The Radnor Hotel

30 St Nicholas Street, BS1. c. 1925? – c. 1976.

Radnor Hotel postwar

Radnor Hotel, postwar.
Copyright: Anna Henderson.

The Radnor is the only gay pub in Bristol we know of before the 1960s. Its history is unclear since nothing could be written down or publicised before 1967.

Gerald and Joan Weegenaar, 1940s

Gerald and Joan Weegenaar, 1940s.
Copyright: Anna Henderson.

It was certainly gay by the early 1940s and people have told us it was gay in the 1930s. The Broadhurst family had run it since 1925 so it may have been gay for that long. Charles Broadhurst held the licence 1925-38, then Grace Broadhurst (possibly his wife) who held the licence until 1953 and died aged about 80. Grace’s daughter, Joan, then took over; she had married a Dutchman, Gerald Weegenaar, who kept it until his early death in 1963.

In about 1975 it was taken over by David Brokenbrow who decided that gay customers were not welcome, although in July 1976 Gay News reported that some women still drank there. It then traded as The Porcupine, but has been vacant for some years.

.

.

Joan Weegenaar & Anna Henderson - Radnor Hotel bar 1962.

Joan Weegenaar and daughter Anna Henderson,
Radnor Hotel bar 1962.
Copyright: Anna Henderson.

Peggy Hancock in 2011

Peggy Hancock in 2011

The pub was long and narrow, and had a sort of snug bar at the back, divided from the street end by a step and a curtain, where the most outrageous queens congregated. A table was always reserved for a group known as The Tea Set.

The bar was ruled for nearly two decades by Peggy Hancock (Auntie Peg) who first visited the pub in 1938 aged 15, but began work there about 1955. There were three young barmen, known as Bubbles, Edwina and Victoria Melita. The clientele was mixed – in the daytime straight, mainly farmers and traders from St Nicholas Market, plus a few of the more respectable sort of prostitutes. By night and at weekends gays and theatricals from the Old Vic in King Street or from the Hippodrome, including the actors Anton Walbrook, Eric Portman and the drag artiste Danny La Rue.

.

“It was packed with queens: if you didn’t get there by 9 o’clock, you couldn’t get in the door”.

Radnor Hotel, St Nicholas Street, Bristol

Radnor Hotel and Joan Weegenaar, early 1960s.
Copyright: Anna Henderson.

Anna Henderson, daughter of Gerald & Joan Weegenaar

Anna Henderson, daughter of Gerald & Joan Weegenaar, in the Radnor c1962.
Copyright: Anna Henderson.

  13 Responses to “Radnor Hotel”

  1. The Radnor, what a great pub. As a very nervous teenage girl I plucked up enough courage to enter this pleasure dome to meet other women. This was in 1967. I always felt welcome, safe and the guys were friendly and fun. Great memories.

    • The Radnor was a thriving gay pub in 1962. When I want to live in Bristol I had some great times at the Radnor. It was sometimes popular with sailors looking for somewhere to stay at weekends offering their unique talents. On Saturday evening after closing time many of the gay clientelle went to parties in private flats. There was always a party on Saturday night. I should know I held very many of them. The Radnor was the most friendly gay pub that I ever went to worldwide.
      Ronnie

  2. Sally – fantastic stuff. How many women went there in the 1960s? We’d love to talk to you more about this.
    Andy

  3. the Radnor was a gay bar as a result of the BBC moving to Bristol in 1940 to avoid the London blitz! up until this time it was a straight bar ! My mum Joan weegenaar nay broadhurst did indeed marry a Dutchman that was my dad, he died in 63 when i was 8 not 72 ! ther were a lot of quite famous people that came into the pub inc. Dirk Bogard, and another american film writer and director called Robin Estridge who was a great friend of my mums ! he lived with Dirk for a time on the french riviera ! she embraced the gay crowd, in fact my godfather was somebody called David Black who was killed in Tangier by his rent boy ! the brokenbrows were another branch of my famiy that were fish mongers in the fish market opposite that took over the pub after my dad died !

  4. This was the first gay pub I visited, in 1970, and remember the curtain at the door and a rather subdued atmosphere inside by modern standards. The beer was Courage ordinary (which had a red label on the pump) or Best bitter (blue label). I think very few people drank lager in those days – now they all do, and we who still buy real ale are seen as rather quaint artefacts from a bygone age. Most of us had long hair and anyone with very short hair was viewed as probably violent.
    On a subsequent visit, as a new face, I was homed in on by “Limejuice”, as Malcolm was nicknamed, I think because of his penchant for it as a mixer. A real character on the scene in those days.

    • I remember limejuice! as a young boy of 16 years i had my first drink in this bar…i was not in the bar for more than 5 mins and this guy came up to me and asked if i would like a drink…his name was malcolm…i was later to find out his nickname was limejuice…a nice guy..who i believe died in the mid 80s…i think he was pissed and choked in his sleep…

  5. I first visited the Radnor in 1968 and can well remember the curtain at the far end. To use the toilet you had to go through that curtain and accept the squeals from the camp voices at that end.

    The bar was always packed in those days and was my first experience of a gay bar. Every time I hear the Kinks and Lola I think of the Radnor , it was played on the jukebox over and over.

    I can remember a woman being landlady called Tricia, I thought she was David’s wife, always friendly,Alan a welsh guy was barman then.

    I knew Gordon Bond, he was hairdresser to the stars on film sets, he told me that he used to go to the Radnor in the early 1930s whilst working as a hairdresser in the theatres, he was of the opinion that it had been gay from Victorian times.
    Happy times then, not like the scene that is now
    Michael

  6. How sad to see the dear old Radnor boarded up on one of my very infrequent trips from London to Bristol last year.

    I moved from Weston–s-Mare in 1965/66 (the same time as the Silver Blades ice rink opened). I did not know of the Radnor’s existence for some time despite dropping off various ‘trade’ that I had met in certain, darker and exciting parts of the city (more of that at a later date). It did not even cross my mind that it was a gay bar until someone I dropped off there said he would invite me in but his boyfriend was going to be there and that would not be wise. Talk about a ‘Eureka’ moment!

    It was still some before I entered the pub. I had met a guy called Malcolm D, on my ‘travels’ and he took me in. He told me he was 18 (the same age as me) but he turned out to be in his forties – how naive was that. He was the famous Limejuice Lill – so called, not because it was his favourite mixer (as mentioned by another contributor to this Radnor page) but because that is all he drank as he claimed it kept him looking youthful. Well it did in the middle of the Downs on a dark night. Alas he died some while ago. His death was put down as accidental – but as he had (it is alleged) a coke bottle stuffed down his throat and another stuffed in another orifice I think the coroner could have been mistaken!!

    One of the first people to speak to me in the pub was a lovely deaf guy Ron D with his ‘affaire’ Tony. Ron’s very first words to me were ‘are you bitch or butch’. What’s an eighteen year old supposed to say to that? We became good friends.

    I use the word ‘affaire’ as that’s how people were introduced to their ‘other halves’. It was many years before the term was replaced by ‘lovers’, ‘partner’, ‘squeeze’ or f**k.

    As others on this page have described the pub I would say it was like an early ‘Rovers Return’. Nevertheless it was with an air of trepidation, and not without some sense of excitement, that you ventured in here on a Friday or Saturday night. Let’s face it – there was nowhere else to go. And we were so grateful.

    I met some wonderful people here. One of them, David Hext, became one of my closest friends. He had recently returned from either Australia or NZ and was known as Sophie – on account of having more than a passing resemblance to Sophie Tucker. How unkind some people can be! Alas he died in 1991 on his 50th birthday, ironically of the same cancer that took his father, on his 50th birthday, some years earlier.

    There was a much older guy, Cyril M who was slightly disabled, who befriended me and arranged to get me some ‘visiting cards’ printed – some of which I still have.

    I got in with a group of guys, about my age – Peter D (aka as Patchway Pete – as that is where he lived), John U, Paul H, Lee (?) a ‘life and soul of the party type’. He sadly died a few years later at an early age. Steve (?) who I used to see when he moved to London – he, alas has also passed on, Peter W (aka known as Railway Pete on account of his job), John K (aka as mother) and Grahame, Barry G-S and John N-S and Chris. There are many others who I can picture in my mind’s eye but cannot recall the names. Oh! for a camera phone in the 1960’s!

    I remember the ‘tea-set’ table but did not get to know some of the occupants until some time later. These are the group of ‘older gentlemen’ that I referred to in my recollections of the Moulie – waltzing around the floor. Wally C, a member of that set, and subsequently a close friend, tells a wonderful story of his first visit to the Radnor. He had plucked up enough courage to enter those hallowed portals and as he did so, caught his toe in the sunken doormat well and stumbled and half ran to the bar, grabbing it to prevent himself falling fully to the floor. As he grappled his way up the bar, from the floor, Peggy looked at him and said ‘what you having dear?’ Talk about making an entrance.

    It was lovely to see a picture of Peggy on your web-site.

    There is a reference, elsewhere on this site, to the ‘coffee set’. I’m sure younger people find it hard to imagine that pubs used to close at 1030 and there was nowhere else to go (other than a mad drive to Bath at 1000 on Friday or Saturday to take advantage of the 1100 closing at the Lavingtons – opp the theatre). We are talking pre-Moulie days. John K (aka mother) used to ‘invite’ dozens of us around to the Bali coffee bar in Union Street. It was sometimes so busy that the owner (a Greek or Italian guy) would have to open the upstairs room.

    As I got to know more people it would be a regular occurrence for ten/fifteen to come back to my flat in Redland Park for coffee. No drugs, no alcohol; just friends chatting and playing LP’s (mainly musicals).

    Oh! Happy days.

  7. Glad to find this page, my parents David and Tricia Brokenbrow actually took the pub over in 1969; my dear old dad far preferred the afternoon stockbroker crowd to our evening and weekend crowd, although the only people I ever saw him refuse to serve were Germans!

    I was 5 when we took over the Radnor, and lived there until the age of 18, having met the most incredible assortment of people you could ever imagine, gays, lesbians, drag queens, talk about never a dull moment! Every gay performer on stage at the Hippodrome or Old Vic would turn up, we even had a stage set up in the back bar for a drag show at one stage, the only downside to all this was in the mid 70s when we had to put chicken wire over the windows as it suddenly became very fashionable for every cidered-up yokel in town to throw bricks through the windows, I can remember thinking how odd that was as the evening vibe was always so laid back, it never struck me until then that anyone could have anything against the gay community.

    So what a childhood, all I’d like to add is that although my dad would occasionally mutter ‘bloody poofs’ under his breath, the Radnor and then the Porcupine was a gay haven, always it a bit more laid back than the Elephant, more for the old school crowd, right up until my Mum handed it back to the brewery in about 1984. I just can’t believe it was allowed to rot away, it’s a pub with a history dating back to the 17th century, and for a long while was a real gay/lesbian landmark in the city.

  8. Just came across this and it brings back memories of visiting the Radnor in the mid 1950s. I was an 18 year old Airman in the R.A.F. at Filton along with about 200 other males of the same age. (National Service was compulsory at the time) three or four of us used to go down to Bristol to Jazz clubs but there was one lad originally from Cardiff who one night said “Come on I’ll show you the queers pub”. Now I was from Leeds and though we had one city centre pub notorious for what are now referred to as Gays (The Mitre) I had never knowingly met one. So on the Friday night in we went. it was packed and smoky but what caught my attention was two men dancing up the other end of the bar. The Welsh lad had been in before and it was not long before we were being bought drinks. I was quite nervous, never firstly seeing men with make up on and also my first sighting of a black man (Remember this was 1950s) we did not stay long but used to call in most Fridays and there seemed to be a regular crowd that night. I have to say that we used to get bought a couple of pints and then got out pretty quickly. The black guy one night paid me . a “Left handed compliment ” by saying You are too ugly to be a queer.
    By a long arm of coincidence 20 years later I came back to Bristol and along with some lads who worked in the City centre and after 6pm. we used to go in what was then The Porcupine and play cards for a couple of hours.
    Shame that it is now closed

  9. I took it over for 3 years in the 1990’s.
    It was very haunted!
    At the time, I ignored all the strange things happening but now as a Paranormal Investigator, do anyone who lived there have any stories to tell me?
    I was sure it was a woman spirit, and it didn’t like men!
    My name is Karin and my mobile is 07873180565

    • I am the daughter of Joan Weegenaar the original licensee, the pub was never haunted, it was always a friendly place to be brought up, ia was born there and left when I was 15 Happy memories

 Leave a Reply

(required)

(required)