Esoteric London

No. 535: Bramerton Street, SW3

Posted in Clubs, London Types by esotericlondon on March 16, 2012

Bramerton Street, London, SW3. Photo © Roger Dean 2011

Gina Ware’s association with the legendary Gateways Club, or The Gates as it was known, began in 1947 when she visited the club on her 25th birthday. On that occasion she was introduced to Ted Ware, the proprietor, who she went on to marry in 1953. During the fifties and early sixties the little green door on Bramerton Street led to a haven for those of a bohemian bent peopled as it was by artists, actors and writers who were entertained by a pianist.Ted, nearing retirement, began to take a back seat and Gina took over the running of the club together with ‘Smithy’ a ‘trouser wearing ex-American air force woman’ who lived with the Wares as a close friend of the family. With the girls at the helm the windowless smoke filled cellar became the venue of choice for London’s lesbians, bisexuals and their heterosexual friends, a rare oasis in those predominantly heterosexist days, and by 1967 Gina had made the club women only.

Gina allowed Robert Aldrich to use the club as a location in the film The Killing of Sister George and it was her idea to use some of the club’s regulars as extras. She appeared in the film as herself playing the club’s owner scrutinizing the actress Coral Browne at the door whilst brandishing a long cigarette holder. Smithy was also in the film and can be seen serving Beryl Reid and Susannah York at the bar. The subsequent publicity the film received ensured the club’s future well into the eighties when trade began to dwindle as London saw a plethora of lesbian and gay friendly venues open.

The Gates finally closed on Monday 24th September, 1985 and Gina Ware passed away in July 2001. The green door to the club, now painted blue, can still be seen just inside Bramerton Street in Chelsea and a first hand account of the club can still be heard in the lyrics of Green Door a hit for Frankie Vaughan in the 50’s and later for Shakin’ Stevens. R.D.