The Photography of Montague Glover
Born in May of 1898 in Leamington Spa, a spa town known for its medicinal waters, Montague Charles Glover was a British freelance architect and private photographer. He is best known for his photographs depicting homosexual life in London during the early and mid-twentieth century when homosexuality was illegal. The majority of his oeuvre, shot during a period of increasing persecutions against homosexuals, documented members of the military forces and the working class, whose social class divisions are depicted through their dress.
The youngest of five siblings and the only male child, Montague Glover entered the British Army in 1916 for service in the first World War. He was a member of the Artist Rifles Regiment, a regiment of the Territorial Force which saw active service during the war. Glover was promoted to Second Lieutenant in 1917 and was awarded the Military Cross for Bravery in 1918.
Glover is notable for his photographs depicting the partnership with his long-time lover, Ralph Edward Hall, who was born in December of 1913 in Bermondsey, a district in the South End of London. Hall was one of nine children from a poor working-class family whose father worked as a wharf laborer. After meeting his lover in 1930, Glover employed him as his manservant, most likely to provide a social alibi for their residing together. Their relationship lasted for more than fifty years and survived Hall’s four-year service in the Royal Air Force during the second World War. Hall, absolutely devoted to Glover, sent during his years of military service hundreds of love letters to his partner.
Glover’s photographs of his domestic life with Hall are a rare documented example of a long-term relationship before the passage of the Sexual Offenses Act of 1967. Given royal assent in July of 1967 after intense debate in the House of Commons, this act essentially legalized homosexual acts in England and Wales, on the condition that they were consensual, in private and between two men who had attained the age of twenty-one. The Sexual Offenses Act of 1967 did not, however, apply to the Merchant Navy or the Armed Forces, nor to Northern Ireland or Scotland.
The Sexual Offenses Act did not condone homosexuality but argued that it was not within the responsibility of the criminal law to penalize homosexual men, who already were the object of derision and ridicule. One particular important consequence of the law was the increased freedom of assembly for gay rights groups which led to an increase in gay rights activism during the 1970s. However, as the terms of the law were within strict guidelines, activities judged as gross indecency were still prosecuted in the decade that followed its passage.
Change began when the law was extended to Scotland in February of 1981 and, as a result of an European Court of Human Rights case, extended to Northern Ireland in 1982. The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act of 1994 lowered the age of consent for homosexual males to eighteen; it also extended the definition of rape to include male rape which had been prosecuted as buggery. In 2000, the Sexual Offenses Act of 2000 passed and equalized the age of consent to sixteen for both homosexual and heterosexual behaviors through the entire United Kingdom.
The Sexual Offenses Act of 2003, through compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights, omitted the privacy requirements in England and Wales law relating to same-sex male sexual activity, thus permitting a third party to be present. It also overhauled the way sexual offenses were dealt with by the police and courts, as it replaced previous provisions in both the 1967 Act and the original 1956 Criminal Law Act. Gross indecency and buggery were repealed from statutory law; as a result, the vast majority of the Sexual Offense Act of 1967 was repealed.
Montague Glover and Ralph Hall spent most of the latter years at “Little Windovers”, Glover’s country house in the village of Balsall Heath, a area of Birmingham and home of the Moseley School of Art. Glover’s eldest sister, Ellen, lived with them until her death in 1954 at the age of seventy-two. In his later years, Glover was described by their friends as a reserved, charming man, while Hall was known to be an outgoing, cheerful man with a distinctive cockney accent.
Montague Glover died at the age of eighty-five in 1983; he left Ralph Hall as his sole heir. After suffering a gradual decline in health, Ralph Hall died four years later at the age of seventy-four. Hall’s next of kin put their country house and Glover’s possessions up for auction. Included in the auction was a box which contained Glover’s wartime negatives from the first World War, journals, Glover’s many letters from his lovers during the decades, and the preserved collection of love letters that Hall had sent to Glover during the second World War. Many elements of Glover’s effects are contained in James Gardiner’s 1992 book, “A Class Apart: The Private Pictures of Montague Glover”.
Note: A collection of Ralph Hall’s war service love letters to Montague Glover, excerpted from Rictor Norton’s “My Dear Boy: Gay Love Letters Through the Centuries”, can be found at the Gay History and Literature site located at: https://rictornorton.co.uk/hall.htm
Top Insert Photo: Photographer Unknown, “Montague Glover”, 1916-1918, Territorial Force of the British Army
Second Insert Image: Montague Glover, Model Unknown, The Young Valet Series, Date Unknown
Third Insert Image: Montague Glover, “Three Boys at Victoria Park, East End, London”, circa 1930s
Bottom Insert Image: Montague Glover, “ Ralph Edward Hall”, Date Unknown