the LGBTQ+ heritage held within our archives.   It can be quite a challenge to find records of this type of history since, because of its historically subversive nature, it was often hidden, destroyed or even put into code to avoid discovery.  Searching for records of LGBTQ+ history can prove difficult, because the terms that were used historically are different to those used in today’s language. Glamorgan Archives have put together an extremely helpful guide (PDF) called ‘Queering Glamorgan’, which also has an essential glossary of words and terms to help researchers find articles and stories in historic newspapers.

Image of archival storage, provided by North East Wales Archives/Adobe Spark.
Colourised image of archival storage units #LGBTQ (NEWA/Adobe Spark).

Societies like #Draig Enfys or #Rainbow Dragon are working tirelessly to find and share the stories and lives of people in Wales throughout the ages and to help us to explore the archives for ourselves. Draig Enfys is a research group set up by Norena Shopland, who specialises in researching, recording and promoting LGBT+, women’s and Welsh histories; Mark Etheridge, National Museum Wales; and Susan Edwards, Glamorgan Archives. They wanted to create a forum for researchers to network, help each other out and prevent people working on duplicate subjects.  They saw the benefit of people joining forces and collaborating together in this often lonely field of research.

There is also a hive of creative activity in this field, with original research being undertaken in Wales.  Projects like Living Histories Cymru, run by Jane Hoy and Helen Sandler, bring historic Welsh LGBTQ+ individuals to life through lively, costumed talks and plays. Other researchers and groups of young people are currently working with National Museum Wales to host various exhibitions and publish books on LGBTQ+ history.

James Henry Lynch: The Rt. Hon. Lady Eleanor Butler & Miss Ponsonby 'The Ladies of Llangollen'. A portrait from the Welsh Portrait Collection at the National Library of Wales. Image in the public domain.
James Henry Lynch: The Rt. Hon. Lady Eleanor Butler & Miss Ponsonby ‘The Ladies of Llangollen’. A portrait from the Welsh Portrait Collection at the National Library of Wales. Image in the public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

At the Denbighshire branch of NEWA, we hold Minutes of the weekly medical officers meetings which contain details of patient cases, including discussions on the benefits and problems associated with ECT treatment, and brief details on the treatment of a homosexual patient in March 1968.  We also hold records relating to the celebrated ‘Ladies of Llangollen’, ‘romantic friends’ in the 18th century, who ran away together to escape the constraints of patriarchal society to live together in isolation. Newspapers and court records at both branches are also rich sources of LGBTQ+ stories and pathways to further research.

Photographs of North East Wales Archives.
Photographs of the Hawarden (Archifdy Sir y Fflint / Flintshire Record Office) and Ruthin (Archifau Sir Ddinbych / Denbighshire Archives) branches.

If you are interested in LGBTQ+ history, why not try using the terms in Glamorgan Archives’ glossary to search for stories in online newspapers? You can also visit our website to uncover more sources of historical stories from your local area!

Teresa Davies
Archive Assistant
North East Wales Archives/NEWA (Hawarden)

Related

Explore more LGBTQ archives on the Archives Hub

Browse all Archifau Sir Ddinbych / Denbighshire Archives collections on the Archives Hub.

Browse all Archifdy Sir y Fflint / Flintshire Record Office collections on the Archives Hub.

Previous feature

Unlocking the Asylum: Cataloguing the North Wales Hospital Archive

All images copyright. Reproduced with the kind permission of the copyright holders.

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