Our short guide to some of the long lost gay bars, pubs and meeting places of Leeds.
Leeds’ modern, vibrant and compact LGBT scene is centred around the rainbow painted Leeds Freedom Bridge in the area commonly known as #gayleeds. It hasn’t always been like this, over the years many LGBT venues have around the city and in #gayleeds itself disappeared, changed their use or been renamed. Here we delve into the past and try to unravel the Leeds LGBT social hubs of the past.
The Mitre Hotel
The Mitre Hotel was built in 1899 and could be found at number 48 Commercial Street. The same site that was previously the location of a much older pub called The Horse and Jockey which dated back as far as 1744. The Mitre Hotel gained a reputation as being essentially a theatrical pub where in the early evening’s like-minded men could meet in a place where women were not allowed. This pub’s location today would be where Thorntons Chocolatiers on Commerical Street is currently found.
It is documented that you had to go down some steps to enter the bar and it is claimed that at the bottom of the stairs was a two-way mirror through which either the police or the talent could be viewed as they arrived. It is thought to have closed as a licensed premises back in 1961.
In the 1980’s Rockshots 2 could be found opposite The New Penny (which is still there) and above a vast (but also long gone) venue called Bananas. Rockshots 2 was the sister club to Newcastle’s Rockshots. The Leeds venue is described with great affection by some of those who attended it as being a dingy black cave. It was in these dingy dark corners where so many gays, lesbians and any other curious individual could find the safety and confidence to be camper and gayer than they’d ever dared to be in public.
It was surely a thrilling and frightening experience in both equal measures with latest Hi-Nrg Disco tunes pulsating, fan dancers, the euphoric smell of liquid gold aroma, the tiny record shop in the entrance and also not forgetting the infamous “meat rack” row of seats.
The Royal Hotel
Built in 1692 this was first known as the New King’s Arms but changed its name to the Royal Hotel in 1834 when the Royal Mail coaches used it. The Royal Hotel was well known as a meeting place for gay men.
The building was re-developed in 1979, by the Yorkshire Metropolitan Housing Association as Regent Court, a development of single- person flats.
Primo’s II was located in the basement of market chambers right next to the Kirkgate Market and just between Back New York Street and New York Street, it was the second venue to have the name Primo’s in the city the original venue was replaced by Bananas and Rockshots 2.
The Hope & Anchor
The Hope & Anchor begun it’s life as a pub in 1953 but has been known as The New Penny since 1983. It is the longest consecutively running LGBT venue in the UK and even has a Civic Trust Blue Plaque. It was at this venue that many a Drag Queen made their name, including Paul O’Grady’s Lily Savage. The Hope & Anchor was ransacked by football hooligans in the 1960’s after an article exposing it’s “Homosexual Clientele” was published by The News of The World.
Great Northern Hotel: The Wellington Bar
The Wellington Bar of the Great Northern Hotel was another hotel known as a pickup place for men who wanted discreet fun with other men. How glad we are that times have now changed and that all this sneaking around no longer has to exist.
This is only a quick list and we hope to update as more information is gathered. We’d also like to include Bananas, The Pelican Social Club, The Old Red Lion, The Gemini Bar on Vicar Lane, Charlie’s Nightclub and few others too.
If you have any corrections/updates you would like us to make or if you have any information about these or any other long lost gay bars of Leeds, please get in touch with us via our Twitter or Facebook pages!
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Words by Ross McCusker