“The Royal Vauxhall Tavern, 1860-2 probably by the architect James Edmeston the elder, refitted in 1896 and again in the early 1980s, meets the criteria of special architectural, historic and cultural interest and is recommended for listing at Grade II.”
Following a community campaign, the Royal Vauxhall Tavern (or RVT), the UK’s oldest LGBTQ pub, today became a listed building.
The RVT is the first building in the country listed for its significance to LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) heritage. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport confirmed the designation on the advice of Historic England (formerly English Heritage).
The news is a victory for RVT Future, a campaign group made up of performers, promoters and punters who cherish the pub. It was set up after the Tavern’s sale last year to Immovate, an Austrian property development company. Immovate has declined to meet the RVT community or reveal its plans for the site. It recruited consultants to try to block the listing.
RVT Future chair Amy Lamé, co-founder and host of long-running RVT night Duckie, said: “The listing is a fantastic milestone for our community and a victory against the odds for our beloved pub. We look forward to continuing our work to ensure the RVT remains a vibrant space of LGBTQ community and culture for generations to come. The RVT now joins New York’s Stonewall Inn, home of the gay liberation movement, in being officially recognised for its contribution to social history. We thank our many, many supporters from across London and further afield.”
Built around 1860, the RVT has been a hub of LGBTQ community since the 1940s or earlier. Paul O’Grady developed his legendary drag act Lily Savage there in the 80s, a period during which the pub was also visited by Princess Diana in drag and raided by police in rubber gloves.
Emily Gee, Historic England’s Head of Designation, said: “The Royal Vauxhall Tavern is an enduring and important venue for the LGBTQ community. Built on the site of the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, it carries on the tradition of alternative and bohemian entertainment which is bound up in this part of London’s history and identity.”
RVT Future campaign manager Rob Holley, promoter of RVT night Push The Button, added:
“We’re chuffed to bits but our work isn’t finished! We’re now calling on Immovate to finally talk to us, so we can all ensure this special venue continues to serve the community.
“If Immovate don’t think they can make the Tavern work as a listed pub, we invite them to open discussions about a community buy-out. Sell it to a group of people who actually have faith in the commercial viability of this phenomenal venue. We have the means to do this and some exciting ideas about how the RVT could be improved for everybody. Meanwhile, we invite everyone who cherishes the Tavern to join us at the bar to celebrate!”
Supporters of the listing application, written by RVT Future’s Ben Walters, included Mayor of London Boris Johnson, Sir Ian McKellen and Paul O’Grady, as well as local residents, charities, architects, historians and politicians. For a full list of supporters click here.
The full Historic England report is available to read here:
REASONS FOR DESIGNATION DECISION
The Royal Vauxhall Tavern, 1860-2 probably by the architect James Edmeston the elder, refitted in 1896 and again in the early 1980s, is recommended for listing for the following principal reasons:
= Historic interest: the building has historic and cultural significance as one of the best known and
long-standing LGB&T venues in the capital, a role it has played particularly in the second half of the C20. It has become an enduring symbol of the confidence of the gay community in London for which it possesses strong historic interest above many other similar venues nationally;
= Architectural interest: it also possesses architectural interest in the handsome and well-designed mid
Victorian curved façade, with a parade of arcades terminating in pedimented bays, which has a strong
architectural presence despite alterations at ground floor level;
= Historic associations: built on the site of the England’s best known place of pleasure for more than
two centuries, Vauxhall Gardens; and this building’s specifically acknowledged association, since the late
C19/early C20, with alternative culture and performance;
= Interior interest: the structural decorative cast iron columns survive although the later 1980s fittings
are excluded from the listing; there are original fixtures at the upper floors.