McArthur's Warehouse, Bristol, c.1980

McArthur's Warehouse c.1980

Bristol Gay Centre, McArthur’s Warehouse, Gasferry Road, Bristol

From 1978 to 1983 Bristol had a gay centre housed in a suite of four rooms on the top floor of McArthur’s Warehouse.

The building began as a late 19th century brewery and then McArthur’s iron foundry until the late 1950s. In the 1970s the building was home to a motley collection of arts workshops and small businesses.

A committee began meeting in August 1977 to raise funds and find premises for a Gay Centre. After numerous lease applications were rejected, the McArthur Warehouse was ‘discovered’  and within a few weeks the Gay Centre opened in October 1978. It included a café and spaces for parties, meetings and discos; it also provided premises for Bristol Gay Switchboard. The Spike Island location was always a disadvantage, especially at night: a one-mile walk from the city centre, amidst disused wharfs and industrial sheds. Dedicated volunteers did most of the work, but it became harder to find volunteers and the centre closed in December 1983.

“I went there the second day I was in Bristol. You used to be able to get lunch there on a Saturday. It was fine to visit on a Saturday daytime, but I never went in the evening as the roads leading to it were too dark and secluded and no buses that I knew of to take me there and back. I found it very friendly and welcoming, though there were hardly any lesbians there.”   Jane

  4 Responses to “Bristol Gay Centre, Gasferry Road”

  1. hi Jane, you must have met my mother then, she did the cooking

    • I remember when I was at school in the 70s and realised I was gay. I was devastated! And very very scared. I crept out one evening to the public phone box up the road and called the switchboard and spoke to someone called Dale. I must have been 14 or 15 and it was the first time I’d told anyone. She was so lovely. I wonder if it was you this Dale who posted. If so, thank you very much – 40 years later I remember how kind you were and down to earth and it helped me tremendously at the time. It seems crazy now to have been so scared and upset – but in the 70s it seemed like a big deal

  2. indeed Yvonne it must have been me, as I was the only Dale on Switchboard at any time that was female – that was why SB was started in the 70’s exactly because several of us found it ‘scary’ coming out, most of us had big problems doing so, you were certainly NOT alone in that!

  3. Hello Dale – thanks for your help all those years ago! You were lovely 🙂

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