The Red Lion Pub on Gloucester Street was once known as Oxford’s principal theatre pub. Located between The New Theatre and The Oxford Playhouse, it was easy for theatre stars to visit for a quick pint pre-, post- or even mid-show. For a time the pub was also known as Oxford’s most-established gay meeting place.
In June 1983 The Red Lion closed for renovations and its gay patrons had to look elsewhere. This closure led to the opening of Oxford’s longest-running gay pub, The Jolly Farmers, in October of that year.
David describes his first visit to The Red Lion during the 1970s:
“I remember the very first time my legs were shaking like jelly. I looked up and down the street to see if anybody was looking, particularly anybody from work or anybody who knew me, and you just dived in the door and that was the pattern of a lot of gay men then... It was very nice. It was very welcoming. Val, the landlady there, made people welcome. And you had a nice mixture of, could you call it the luvvies of the theatre? Where you had the backdoor of The New Theatre one side of The Red Lion, the back door of The Playhouse the other. And of course when the Royal Ballet came and all those male physiques coming in there, it was quite a treat for the gay men customers. Well, I mean to be honest with you it was a place where you really met, you know, your contemporaries really. Because there was nowhere else.”