From the 1950s to the 1970s the Lockyer Tavern on Lockyer Street in Plymouth was an important social space for gay men, in particular its ‘back bar’. Originally the home of a local surgeon, Sir George McGrath, the building that housed the Lockyer became a hotel in 1862. With expansions in the late nineteenth century and survival through WWII, it was a well-known queer location for much of the second half of the twentieth-century.
The Lockyer was also a mixed social space that welcomed prostitutes, non-queer women who felt safe there and other customers including local painter Beryl Cook and her husband. Cook immortalised the camp and welcoming patrons of the Lockyer in some of her paintings.
According to one man:
The Lockyer became so famous that it became a coded term for discovering a person’s sexuality – by asking ‘do you know the Lockyer’s?’
The Pride in Our Past Project and the Plymouth LGBT Archive have undertaken oral histories related to the history of the Lockyer Tavern and its significance to the queer community in Plymouth. Listen to Mavis, a barmaid from the Lockyer, tell her story along with Peter, Kevin and Ted who were customers.
The Lockyer Tavern was demolished in the 1970s, and the site is now the garden of the Bank Pub and the Civic Centre car park.
‘Lockyer Street Tavern’, painting by Beryl Cook. Courtesy of Plymouth City Museum & Art Gallery © Estate of Beryl Cook.
The Lockyer Tavern, 1960. Courtesy of PWDRO, © Plymouth Library Services, Plymouth City Council Acc: 3488/PCC/76/5/377 (Front Page)