Pride 2024: where to learn about London's LGBTQ+ history

Painted history: an exihibit at Queer Britain  (AFP via Getty Images)
Painted history: an exihibit at Queer Britain (AFP via Getty Images)

Did you know that an 18th century British Duchess and her husband were in a polyamorous relationship with another woman?

Don't beat yourself up if you didn’t – Britain’s queer past has often been forgotten, or even purposefully hidden.

And so June, Pride month, is a great time to learn about some of the key events and crucial moments that have shaped modern life for the LGBTQ+ community.

With dedicated queer museums and gallery spaces throughout the city, there are now quite a few places in London where you can learn about queer heritage – beyond the all important pubs and bars which served London’s LGBTQ community over the years.

So whether you fancy delving into the archives, going for a walking tour, or dancing in a drag bar, here are some of London’s best spots for LGBTQ+ history.

Queer Britain

Better late than never: after four years of planning, May 2022 finally saw the opening of what, astonishingly, is the UK’s only museum dedicated to LGBTQ+ history. The accessible museum is an inclusive space that proudly welcomes everyone – regardless of gender and sexuality – and is dedicated to celebrating “the stories, people and places that are intrinsic to the queer community in the UK and beyond.” It is free to visit and includes four galleries, a workshop, an education space and, of course, a trusty gift shop.

Bishopsgate Institute

The library in the Bishopsgate Institute has a whole section for LGBTQ+ history, with areas dedicated to the collections of significant organisations. It holds placards and press cuttings for groups including Outrage! which was set up in response to the murder of gay actor Michael Boothe, who campaigned through non-violent action for the human rights of queer people. The Lesbian and Gay Newsmedia Archive contains around 250,000 press cuttings about the LGBTQ+ experience from the late 19th century to now, as well as t-shirts, banners and club flyers.


In 2022 Queercircle opened its doors for the first time. A wheelchair-accessible creative space completely dedicated to presenting the work of queer artists, the gallery and library holds exhibitions, residencies, and workshops and there’s also a dedicated project space to boot. All this means that it’s a fantastic spot to learn about LGBTQ+ history. Past events have included a listening session on UK Black Queer party culture, exhibitions from bones tan jones and the Queer Youth Art Collective, and poetry readings.

Gay’s The Word

As the oldest dedicated LGBTQ+ bookshops in the country, Gay’s The Word is a treasure. The shop has everything from young adult fiction to crime and romance, as well as enough non-fiction books to last you through to next year’s Pride month. Many will have learned about Gay’s The Word from the hit film Pride, which told the story of LGSM (Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners). The bookshop served as headquarters for the campaign group, which raised money and support for striking Welsh miners in the Eighties. A plaque for Mark Ashton, who led the group before he died aged 26, adorns the outside wall.

Chiswick House


As same-sex relationships between women were never a criminal offence, it can be difficult to find records of lesbian and bisexual histories – but there were a tonne of “romantic female friendships” in the 18th century. Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire and resident of Chiswick House, though married to a Duke, had a number of affairs with women, which we know about through letters. She and her husband even entered into a polyamorous relationship with Lady Elizabeth Foster, who they invited to live with them at one point.

Admiral Duncan

A stalwart of Old Compton Street in Soho, the Admiral Duncan has been open since 1832. In 1999, it was the target of a neo-Nazi nail bomb attack, which killed three and injured more than 70. A plaque in the bar commemorates the dead and injured, and a memorial chandelier reads “we shall never forget our friends”. Showing the queer community’s strength of spirit, the pub reopened weeks later and is still the home of drag nights and raucous fun.

Queer History Walking Tour

Whether you’re new to London or have been here for years, there’s no better way to get to know the city than through a guided tour. Cabaret performer Mark T Cox provides a particularly good one, which stops off at iconic spots including the LGBTQ+ nightclub Heaven, the Admiral Duncan, and what was formerly a Molly House (spots where men could meet and have sex in the 18th and 19th century) – and it’s completely free, too.

The two-hour tour is part of London With A Local, which means Cox isn’t always going to be the guide on the route, so if you specifically want to hear from Cox, check out his website for his next guiding dates.