The cottages of Merrie England
The Pink Past. 
The Cottages of Merrie England
Ealing Common
South Ealing
Acton Vale
Others gone but not forgotten
Memories of Leicester
Newport in Wales
1986, 25 and having fun !
 Cottage memories of London

The cottages of Merrie England have for the most part disappeared, swept away during the Thatcher years by councils determined to cut public services to the bone and as part of a wave of gay hysteria. It is true of course as this page will show that cottages played an important part in gay life and that often gay men could cause a nuisance to customers wishing to use cottages for the purpose for which they were built.

However how many men now are forced top use back gardens, shop doorways and other places to pass water after a half hour journey back from a pub with a bursting bladder and not a loo in site ? Surely this constitutes a greater health hazard and public nuisance than the possibility of a straight man having his willy checked out by another man.

Human beings need to pee. Once the bladder is full it needs to be emptied and if nowhere 'official' is provided, then water will have to be passed wherever we can find a suitable place.

It can't be beyond the skill of architects to design public loos which can be kept clean cheaply and do not attract the wrong sort of chap.

In the meantime this page is dedicated to the past and to record perhaps just a little of what did go on. We hope you will add your memories. Just mail them to us. Please keep mail below 13kb. Split over two if need be.

The Editor

PS You will enjoy this short ode to cottages on You tube



One one of my favourite cottages was Ealing Common. It was a low brick building partially sunk into the ground and surrounded by bushes. It was in a corner of Ealing common near to the tube station.  Around it was a large grassed area with wooden seats and a convenient road where a car could be parked and a watch kept on who went in and out.

In the early eighties I worked shifts and had lots of free time in the afternoon. Time and time again I would drive to the cottage, park my car so I could sit and watch and then wait.

If an attractive guy went in, I got out of the car and followed him in down the short flight of steps. there was a urinal on the left and right and three cubicles facing the bottom of the steps.

Personally I did not like having sex in the cubicles but they were very popular. Some afternoons the place was buzzing with guys all after one thing. One guy regulaly turned up in a kind of army uniform and had other guys suck him. I would usually catch the eye of the guy I fancied then leave and go for a short walk in the park outside. If he followed me, I'd sit on a bench and wait to see if he came and sat alongside. If he did, I could then talk to him and hopefully take him back to my place.

I met so many guys there, a super Malaysian student who became a regular, an Indian Doctor, Chinese guys taking a break from their sugar daddies, a gas fitter, a lovely black Nigerian, and a succesion of married Indian guys from nearby Southall. I never once in the five or six years I used the place picked up a wrong one or had any problem although one had to keep an eye out for the police.

Sometimes there were mini orgies going on and one guy would stand near the top of the steps to warn of anyone approaching. There was a hurried buttoning up and wiping of lips if the alarm was raised. One guy often turned up in army uniform although I don't think he fooled anyone.

I do miss the cottages. It was a quick and easy to find sex without strings. Today I use the internet and while again I meet some great guys and have some great sex, it's a bit more longwinded and complicated compared with the cottaging days. 


If I hadn't scored at Ealing Common, there were plenty of others to check out. South Ealing for example. This was opposite the tube station near a small park. It was great for checking out when you had got off the tube after coming home from work. there was always the chance of hitting lucky.

It wasn't really possible to hang around close by as there was a bus stop outside, but it's suprising how many guys did not get on the buses when they arrived. A lot of guys too had a great interest in the windows of an estate agent on the other side of the road. Others took a great interest in the plants in the small park area behind the cottage.

Inside the loos were pretty grotty with a couple of cubicles usually overflowing and a urinal with about room for three or maybe four.The first guy I ever picked up here was out running in his track suit. Track suits were always popular with cottagers.

Again there was also a reasonable number of oriental guys, black guys and Indian guys which always interested me. The score rate was never quite as high as Ealing Common but there were some goodies over the years. Eventually the  dreaded French loo took over and the building was demolished.


One of my favourite places. Located just off the main shepherds bush to Acton Road, the spacious cottage was on the edge of Acton Vale Park. It was a very very busy place. One could park right outside and it didn't seem to be too often visited by the Police. Inside was a long urinal and several cubicles, most of which were occupied for much of the time.

There wasn't much in the way of places to watch who came and went except from parked cars or from the bus stop opposite. There were many regulars including one black guy it took me four visits to finally hook, and yes he was worth the effort. 

Many of the guys in the cottages were either married or in relationships with other guys, but there were also a lot of younger guys especially overseas students who often had time free in the daytime and with pubs being closed in the afternoons, could only use the cottages to meet people. I still have fond memories of a young Egyptian student I met in Acton, saw every week for several months and then one day he disappeared, presumably back to Cairo. probably married now with sons the same age as he was then. Perhaps one day.....Ah fantasies, what would we do without them ?

Some think of cottaging a in some ways disgusting. The truth is it was fun. Remember, pubs only opened until 3 in the afternoon and the evening they were closed at 10.30. There were very few gay pubs and mostly they were hidden away. There were contact ads but you had to summon up the courage to buy a copy of a Gay newspaper such as Gay News from a newsagents. Then where did you get replies sent if you were married or lived at home.

Cottages were the perfect answer, no hasles, quick meetings and decisions, good sex and if you were lucky a chance to build up a little black book of phone nmbers of possible regulars. 

However as the sex was so easy and available, most were not interested in who you were or what your phone number was, they had you you had them and tomorrow it would be someone else. Fantastic. No wonder the straight guys were jealous. No wonder they were tempted to join in and many a guy has left my bed proclaiming that he didn't usually do this but....

I realise this list is not comprehensive. It relects my own history I suppose. I would always welcome contributions from others to expand it.
Tucked away on the south side of the bridge this was very busy but I never really scored here for some reason
Fairly busy little 'cottage' in small park. Often watched by police
Premier cottage for West London. Busy night and day. Met some fantastic guys here. Underground ottage at other end of island 'park' never as good
Could be very interesting
Sticks in my memory for one guy I met here with the biggest...ever
Very popular with local lads
Very small cottage in corner of park. Fairly quiet but quite productive
This was a portaloo and it could even be seen rocking in rythym with the action going on inside.
Tiny cottage in a park opposite a busy row of shops. Good for closetted Indian guys.
Only recently closed. Could be dead or alive but worth occasional visit !
Now demolished !!!
Nice Indian boys !
Small but busy. Many guys sunbathed outside while keeping an eye on who was going in
Two cottages here and good place to meet joggers in their quick to slip off track suits and shorts
Hidden, dirty and I always felt dangerous. Not very busy
Another No 1 location for trade. Popular with pretty police however.
A friend of mine used to pick up lorry drivers here. They parked overnight and had there own cafe and toilets
Small hidden away cottage but not bad for Indian trade
The Hill is still very popular for cruising although cottage is now closed. very busy and popular however when it was open
Great for tourists in it's time. Still some possibilites.
As you would expect, very busy
Still going strong. Even featured in a TV film !
HYDE PARK (central)
Notorious at one time with celebreties getting arrested
HYDE PARK (Queensway)
Still going but quieter than in past
Two popular locations within easy walking distance !
Still there but not what it was darling.
This list has only just begun. There are hundreds of other entries but we need your help. Please send us your list of favourites. please keep E:Mail below 13k HENDON
Portacabin and like Southall Town Hall, heaving
Ealing. Toilets good hunting ground for students in the 80's
Gravel Hill
Tube Station
Tube Station
More to come.....Please send us your favourites and memories.

Cottage memories of London
By Tony

After being arrested in a cottage behind a pub in North Street, Clapham I was very wary and usually stuck to cubicles with glory-holes. Fortunately they were everywhere in London, so not difficult to find. You were essentially left alone in private to do whatever you wanted, though of course you had to be careful of busy-body police with ladders and mirrors, and of course of straight guys and minors who would often come in the cubicle next to yours. There was certainly an art to glory-hole cottaging, and in the little signs to know who was 'available' and who to be wary of.
When the law was changed in the early 21st Century to allow backroom clubs, etc. the first drafts would have designated cubicles in cottages as private places, but they had second thoughts about encouraging gay men and straight couples to use toilet cubicles for sex, so they were excluded from the final draft.
We had three glory-hole cottages in and around Clapham Junction at one time, and another in Battersea Park. The portaloo in Falcon Road had a glory hole between every cubicle, and there was a guy I used to service there regularly. The first time I encountered him I was with my partner on the way somewhere and popped in to a cubicle for a legitimate purpose. This guy was blond and absolutely gorgeous, and whispered thru the hole 'I need sucking off'. Alas I was in too much of a hurry to oblige on that occasion, but he was a regular and there were many other occasions when I was happy to be of service, bless him!
There was a grumpy old cleaner who used to come around at closing time and sometimes croak: 'Stop all that wanking, closing time!' On another occasion a guy was making a considerable noise making one of the glory holes with an electric drill, and was shouting above the noise to others watching him: 'Would somebody mind keeping a look out? I'm doing this for everyone's benefit!' An elderly carpenter working for Wandworth Council bragged on a gay trip to Amsterdam that he was responsible for the many glory holes in the borough, including the one in the Arndale shopping mall - handy for anyone who fancied a pleasant break/distraction from the weekly shopping. Sadly Wandsworth Council no longer provide this service, nor do other councils.
Cannon Street station was another of my regular haunts, though the glory hole cubicles were behind an iron gate which was only opened at 4pm daily. There'd be quite a queue for the 4 glory hole cubicles and a 

rush to get in them. I had a regular there too, but to be honest he wasn't really interested in me. He was a young guy in a suit, collar and tie - obviously a local City office worker. But one of the etiquettes of glory holes, at least for those who were a bit considerate (or impatient) was if you weren't interested in the guy next door rather than cover the hole with paper and try to out-sit him you would give him a quick hand relief then he'd vacate the cubicle and let someone else in. This City guy often obliged me, bless him.
Walthamstow had two glory hole cottages to my knowledge, and apparently I'm told more I never discovered. At one of these I actually had the good luck to give a bj thru the glory hole to a young blond policeman (or more likely a security guard) in uniform - happy memories! 
Some queen must have thought the 69 bus route in East London an appropriate one for cottaging as there were glory hole cottages each end at Walthamstow and North Woolwich, and several on the bus route in between - two at Canning Town.
There was one glory hole cottage by the fire station in Rosebery Avenue, Islington opposite where I worked. Very handy if I fancied a 'fag break' during working hours (and I don't even smoke!) This was working till a portly friend of mine from Hastings was up in London one day with his partner's nephew and his partner's sister (they'd been to Moorfields Eye Hospital where she was a patient.) My friend popped down the cottage, heard some noises in the cubicle next door (not the one with the glory hole), so climbed on the seat to look over at two guys having sex. The toilet pan smashed to smithereens under his weight, and he came up the steps with his trousers soaked and with bits of porcelain stuck to them - the two guys having trade also fled the flooded cottage pronto. Alas the cottage closed for good soon after - it's still there, but permanently locked up.
Some of the other glory hole cottages I fondly remember were located in Acton (market), Mile End, Ponders End, Wood Green, Alexandra Park (The Grove), Finsbury Park, Croydon, Richmond, Clapham Common, Thornton Heath, Piccadilly Circus (Burger King), Shaftesbury Ave (McDonalds), London Airport, King's College, London School of Economics, St Thomas' Hospital, at many stations including Finchley Road, Fenchurch Street, London Bridge, Victoria, Wimbledon, and the ones at Clapham Junction and Cannon Street already mentioned. Now I've retired and got my Freedom Pass to travel all over London, alas all these cottages have either been permanently closed or else the glory holes sealed up. 
I now know of only two glory hole cottages remaining in the whole of Greater London, neither particularly good. Graffitti in cottages is also a dying art. The Internet seems to be the new way to meet guys, but I never use this method myself. The thing about glory hole cottaging was it was quick, available in the daytime on the way to/from somewhere else, And much of the excitement was in the anticipation of not knowing who might come next door - many straight guys perhaps with their wives/girlfriends (and sometimes kids) waiting for them outside the cottage, oblivious to what was going on inside. Always the chance of something even more exciting like a guy in uniform.
Oh how I miss that scene. The glory holes in gay saunas and backroom clubs are just not the same, and are often too dark or little used. Too often the cubicles in these places are hogged by couples or threesomes and the glory holes ignored completely.
The great advantage of cottaging was that it was quick (apart from the waiting around for someone you fancied who was available). Once you found your match there was none of this doing a bj for 20 minutes till your jaw aches and then they zip up and announce: 'Oh I'm not ready to cum yet' which you tend to get in the clubs. They got on with it, so if your luck was in you could do several in an hour and then get a bj or hand relief yourself.
Now if you go to the clubs, many of which don't open till 11pm, it's an all-night job with many not prepared to cum till closing time. As to saunas, I've been a few times but the activity in these tends to be sporadic. No, give me a busy glory hole cottage any day. Alas, nearly all gone now.

Other glory hole cottages I've since remembered which you may wish to include in my list include:Nag's Head Shopping Mall (Holloway), White Cross Street (near the Barbican), Stanway Street (Hoxton), Smithfield Market, Parliament Hill Fields, a short-lived one in a shopping mall in Oxford Street and London Fields.
None of the glory holes mentioned in this article still exist, and I deliberately haven't mentioned the two I know are still there, which aren't very good anyway as glory hole cottaging is largely a thing of the past. One has no locks on the doors and was practically deserted when I visited recently, the other seems to be the same old faces -many hogging the cubicles for ages. Also an attendant reportedly now often watches the comings and goings.
For current information on glory holes, cottages, cruising grounds, etc. guys should visit the Gaybod site: http://boards.gaybod.com/cgi-bin/discus/discus.pl


Now the memories are really coming back. the cottage at the bottom of gravel hill, south croydon / addington
This two cubicle cottage had a super glory hole. Just big enough for the thickest of cocks. There was never a shortage of action. One day croydon council came along with two purpose made metal plates. A huge nut and bolt in the middle and smaller ones at each corner. A huge bolt passed throught he glory hole and a nut placed the other side, then the end of the bolt bashed to stop it being undone. A friend peter and I one night armed with appropriate tools went on a mission. We took about an hour removing this plate. Finally removed we left with the plate and tools. We were going to dump it somewhere. As we left the cottage a bobby passed us on foot patrol. Amazingly he didn*t stop us and ask what we were doing leaving a cottage at 2:30am
Once again the cottage of gravel hill was open for business

1986, 25 years old and in London !!
I was located in london in 1986 aged just 25 and soon discovered some very well used cottages. The first of these was located at Putney Bridge, very popular for urinal and cubicle action (with plenty of spy-holes!) Another cottage was at the top of the bridge near the river and i picked up many times in there. Others i found were at Hammersmith shopping centre, Clapham South, Wimbledon porta-kabin (heaving) and Hendon. It is sad cottaging is an almost dead industry...i have one local cottage in w2 which is very popular and frequented by staff (clue..nurses!) and gay and married guys so it serves a purpose!

I was a gay man in my mid twenties in Leicester in the late seventies, early eighties. You may find my memories of interest.
Boasting only one Gay Pub, the Dover Castle, Leicester needed cottages to satisfy the needs of local gay men in the late seveties and early eighties. One of the most popular was Slater Street, which was very very busy for many years. Close by was the Abbey park which had several really good picking up places.
Infirmary Square, one of the underground cottages was always a good bet as was the one near St. Marks in Belgrave Gate. Rumour had it the Police left it alone as they always knew where to pick up twenty of thirty gay men for importuning if they wanted to boost their crime figures.
'Viccy' Park would always figure on the list of places to visit when hunting for a man. Most guys here seemed to be married reps with cars parked close by and often a hotel room to go to. Evington Road was one of my favourites with a good class of trade and a quiet location. The Market Place was always busy but sorting the straights from the Gays could be a hazard. The Haymarket centre had the same problem but one's sixth sense usually proved to be correct.
St Margarets Bus Station could be very busy but one had to be very cafeful about under aged boys. There were more than a few out to earn a few bob.
The Police were always very active around the cottages in Leicester and used decoys a lot. The local newspaper was very homophobic and delighted in publishing names and addresses of those arrested for indecent acts or importuning.
Today things have changed a lot. There are several pubs and clubs and although cottages have gone, the large Asian population contains some real cute guys without many hangups about enjoying sex without strings.

David K

 There were 2 excellent cottages in Newport (Gwent). One was in the bus station, and the other on the corner of Commercial Road,adjacent to Church Street, where the Greenhouse sauna is now.

The one in the bus station has been closed, and replaced by a coin-operated loo. It was small, with 3 cubicles, which generally had glory holes, as the walls were very thin. It was always very busy on Friday and Saturday afternoons, and I had a regular mate, who gave the most amazing fuck.

Although it was small, and you had hardly any warning of people approaching, I never heard of anybody getting arrested in the 10 years or so I went there (from late 80's to the late 90's). I did have a fright once though when a policeman walked in, and went straight to urinal - where he unzipped his fly, started to have a pee, and started to laugh!He knew what we were there for, but didn't say a word. Not all of the boys in blue are nasty pasties!

The other toilet is still there. It should be a listed building, as it is a Victorian building, built in the late 1890's. In more recent times, in the late 1980's, it was extremely popular with cottagers, right up to the late 90's. People used to bring sandwiches, and spend the whole day there - no joke. I had many a happy time time.

There was a large glory hole between the 1st 2 cubicles, and it was always fun trying to stick your dick through it, as the walls were 7" thick.

I wouldn't recommend it now. It's been raided on several occasions, and was even set alight once by vandals, whilst I was in it - talk about hot sex. A couple of times I was walking out as police were walking in, and I've not been back since.


Editors Note

I used to visit Newport on business in the late seventies staying in a Victorian hotel I think called the Queens. I had great fun smuggling local guys into my room including a foreman from a local steel works. I did try the bus station venue but found the back bar of a small pub whose name I forget could be productive !. I also met the original 'only gay in the village' who lived way up in a valley in a small village and came into Newport occasionally to find trade.

Swansea and Neath also produced some pleasant experiences. In Neath I had a nice session with a guy from Derby who was getting married the next day and finished off the evening with the barman of the small hotel I was staying in. I also met a lovely Kashmiri guy in Swansea and passed a pleasant night in my hotel.

Top of Page

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

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

Pin Ups
Pictures we lusted over

Provincial Gay Life

The lost gay scene of the eighties

More about the eighties
The cinemas of Soho etc.

Between the wars and after
Now you see it, now you don't.

Hankie Pankie
The coloured hankie craze


Material copyright Stradivarius 2006.