Architects joined campaign to get threatened Royal Vauxhall Tavern listed

Heritage minister Tracey Crouch has listed the Royal Vauxhall Tavern after a campaign which saw architects lobbying Historic England to protect it.

The venue, said to be the nation’s oldest gay pub, was given grade II status.

Historic England, which made the recommendation to the culture department, said it was a “handsome mid-Victorian public house, with an impressive curved façade and strong architectural presence”.

Historic England (HE) is currently documenting buildings and landscapes associated with the nation’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) history for its Pride of Place project.

The Tavern, on the Vauxhall gyratory, stands on the site of the 17th-century Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens and has been a lynchpin for the LGBTQ community for more than six decades, said campaigner Alexis Kalli, an architectural assistant at Levitt Bernstein.

He added: “It has taken a lot of talented people to make the case for the grade II listing, the first building in the UK ever to be listed for its LGBT significance.

“We’ve managed this despite efforts from some prominent heritage and planning consultants making the case against on behalf of the current owners Immovate, who have yet to reveal their intentions. It’s wonderful to have a bit of the built environment recognised for the community but there is so much more work to do to secure the future of activism, history, learning and fun that goes on in there.”

The pub’s future was thrown into doubt after it was bought by a secretive Austrian property developer last year.

Lambeth council welcomed the news, saying the listing gave it more power to reject any future proposals to demolish and redevelop the site.

Architects who wrote to Historic England backing campaign group RVT Future’s listing application included James Soane, co-founder of Project Orange, London School of Architecture adviser Nigel Coates, Ben Campkin, director of UCL’s Urban Laboratory, Fernando Rihl, co-founder of Procter-Rihl Architects, and Simon Atkinson, a professor at the University of Texas.

Historic England statement

We are delighted that the minister for heritage, Tracey Crouch, has listed the Royal Vauxhall Tavern at grade II on our advice.

The Royal Vauxhall Tavern (RVT) is one of the most historically significant LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) venues in London, possibly in England. It has an international reputation and is built on a long tradition of hosting ground-breaking alternative cabaret performances from the early twentieth century onwards.

It was a place of safety for many in the LGBTQ community and a beacon of acceptance in less tolerant times. It carries on that role today as a site for campaigning and activism.

Roger Bowdler, director of Listing at Historic England, 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.”

The building also has architectural interest. It is a handsome mid-Victorian public house, with an impressive curved façade and strong architectural presence despite alterations at ground floor level. This building meets the test for listing for its combined special architectural and historic interest in a national context.

The listing means this iconic venue, so important in telling the story of LGBTQ London, is now protected and we hope the RVT continues to entertain the capital for years to come.

The listing comes at a time when Historic England is working on Pride of Place: a ground-breaking research project uncovering the untold queer histories of buildings and places people have lived alongside for generations. Led by a team of historians at Leeds Beckett University’s Centre for Culture and the Arts, people have been asked to give examples of the buildings and places special to them; from the private houses of trailblazing individuals; to the much-loved local gay bar; to the first venue in town to host equal marriage, and everything in between. The result will be an online exhibition telling the stories of a multitude of buildings across the country that hold a sometimes hidden, sometimes public, LGBTQ history. People can map their own LGBTQ places on the Pride of Place interactive map.