Which Kent estate was the inspiration for a classic novel? Why did magistrates fine a husband and wife for their wedding in the 50s?
Sophie Bird takes a trip back in time this LGBT History Month to reflect on the stories of lesbian, gay, bi and trans people in the county.
Virginia Woolf's Kentish lover who inspired her classic novel
Knole House, Sevenoaks, has a special place in Kent's LGBT history as the lost ancestral home of 20th century novelist, poet, and journalist, Vita Sackville-West.
During Vita's long and happy marriage with Harold Nicolson, both partners had various same-sex love affairs.
One of Vita's loves was famed writer, Virginia Woolf.
Because she was a woman, Vita could not inherit the stunning Knole estate from her family and felt its loss immensely.
However, Woolf wrote her novel Orlando with Knole in mind, using it as inspiration for the home of the eponymous character - who she based on Vita.
‘Vita from Virginia’ can be found written on the original manuscript of the adventures of a man who lives for more than 300 years and becomes a woman across the course of the novel.
Nigel Nicolson, Vita's son, described the story as "the longest and most charming love letter in literature."
Sackville-West was also painted by Claire Atwood, who lived in a lesbian ménage-a-trois with Edith (Edy) Craig and Chris (born Christabel) St.John at Smallhythe Place.
Inspired by her mother and actress Ellen Terry, Edith made the Tenterden house a safe place for the LGBT artists community who produced provocative political works in their time.
Man and wife fined for their illegal wedding
In 1954, Vincent Jones and Jean Lee were married in St Luke’s Church, Bromley.
Shortly after the happy couple were wed, magistrates fined them £25 each (worth £689 today) for making a false statement to obtain a marriage certificate.
According to the book 'Her Husband was a Woman!' by Alison Oram, Vincent was born female and had obtained an employment card stating he was male.
The vicar had said the couple could not marry unless Vincent had a full sex change.
However, the vicar married the couple a few months later after not recognising Vincent.
When police interviewed Vincent, he said: "I am a man, but if you mean physically I still possess female organs. There is more to marriage than the physical side. I have been to doctors to alter my sex completely - but I was sick of waiting."
A medical report to the court asserted he had 'delusions of being a man', with the magistrate ruling: "The fact remains that you made a grave false statement to cover your unnatural passions with a false air of respectability."
But the couple vowed to remarry, asserting they "had nothing to be ashamed of."
The artist's cottage in the English desert
Russell T Davies' It's A Sin is currently gripping audiences on Channel 4.
Based in 1986 it tells the story of young gay men living through the AIDS crisis.
It was in that year that film director and artist Derek Jarman was diagnosed.
Soon after he would move to the now famous isolated little house in Dungeness called Prospect Cottage.
Jarman was outspoken about being gay, the struggle for gay rights and his own battle with AIDS.
His 1976 film Sebastiane, about a Christian Saint, was one of the first British films to portray gay people in a positive light.
Later in his career, he campaigned against the introduction of Section 28 - which banned so-called ‘promotion’ of homosexuality in schools - and worked to reclaim the slur 'queer' for LGBT people as a label without rigid definition.
Eight years after he moved to windswept Dungeness, which is frequently called the UK's only desert due to its lack of precipitation, he died of an AIDS related illness.
When his striking home was up for sale to private buyers last year, admirers and friends of Derek raised £3,624,087 so Art Fund could preserve it.
It is now used as a public monument to Jarman's life and LGBT history in Kent.
The beautiful garden the director took so much pride in was also restored.
What's happening now...
Kent Community Foundation has reaffirmed their five-year support for The South East Gender Initiative in Rochester - having given the project £20,000 in this time and granting funding for the running cost of the Medway Gender Sexual Diversity Centre (MGSD Centre) for the next three months.
Josephine McCartney, chief executive, Kent Community Foundation, said: “A 2020 survey from Galop reported that a quarter of transgender people had experienced or been threatened with physical assault, and nearly one in five had experienced or been threatened with sexual assault.
"These figures show there is a real need for Trans awareness and understanding and we are delighted to help fund South East Gender Initiative to deliver trans training across the county.”
Hilary Cooke, CEO of the MGSD Centre, said: "Kent Community Foundation's grants have helped us to create the centre in Rochester and provide peer and counselling services for young people, adults, parents, carers, and partners of the LGBTQIA+ communities.
"Those who access our services say the help they receive is lifesaving in some instances."
Medway's very own LGBT radio station, Medway Pride Radio, started broadcasting on Monday with hopes to bring the community together.
Shea Coffey, co-founder and manager of Medway Pride Radio, believe's the community needs the station now more than ever.
She said: "I am quite concerned that trans rights seem under increased attack, and the community as a whole is quite fragmented on the issue.
"The idea that one group's rights will somehow impact or erase another group's rights is not only erroneous but harmful to all at a time when the best way forward is together.
"The other issue right now is the isolation that the lockdown and shielding can bring.
"While this can disproportionally effect LGBTQIA+ people, we should all be concerned about those who are alone, and Medway Pride Radio with it's mix of music, talk, comedy and sport will be well placed to help those in society who feel alone regardless of boundaries."