The Lockyer Hotel – Tavern

Derrys Clock Plymouth - Harvey's Hotel - Lockyer Hotel

Derry’s Clock, Harvey’s Hotel and The Royal Hotel, late 19th Century, courtesy PWDRO, from Plymouth Library Services Collection, original copyright Pictorial Staionery Company Ltd. Acc: 3488/PCC/76/5/7799

The Lockyer Tavern began its life as the home of Plymouth surgeon, Sir George Magrath. It was known as George House on the junction of Lockyer Street and George Place. Sir George was at one time Surgeon of the Victory, flagship of Lord Nelson. He was also a medical officer at Dartmoor Prison and later, Inspector of Hospitals. In his later years he practised as a physician in Plymouth. Illness then struck and he spent the last four years of his life confined to his residence. Sir George was somewhat of a local celebrity, a confirmed bachelor known for his wearing of a wig and padded calves. He died at his home in June 1857. The house remained empty for several years until it was reopened on Saturday 19th April, 1862 as Harvey’s Family Hotel.
The hotel was described in the local press as being ‘replete with every comfort, convenience and accommodation for families visiting the locality – including hot and cold baths’. By 1882 the hotel was looking to expand with a grand conservatory – as illustrated in these original plans:

Harvey’s Hotel Extension plans, 1882, copytright PWDRO, Plymouth City Council
Acc: 2961/PCC/60/1/3881

Sometime between 1888 and 1890 Harvey’s Hotel came under new ownership and expanded with the building of what we now know as ‘The Bank’ public house. The expansion created new office suites, (later to become Lloyds bank), whilst the hotel changed its name to the Lockyer Hotel. WWII brought damage to the building although it managed to survive as a public house until the 1970s when it was finally demolished.
During the 1950s, 60s and 70s The Lockyer Hotel or Tavern became famous for being a safe place for gay men to drink and socialise, particularly in its ‘Back Bar’.

Photo - The Lockyer Tavern taken in 1960

The Lockyer Tavern, 1960, courtesy PWDRO, copyright Plymouth Library Services,
Plymouth City Council Acc: 3488/PCC/76/5/377

“Yes I sort of plucked up courage to go in there, I’d heard about it you know… I’d heard there was a place in there where gay
people went. So I kind of girded my loins and went in…and I walked in eating an apple which is very strange…I don’t know if  Freud would make something about that.”

“The Lockyer became so
famous that it bacame a
coded term for discovering
a person’s sexuality – by
asking ‘do you know the

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