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This place was always trouble and I never went there but it was closed down because of prostitution, drugs, fighting and any other vice that you can recall.Of course, in more recent years, there was the Van Damme Bar in the Pentagon, complete with lunchtime strippers, very definitely on my lunchtime list in the 1970s! I should mention, on a legal note, that no slur is intended on any current pubs in Chatham, all of which are models of propriety.In 1864 Superintendent Radley of the city police tried to shut down seven pubs: the Lord Nelson in Chatham High Street, the Bear and Staff in Chatham Intra (the place where Rochester and Chatham merge); the Five Bells on St Margaret’s Banks; the Flushing in Horsewash Lane and the Homeward Bound near Gas House Lane (both towards Rochester Bridge); the Duke of Gloucester in Strood and the Maidstone Arms in Crow Lane, Rochester. (It still exists — as anyone who has spotted the whey-faced Eastern European girls gathered on one main thoroughfare will bear witness.) In the 1960s and early 1970s the towns were still thriving as was the oldest profession.So — scandalously then, in those less enlightened days — was the gay scene.A lovely old chap who was a greengrocer near where I lived had a double life. Jack continues his 1970s recollections: “Of the three I drank in most regularly, the Old George in Medway Street, the Prince of Wales in Railway Street and the Cabin, in the cellar of what is now Churchills, the Cabin was easily the roughest.
From time to time there’s been other more, shall we say, specialist locations.The Ship was always well-known — now, in these more enlightened times, it is listed in a gay pub directory.A greengrocer queening it in the red light district As to the City Arms — thereby hangs a tale. But that’s another story that I shall tell when I discover that all participants are beyond this mortal coil (and I am out of reach of their lawyers).Eventually Chatham’s bad reputation led to the introduction of the Contagious Disease Acts, which amounted to government supervision of prostitution in garrison towns.The idea was to lock away the women to protect the servicemen from disease. Many of the women hawked their trade in pubs, so police retaliated by trying to have pub licences revoked. So the vice continued — and it stayed until sailors left with the dockyard.