Coleherne, Earls Court

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The Coleherne public house was a gay pub in west London. Located at 261 Old Brompton Road, Earls Court, it was a popular landmark Leather bar during the 1970s and 1980s.

The Coleherne pub (named after Coleherne Road) began life in 1866, at Old Brompton Road in the heart of the west London Bohemian Quarter. It had a long history of attracting a bohemian clientele before becoming known as a gay pub. A lifelong resident of Earls Court Square, Jennifer Ware, recollects as a child being taken there to Sunday lunch in the 1930s, when drag entertainers performed after lunch had finished. It became a gay pub in the mid-fifties. Originally it was segregated into two bars, one for the straight crowd and one for the gay community at a time when homosexuality was illegal. In the 1970s it became a notorious Leather bar, with blacked-out windows, attracting an international crowd including Freddie Mercury, Kenny Everett, Rudolf Nureyev, Anthony Perkins, Rupert Everett, Ian McKellen and Derek Jarman. Leather men wearing chaps and leather jackets with key chains and colour-coded handkerchiefs formed the clientele. The Coleherne was known internationally as a leather bar by 1965.[1] The gay community flourished in Earls Court[2] and many international tourists joined the locals.

American author Armistead Maupin included references to the Coleherne in his Tales of the City book Babycakes. It is referred to in the lyrics of Hanging Around by The Stranglers.

It sought to lighten its image with a makeover in the mid-1990s to attract a wider clientele, but to no avail. In September 2008, it was purchased by Realpubs, underwent a major refurbishment and reopened as a gastropub, The Pembroke.

Notable events[edit]

Coleherne pub goers, angry at the politicisation of gay sex, lifestyle and position in society by the Gay Liberation Front (GLF), pelted passing parade goers with bottles in 1972.[3]

Over the years, many police arrests were made for a range of offences, including obstruction, soliciting, importuning, and the more serious conspiracy to corrupt public morals, in the street outside the pub at night when customers left at closing time. These arrests were often just as a result of little more than gay men standing in the street talking to each other. This, despite the fact that many other non-gay pubs in the area used to have similar crowds at closing time and no police action was taken against them. There were several street disturbances and demonstrations through the 1970s and '80s as a result of continual, decades-long police harassment around the Coleherne.

The pub was infamous as the stalking ground for three separate serial killers from the 1970s to 1990s: Dennis Nilsen, Michael Lupo and Colin Ireland. Serial killer Colin Ireland committed five murders in 1993, after making a New Year's resolution. Ireland, who claimed he was straight, picked up men at the Coleherne, whose colour-coded handkerchiefs indicated that they were into sadomasochism and passive. Ireland accompanied his victims to their homes, where he restrained and then killed them.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Gay leather bars". cuirmale.nl. Retrieved 1 October 2014.  Leather bars
  2. ^ Burnside, Grant. ""The Coleherne, Earl's Court, 1981" and "Summer 1981"". Retrieved 2013-05-22. 
  3. ^ Cook, Matt, et al., eds. (2007) A Gay History of Britain. Oxford: Greenwood World; p. 186

Coordinates: 51°29′20″N 0°11′29″W / 51.4889°N 0.1915°W / 51.4889; -0.1915