Mapping the Terrible Lost Nightclubs of London
Remembering the fighting pits and seedy booze hovels that haunt the city like ghosts.
Caesars nightclub in Streatham - one of London's most famous closed drinking arenas
It might be hard to believe it in the age of The Warehouse Project, fluorescent wristbands and WKD wingmen, but nightclubs in this country haven't always been gleaming cathedrals of youth culture, packed to the sprinklers with hordes of young people having the best night of their lives, as the world's biggest DJs earn more for a b2b set than the rest of us make in a month.
They were often grim, seedy places with reputations for casual violence, low-level gangsterism, carpeted dancefloors and playboy promoters wearing suits at the dance. Think of the bar where Trigger and Del Boy do their "play it cool" routine, then add guns, speed garage and fag stains and you've basically got the vibe.
Nowadays, most big clubs look like playgrounds for young adults; full of happy, pouting people in baseball caps and white tees. Back then, they looked like what they were: iniquitous dens of silk, sweat, perfume, blood and Hooch. Even the bouncers had gold teeth, Valentinos and dreads.
Garage Nation at The Colosseum in Vauxhall, 1999.
But a part of me has always been fascinated by the seedy, sticky world of the London clubbing culture I never really got to experience, bar a few ludicrous attempts to get into such places in my mid-teens. When a friend showed me this urban75 forum thread detailing some of London's lost, dreadful clubs, I found myself through the looking glass of a time before student promoters, SIA licenses, snapback techno and Funktion-Ones. An era in which clubs were still called things like "Sinatra's" rather than "something studios"; when you were more concerned about leaving with your life than a promotional Uber credit.
Intrigued by the dark nostalgia at play on the forum, I began researching some of the places getting namechecked, reading about the stories of door staff shanking punters and Gary Lucy being famous enough to get on the guestlist. I wondered what happened to these clubs, if they were still operating under new management, or if they'd all become burrito stalls.
With the help of Google Maps and some of the wonderful, accidental poetry from the forum, I tried to map the sad demise of London's lost, terrible clubs. Each photo shows the club as it is today, while the memories are laid out in text beneath.
Manhattan Lights, Muswell Hill
Manhattan's, Palmers Green
The Irish Fighting Barns of Kilburn
Broadway Boulevard, Ealing
Cheeko's, Archway (again)
The Elbow Rooms, Angel Islington
Blue Orchid, Croydon
Dingles, Fulham Broadway (exact location unknown)
- clive martin
- The national
- United Kingdom
- night life
- Vice Blog
- Manhattan Lights
- Muswell Hill
- Palmers Green
- The Irish Fighting Barns of Kilburn
- Broadway Boulevard
- The Elbow Rooms
- Angel Islington
- Blue Orchid
- Fulham Broadway (exact location unknown)
- fighting dens