Arnos Vale cemetery LGBT stories revealed for first time

Image source, Public domain/BBC
Image caption, Bristol artist Charles Branwhite, whose grave is now overgrown, wrote about his close friendship with his mentor William James Muller

The life stories of long-dead people from the LGBT community are being told for the first time as part of a new project in Bristol.

The Drop Dead Gorgeous tours of Arnos Vale Cemetery are run by Sacha Coward and Sheldon Goodman to raise awareness of "histories that aren't spoken of."

"We want to act as their ambassadors, to tell the stories they couldn't tell when they were alive," said Mr Goodman.

"People have forgotten them, and that's what we're trying to focus on here."

The pair have run similar tours in London's Brompton Cemetery, which they called Queerly Departed.

"A lot of it is based on assumptions because there are no concrete records on these people.

"Often the census records listed the head of a household and a visitor, who was then written about in their diaries.

"It's only then you realise they were actually partners," Mr Goodman said.

Image caption, Shedon Goodman said society had a reticence to look at cemeteries as "museums of people"

Arnos Vale Cemetery was opened in 1837, but fell into disrepair in the 20th Century before being partially restored.

The cemetery has records of the graves of 170,000 people buried there, which Mr Goodman and Mr Coward have used as the basis for their National Lottery Heritage Fund tour, which was commissioned by Arnos Vale.

The stories they have researched include the artist Charles Branwhite, who wrote about his close association with fellow artist William James Muller, and the hymn writer Anna Laetitia Waring, whose papers detailing a female love affair were destroyed.

"These cemeteries are now so overgrown yet Branwhite's paintings are celebrated in galleries across Europe.

"It raises questions about what the true nature of memorials are - his work or his tombstone, and it's sad that society forgets these people," said Mr Goodman.

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