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A gay architect built a secret wall in this mansion to protect his relationship from prying eyes

A gay architect built a secret wall in this mansion to protect his relationship from prying eyes

The modern-looking house was designed and built by Christopher Tunnard in the 1930s

A mansion designed by a famous gay architect has just gone the market for £9m (€10.4m) in Surrey, near London, and it houses a special part of queer British history.

The house was designed in the 1930s by British architect Sir Raymond McGrath, with help from a well-known garden designer, Sir Christopher Tunnard.

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Charles Fox via The Modern House

Tunnard then lived in the house, called St Ann’s Court, with his lover, a stockbroker called Gerald Schlesinger, despite the laws prohibiting gay relationships.

To get around the law, the couple had a architectural trick they used to bamboozle guests.

The bedroom could split into two, using a false wall. This meant when guests came they could present themselves as two chaste bachelors, and not two men in love.

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Charles Fox via The Modern House

The huge, Grade II-listed manor includes the main building, which covers 6,500 square-feet, and another building only marginally smaller, at 4,500 square-feet, the ‘Coach House’.

Besides that, there is the beautiful garden designed by Tunnard, based on an 18th century style.

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Charles Fox via The Modern House
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Charles Fox via The Modern House

The queer history of the house has recently been honored by Historic England. Playwright Oscar Wilde’s house, and Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears’ ‘The Red House’, were also honored.

‘Historic buildings and places are witnesses to events that have shaped our society. They hold real and tangible evidence of the way our nation has evolved,’ chief executive of Historic England Duncan Wilson said.

‘Too often, the influence of men and women who helped build our nation has been ignored, underestimated or is simply unknown, because they belonged to minority groups.

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Charles Fox via The Modern House

‘At a time when historic LGBTQ venues are under particular threat, this is an important step.

‘The impact of the historic environment on England’s culture must not be underestimated, and we must recognize all important influences.’