A decision by the National Trust to demand 350 of its volunteers at a Jacobean mansion wear the gay flag or be banished to backroom chores has triggering an angry backlash.
Bosses at Felbrigg Hall in Norfolk wrote to their army of volunteers asking them to all wear a lanyard or badge displaying the rainbow flag to welcome lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer visitors. The email, seen by The Telegraph, reveals that those who refused would not be allowed to meet and greet guests to the 17th Century hall.
The move was part of the Trust’s Prejudice and Pride campaign marking 50 years since the decriminalisation of homosexuality. But it was mired in controversy when the Trust “outed” Robert Wyndham Ketton-Cremer, the late owner of the hall, last month in a short film narrated by Stephen Fry.
Relatives and godchildren of the country squire wrote to the Telegraph complaining that the “intensely private” historian and poet who died in 1969 should not have been “outed”.
It is understood that at least 10 Felbrigg Hall volunteers have refused to wear the lanyards or badges in protest at the Trust’s decision to publicise his sexuality.
Mike Holmes, who has volunteered there for 13 years, said those in open revolt were not homophobic, but simply annoyed that the Trust had strayed beyond its role as guardian of the country’s heritage.
“Wyndham would have turned in his grave to know what’s happening,” Mr Holmes, 72, said. “He was an intensely private man. He was never open about his sexuality.
“The National Trust looks after grounds and buildings, they do not have the right to research their benefactor’s private lives to suit the needs of a marketing campaign. It’s abhorrent.
“This is not about the squire’s sexuality, I am not homophobic and that’s not what this is about.
“I love Felbrigg Hall, and I think nobody could say the volunteers aren’t the greatest advocates for the place.
“There’s a group of about 10 of us who have volunteered for more than 10 years, and we’ve now been told that if we don’t toe the line, we can’t do our jobs.
“People are getting ill over this, they’re losing sleep because they’re missing out on a big part of their daily lives and doing something they love so much.”
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