Mapping Glasgow’s Queer History

Click on ‘View Larger Map’ for more detail

Interactive Map of Glasgow’s Queer Places and Spaces

Over the period that I conducted my research with non-heterosexual men from Scotland I began a database of different venues that they had used/cruised/visited over the period 1940-2000. I combined this with data collected from my examination of trial records related to homosexual offences in Scotland during an earlier period. The largest database related to Glasgow, for the obvious reasons: it was the largest city, the most populated, and offered a critical mass not found anywhere else in Scotland.

From this database I have begun (yes there are more) populating a map of the city to show just where men and women socialised, relaxed, cruised and loved in Glasgow. The vast majority of venues available to men and women in the period prior to the 1980s were low-key and discreet, where one might find a potential partner, lover, or one of the TBHs (to-be-had). Additionally, in a period when all homosexual acts were outlawed, a small but thriving network of male prostitution was established in the city, beginning roughly in the 1880s. This more organised network focused its attention on the riverside Broomielaw and Clyde Street, where they would ply their trade.  ‘Self-employed’ male prostitutes could be found outwith the city centre in places and spaces such as Cathkin Park and Queen’s Park throughout the same period.

You will notice the large number of bars, existing prior to the change in law in 1980, that were not specifically catering for queer Glaswegians, but with a little discretion and no shortage of confidence one might meet a potential lover.  The Top Spot  bar was frequented by television and theatre professionals, due to its proximity to the Theatre Royal and TV studios, and attracted a fair number of gay men and women. The Strand Bar filled a site on Hope Street which remained ‘gay’ for 40 years. Interviewees told me that The Strand was ‘wholesome’, but if you preferred a more delicate bar then you would head to the bar situated inside the The Royal Restaurant. Those of middle-class origins, or pretensions, might head for the Close Bar at the Citizens’ or for a coffee in the coffee bar of the Central Hotel.

There were other locations that didn’t advertise themselves as exclusively gay but did attract and appreciate a large gay customer base, such as the Winter Green Cafe at the People’s Palace on Glasgow Green. Glasgow Green has a long and colourful history. Throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries the police would station officers close to (and sometimes amongst) the ‘dense shrubbery’ adjacent to Nelson’s Monument (now long gone – the shrubbery not the monument as you can see below) in the hope of catching people ‘in the act’. If it was a mixed sex couple, then in all likelihood you would sent off after some stern words, but gay men were not so fortunate as many were prosecuted for homosexual offences resulting from clandestine, and probably terribly brief, engagements on the Green.

Where's that shrubbery?

Where’s that shrubbery?

By the 1980s, we see the emergence of venues which are catering specifically for non-hetersexual punters.  Some of the oldest being, The Waterloo, The Court Bar, Vintners, Squires, Austins, and Bennets (most of which are now defunct). Below you’ll find some early adverts for some of these and other venues.


Not the original Guy's Bar

Not the original Guy’s Bar

Club X added a little freshness to the scene

Club X added a little freshness to the scene

The Drawing Room

The Drawing Room

Maison Guy's

Maison Guy’s

The purpose of the interactive map at the top is so that you can browse the venues and spaces that have attracted non-heterosexual Glaswegians over the past 150 years. As mentioned, the list is much larger and I’ll add other places as time progresses. I f I can source photographs of these venues then these will be added to the map. Feel free to get in touch with me (see About page) if you spot any errors or wish to suggest any additions, or have any images to share.

Copyright © Jeff Meek 2013

All Rights Reserved.

One thought on “Mapping Glasgow’s Queer History

  1. Pingback: Risk, Embarrassment, Democracy! Glasgow’s ‘Queer’ Scene, 1955-2008 | That Class of Men

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