Tue, 09 Feb | Recorded Presentation then Live Q & A

Falling into the Arms of Phoebe - and other stories

7pm Peter Roscoe shares with us his interest in unearthing the LGBTQ+ history of Shropshire some 20 years ago.
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Falling into the Arms of Phoebe - and other stories

Time & Location

09 Feb 2021, 19:00 – 19:45
Recorded Presentation then Live Q & A

About the Event

Peter's original presentation from 2017 is available as a podcast here: Salop Assizes 1949

When we asked him to return to discuss his researched stories he told us where it all began:

‘….you do know about the arrests of Shrewsbury gay men in the 1940s don’t you?’ So began my interest in unearthing the LGBTQ+ history of Shropshire some 20 years ago.

I didn’t know about those men; there were a lot of them and they faced Salop Assizes in 1949. One chose suicide, so did not face the court. The note found with his body, on Caer Caradoc, referred to preferring to ‘fall into the arms of Phoebe..’ (he had taken phenobarbitone).

Around the same time I was completing those enquiries, I learnt of the love story uncovered by Oswestry Town Museum, of two servicemen in World War 2, one based at Park Hall Camp. The story unfolded from a cache of letters (1938 to 1942) that had, extraordinarily, survived. An insight into wartime attitudes to the expression of sexuality – much more positive than the grim regime faced later by the Shrewsbury men. These men had fun!

So, who else was in the county? How do you find them? 

With the help of Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery an exhibition was put on about the life of Samuel Butler, author, owner of Whitehall in Shrewsbury and grandson of the Samuel Butler who turned Shrewsbury School around. He and his companion Henry looked disaster in the face, just avoiding following Oscar Wilde to jail in 1895

There had to be women out there too, and of course there were. The heroic Eglantyne Jebb from Ellesmere. Though her plans for a life together with her love, Margaret Keynes were dashed, she and her sister overcame formidable opposition in 1919 to found the Save the Children Fund.

If it weren’t for Agnes Hunt from Baschuch and her companion ‘Goody’, there might well be no wonderful Robert Jones/Agnes Hunt Orthopaedic Hospital at Gobowen. Their tenacity was remarkable, plus they too had a lot of fun. As, I imagine, did Joan Lander and Valorie at Sunnycroft, Wellington. Their efforts ensured that that beautiful place did not fall to developers and is now a jewel of the National Trust estates.

No, Mary Whitehouse was not gay, but her agitation while at Madeley Modern Secondary School led on to the prosecution of ‘Gay News’ for blasphemy in the 1970s. A pivotal event for LGBTQ+ rights, as it turned out!

How this all happened: the blocks, the relentless demand for ‘evidence’ of LGBTQ+ sexuality, (rarely are there requirements to ‘evidence’ heterosexuality), the ‘so what’s?’ and sometimes the point blank refusal to help in the research? These, and more, make for a very interesting discussion


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