Caravan Club

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The Caravan Club was a gay club that opened in July 1934 at 81 Endell Street, Covent Garden. Jack Neave, who ran several night clubs, had met William Reynolds who was looking to invest a recent inheritance. They rented the Endell Street basement for £300 from "one of the many shady estate agents in the West End who specialise in letting premises to shady clubs and prostitutes". They charged 1 shilling for membership or 6d (pence) on the door. Within six weeks it had 445 members and attracted 2004 visitors. It was decorated in an oriental style. Its advertisement flyer read:


After the day's routine pond you evening at
the caravan
81 Endell St.
Entrance in Court
(corner of Shaftesbury Avenue, facing Princes Theatre)
Phone: Temple Bar 7665

London's Greatest Bohemijan Rendezvous
said to be the most unconventional spot in town

All night gaiety – dancing to Charlie
Periodical night trips to the great open spaces, including the Ace of Spades, etc


Inside men could dance, kiss and have sex.

The Caravan was raided by police after letters from Holborn Council and ratepayers from Endell Street complained the the place was "frequented by sexual perverts, lesbians and sodomites... an absolute sink of iniquity, your prompt attention is respectfully craved". Then the London District Command accused the venue of corrupting service-men and had the place patrolled by the military police who tried to keep it out-of-bounds. Then came pressure from the Public Morality Council (PMC) who were surveying 25 venues by special request, and the Caravan was finally prosecuted in 1933, along with dance halls in Baker Street and Archer Street and a ball room in Holland Park Avenue. Betty had avoided previous conviction of her dances in 1932 in Baker Street and Archer Street on a previous occasion when she learned that plain clothes policemen were planning to attend – she cancelled the dances.

See Timeline of West End Bars and Clubs.

References

Matt Houlbrook, Queer London