Born in Tottenham in 1848, Ernest Boulton became one of London's pioneering cross-dressers — appearing in public as a woman called Stella, and hanging out with his friend, another cross-dresser, called Frederick William Park (or Fanny as he often preferred).
Stella — a new play about Boulton, staged at Hoxton Hall next month explains the trials, tribulations and importance of this singular Londoner. In these videos, the play's writer and director, Neil Bartlett, takes us into Boulton's world, describing some pivotal run-ins with the police.
The Burlington Arcade was a favourite haunt of Boulton. Once he was not-very-subtly attempting to pick up men here, when he was approached by a policeman. When the policeman tried to escort Ernest from the premises, he was courageously informed: "I shall go where I like."
Now by the entrance to the closed Aldwych tube station, this spot used to be the site of the Royal Strand Theatre where Stella 'Star of the Strand' was arrested after a performance when she walked out onto the street wearing drag.
A blue plaque now commemorates where Ernest/Stella lived in the late 1860s, on 13 Wakefield Street. Policemen used to watch the property and be very confused at how they'd watch a young man go in and Stella come out several hours later. Today it's the site of the Lumen United Reformed Church & Community Centre URC.
Stella is on at Hoxton Hall from 1-18 June (2.3opm and 7.30pm), as part of Lift Festival. Tickets £18 (concessions £14).