Between the wars and after
The Pink Past. 
Between the wars and after
1953 Statistics, The Good Old Days
Hidden Places, the bars,pubs and clubs
30's and 40's London
The Lord Montague Scandal
The A & B Club and Mark Fleming

The A & B Club and Mark Fleming
I have spent a very enjoyable afternoon glued to your site.  Such memories coming back, but no mention of the A & B Club in Wardour Street.  
Its full title was the Arts and Battledress Club, as Geoffrey (with the hats), would say 'for artists and servicemen and look at the place full of poofs'.
Any memories of Mark Fleming, which is how I came to find the site in the first place ?  A drag queen, sadly departed now in the late 70's who used to go handgliding with the Queen Mother and used to do the Sunday lunchtime slot with Mrs Shufflewick at the Black Cap.


30's and 40's London

As an avid gerontophile many of my friends have been about in London before the gay scene took off. Also my ex partner has his older gay friends from whom he heard stories of the scene in the 30s and 40's..

One in particular was a squadron-leader (nicknamed "Baggy") who flew bombers. He used to take his crew into the Queens Head in Tryon Street, which, I believe, qualifies it for a place as the oldest continuously gay pub in London. I was told that if his crew weren't gay on take-off they were by the time they landed! In those days the pub had sawdust on the floor and a piano in  ne corner where a Scotsman in a kilt would belt out songs.

After being demobbed he worked for BP in fuel research and would be required to drive long distances in luxury vehicles - it was on one of these trips that he picked up his boyfriend hitching on a roundabout. When he retired from business he took over a pub in Bourton on the Water in the Cotswolds with his boyfriend and would make "friends" with the local farm boys while sitting at the bar drinking whisky from a bottle which would be permanently topped up from any left-overs in the optics.

Apparently one evening a visitor got drunk and started making comments about the landlord and his boyfriend and the loyal locals picked up the  accuser and threw him out. He was quite a character by all accounts but sadly I never met him as he died just before I met my partner (now 72) although we did go to the pub in the Cotswolds only to find the boyfriend had done a bunk! It later transpired he wasn't really gay although fiercely loyal to Baggy when he was alive.

I also heard about another pub in Soho from the 50's which was run by an elderly Jewish couple who made generous donations to police benevolent charities to avoid getting raided. They made a collection in a hat every night and would take the collection, wrap it in tissue paper with a drawing pin inserted and throw the whole lot up to the ceiling where it stuck - until it was removed once a year to give to the charity


The Good Old Days

1953, I was just sixteen and while I knew what my feelings were about sex, when I looked around I didn't see anyone else at all like me, except in the pages of the News Of The World.

There I could read every week about men having sex with other men and being cast into prison, a warning indeed to less adventurous souls such as myself.

It is interesting to look at some statistics from that year taken from the Home Offices own files.

In 1953 5688 homosexual offences were known to the police

2166 men were sent for trial for various homosexual offenses (in 1950 it has been 1635.) An indicator of the increasing effort being made by the authorities to harass gay men

1277 people were found guilty in trials at the Assizes and Quarter session of which 510 received prison sentences. Over half these sentences were for 6 months to 2 years but 136 gay men received sentences of between 3 and 10 years.

In Magistrates courts, 718 men were charged of whom 650 were found guilty. 154 were fined but 188 also received prison sentences of up to 6 months. The rest were placed on probation or given conditional discharges. 21% of the men accused were under 21 years old.

It is worth noting that anal intercourse was classed with having sex with an animal and carried a maximum of life imprisonment. 

Even attempting to commit an act of anal sex or having the intent to commit such an act carried a maximum of 10 years imprisonment.

It is incredible that these draconian sentences existed into the sixties and even the modest changes introduced in that year did not prevent men being prosecuted and sent to prison.

As an example to a sixteen year old boy, the message was clear, keep well clear of sex or you will end up in jail. This of course was exactly the message the establishment wanted to send out to ordinary people. Many were brave enough to ignore it but too many paid a high price with many committing suicide before their cases were heard, others suffering loss of jobs, families and friends.

Good old days ? Not from where I was looking.

In 1954, Lord Montagu and two friends were tried and convicted of having sex with young men in a boat house on the Lord's estate. The case changed lives !

The scandal involving Lord Montague occurred when I was just 17 and aware of my sexuality and very, very scared. I desperately wanted to know all the details of what the men involved did together and it did not seem to me that anyone involved deserved the sentences they received.
the press and even staid old BBC radio made a meal of the case. Comedians made constant jokes about watching you backside even on family radio shows.
newspaper published cartoons.
One year later I had a medical for National Service and was sure that the doctors would know in some way I was homosexual even though I had never had penetrative intercourse. I had read that admitting being homosexual could get you excused from National service but you would always be labled in offical records as a pervert, an invert, a security risk, a health risk, a potential child molester and god knows what else.
So I said nothing and kept my head down in the straightest sense of the word. But there is no doubt in my mind that had the Montague case not exploded when it did, my life may have been different. It did focus attention on homosexuality and it's suppposed evils in a way which at 17 I could not cope with.

Add your favourite venues from the prewar and pre 1967 period. E Mail us now.

See also our page on forgotten venues

CALABASH, Behind cinema off the Fulham Road. Small yard to which barman had key !

A & B Club in Wardour Street.  


PINK ELEPHANT, off Leicester Square

LA DOUCE, D'arbly Street, Soho

COFFEE POT, Berwick Street

GIGOLO, Kings Road

PEPPERMINT LOUNGE, off Picadilly Circus


Stradivarius would be pleased to have your memories of  gay life before and just after the war. Contact us using the E:Mail link below. Photos would also be of interest. (If sending photos mail us first at

Top of Page

During the thirties and even right up until the early seventies, one of the best places to meet men in London must be the Lyons Corner house. The one in the Strand was one of the most popular.

Smart waitresses known as 'nippies' served you at the tables which were quite crowded together giving a chance to chat to people at the next table. The fare was fairly unimaginative and cakes with tea was one of the most popular orders.

It was the sheer business of the places which provided a perfect cover for chatting to strange men and making assignations. Sharing tables was quite normal and seeing an attractive chap alone at a table, one just asked if he minded sharing and then if he was agreeable taking things from there. A bit like the cubicles at the sauna's in Amsterdam in fact !

In the sixties, the magazine Film and Filming which was serious magazine which reviewed films especially those which were generally called 'Arty' was very popular with gay men. Of course gay men loved 'arty' films especially those where a bit of male flesh was allowed to get past the censor. the main attraction however lay in the personal ads where chaps advertised for other chaps to share their enjoyment of the cinema, theatre, dining and of course sports.

No one could be in any doubt what was really being sought but the magazine continued it's invaluable work for many many years

Our Pink History
A series of articles about our past (Other pages in this section)
The nineteeth century
Section 11 and the aftermath

London in the eighties
A trip around some long gone venues

More about the eighties
Subway revisited, the cinema clubs etc

Pin Ups
The pictures we lusted over

The Drag Queens
Brave and beautiful

Naked except for a loin cloth and he MOVED !

1967 and all that
The law changes but attitudes don't

The Seventies
Three years on and things start to move

Hankie Pankie
The coloured hankie craze

The cottages of Merrie Emgland
New page being developed. Your help welcome


Material copyright Stradivarius 2006.