Queer city: London club culture 1918 - 1967

Fitzroy Square Raid

In March, the National Trust and The National Archives re-created The Caravan, ‘London’s most bohemian rendezvous’, a queer-friendly members club of 1934. The recreation took place at Freud Café-Bar – in almost the exact spot of The Caravan’s original location.

The 1930s was a time when being openly gay would frequently lead to prosecution and imprisonment; we sought to tell the important story of many similar clandestine LGBTQ+ spaces that were raided and closed by police.

Photographs, court reports, police papers and witness statements on The Caravan and other clubs of the era were used to re-create the striking bohemian interior of the underground club.

Selected from The National Archives’ extensive collection, these documents reveal great detail and insights into club culture and the everyday prejudices facing the homosexual community at the time. 

Tours, events and club nights

In March 2017 we ran daytime tours of the Soho area that focused on LGBTQ+ heritage and club culture, which was followed by a visit to The Caravan. 

In the evenings visitors could become a club ‘member’ and enjoy a bespoke cocktail menu with drinks drawn from clubs of the era provided by the expert bartenders of Freud Café-Bar.  

We hosted a themed programme of talks, debates and performances that explored queer life before the Sexual Offences Act of 1967.

The Caravan, 1934, The National Archives DDP 2/224
The Caravan Interior
The Caravan, 1934, The National Archives DDP 2/224

Exploring LGBTQ heritage

This project is part of the National Trust’s programme to explore and celebrate themes of gender and sexuality in 2017 as part of the nation’s commemoration to mark 50 years since the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality.

LGBTQ heritage has an important place in the history of the conservation charity and the places in its care. During the year, the Trust’s ‘Prejudice and Pride’ programme will tell the stories of the men and women who challenged conventional notions of gender and sexuality and who shaped the properties in which they lived and the places they visited. 

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