UK’s first 'Rainbow Plaque' unveiled at Holy Trinity Goodramgate in York

On Tuesday 24th July 2018, a memorial plaque to celebrated 19th-century diarist, entrepreneur and mountaineer Anne Lister will be unveiled on the wall outside Holy Trinity Church in York city centre. There are over 70 history plaques in York commemorating famous people, places or events. None, however, are quite like this one.

The plaque, with its distinctive rainbow border, is the first ever permanent 'rainbow' plaque in the UK, making the LGBT+ history it marks clearly visible.

Echoing the iconic blue plaques that mark places associated with famous people or events all over the UK, the plaque will help bring the history of York’s LGBT+ people to light. It’s inscription reads:

Anne Lister, 1791-1840

Gender non-conforming entrepreneur

Celebrated marital commitment, without legal recognition, to Ann Walker in this church.

Easter, 1834.

The plaque has been produced in partnership with York Civic Trust, York LGBT Forum and The Churches Conservation Trust.

Dr Kit Heyam, co-organiser of the Rainbow Plaques project in York and former lead coordinator of York LGBT History Month, said, "We're thrilled to be unveiling the first ever permanent rainbow plaque in York - and very possibly the UK! When we started creating cardboard rainbow plaques to celebrate LGBT History Month in February 2015, Anne Lister was one of the first names to come up, and the local LGBT community was adamant that she and her commitment to Ann Walker deserved a permanent memorial. People who would now identify under the LGBT+ umbrella have always been part of York's history and this plaque goes some way toward making them visible. We're grateful for the support of York Civic Trust, York LGBT Forum and The Churches Conservation Trust for making the first ever permanent rainbow memorial plaque a reality.

Holy Trinity Church, York is cared for by The Churches Conservation Trust, the national charity protecting historic churches at risk, which cares for 353 historic churches in England. Holy Trinity attracts thousands of visitors each year and is described as a ‘hidden gem’ in a tranquil churchyard off the busy street of Goodramgate. 

Judith Patrick, spokesperson for The Churches Conservation Trust, which runs Holy Trinity Church, said: “It’s remarkable that Holy Trinity Goodramgate was the site of the first ever recorded ‘marital commitment’ between two women, 180 years before same-sex marriage was legalised in England. Anne Lister was a true pioneer in so many ways and we are delighted to host a memorial to her and her partner Ann Walker.”


About Anne Lister:

Born on 3rd April 1791, Anne Lister was a writer, scholar and traveller who lived at Shibden Hall in Halifax, West Yorkshire, which she inherited from her father, Jeremy Lister. Her nickname among the local people of Halifax was ‘Gentleman Jack’, which indicated that her masculine appearance and behaviours were sufficient to bring her comments.

On 30 March 1834, Lister contracted a ‘marriage’ with Ann Walker privately in the form of church blessing at the Holy Trinity Church, Goodramgate. They lived together until Lister’s death six years later.


About York Civic Trust

York Civic Trust is a membership organisation open to all who wish to protect and enhance York's architectural and cultural heritage, to champion good design and to advance the high place which York holds amongst the cities of the world. Founded in 1946, it has the key objectives of “Promoting Heritage—Shaping Tomorrow” at the heart of its work.  Over the years the York Civic Trust has put up over a hundred information plaques to the places and people of York and continues to do so today in collaboration with its City Enhancement Fund, with the aims to preserve, restore, enrich, enhance and sustain the centre of York.


About York LGBT History Month:

York LGBT History Month is a registered charity which coordinates a programme of events in the York area each LGBT History Month (February). Founded by activist Ynda Jas in 2014, the volunteer-run charity now supports local community groups, businesses, universities and schools to create a collaborative, city-wide festival. Last year, the York LGBT History Month programme featured nearly 50 events, all helping to celebrate and raise awareness of the place of LGBT+ people in history. Their iconic programme booklets can be found in libraries and cafes around York from mid-January onwards.

About York rainbow plaques project:

Rainbow Plaques is a project started in York in 2015 by the charity York LGBT History Month, Helen Graham (University of Leeds) and York's Alternative History, a group which campaigns to raise awareness of the fact that there's more to York and its history than Vikings, Romans and pretty medieval streets. At events each February, for LGBT History Month, local people are invited to make temporary cardboard rainbow plaques to mark places significant to local LGBT+ history. The design of the plaques echoes the iconic blue plaques, incorporating LGBT+ stories into mainstream practices of commemoration, but the rainbow edges make the queer nature of this untold history visible. The temporary plaques have marked places ranging from the momentous (the meeting place of two men who would go on to co-found the Gay Liberation Front and organise the UK's first Pride march), to the locally significant (the hidden gay origins of the tradition that sees York residents gather at York Minster to see in the new year), to the personal (the place where someone came out to their mum). Plaques from previous years can be seen on Twitter or Instagram.