Admiral Duncan (pub)

The Admiral Duncan is a public house in Old Compton Street, Soho in central London that is well known as one of Soho's oldest gay pubs. It is named after Admiral Adam Duncan, who defeated the Dutch fleet at the Battle of Camperdown in 1797.

Admiral Duncan
The Admiral Duncan in 2012
Location within Central London
EtymologyAdmiral Adam Duncan
General information
LocationSoho, London
Address54 Old Compton Street, London, W1
Coordinates51°30′46″N 0°07′57″W
OwnerStonegate Pub Company

In 1999, the pub was the scene of a nail bomb attack carried out by neo-Nazi David Copeland.


Early years

The Admiral Duncan has been trading since at least 1832.

In June of that year, Dennis Collins, a wooden-legged Irish ex-sailor living at the pub, was charged with high treason for throwing stones at King William IV at Ascot Racecourse.[1][2] Collins was convicted and sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered, as the medieval punishment for high treason was then still in effect. However, his sentence was quickly commuted to life imprisonment.[1] and he was subsequently transported to Australia.[3]

In December 1881, a customer received eight years' penal servitude for various offences in connection with his ejection from the Admiral Duncan public house by keeper William Gordon.[4]


On the evening of 30 April 1999, the Admiral Duncan was the scene of a nail bomb explosion which killed three people and wounded around 70, some of whom lost eyes or limbs.[5]

The bomb was the third to be planted in a one-man campaign by a Neo-Nazi, David Copeland, who was attempting to stir up ethnic and homophobic tensions.[6][7] Copeland's previous bomb attacks, on 17 April in Brixton, south London and on 24 April in Hanbury Street in Whitechapel, east London, had made Londoners wary.

A large open air meeting was spontaneously organised in Soho Square on the Sunday following the attack, attended by thousands. Among the speeches was one from the Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner who undertook to maintain a crime scene van outside the pub to take witness statements and gather evidence until the perpetrator was found; the van would be staffed entirely with openly gay and lesbian police officers. This marked a turning point for the previously often tempestuous relationship between the LGBT community and the Metropolitan Police.

There is a memorial chandelier with an inscription and a plaque in the bar to commemorate those killed and injured in the blast.[5]

The playwright Jonathan Cash, then working for Gay Times, was among the injured.[5] He later used the experience as the basis for his play, The First Domino, about a fictional terrorist being interviewed by a psychiatrist in a top-security prison.[8]

Bar manager David Morley, who was also injured in the bombing, was murdered in London on 30 October 2004.[9]

Rainbow flags controversy

In late 2005, Westminster City Council ordered the Admiral Duncan and all other LGBT bars and gay businesses that operated in its jurisdiction, including those in Soho and Covent Garden, to remove their pride flags. The council claimed that that the flags constituted advertising, which was forbidden by its local development plan, and said businesses would need to apply for advertising permits to fly the flags.[10] Some businesses who applied to fly flags had their applications refused. Following media allegations of homophobia in the Council, the I Love Soho campaign and intense pressure from the then Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, the Council reversed its policy, allowing businesses to fly rainbow flags without applying for permission.[11]


In 2004 the pub was bought from the Scottish & Newcastle Brewery by the Tattershall Castle Group (TCG). In 2015, it was acquired by Stonegate Pub Company as one of 53 pubs purchased from TCG.[12]

See also


  1. "High Treason". The Hull Packet and Humber Mercury (2493). Hull. 28 August 1832.
  2. "Traitorous Assault upon His Majesty". The Morning Chronicle (19606). London. 28 June 1832.
  3. Lowth, Cormac. "The One-Legged Sailor and the King". Inis na Mara. National Maritime Museum of Ireland. Archived from the original on 25 May 2011. Retrieved 4 November 2012.
  4. Middlesex Sessions; The Times, 29 December 1881; pg. 10; col A.
  5. Simon Edge. "Look Back in Anger". Gay Times. Archived from the original on 28 September 2011. Retrieved 30 July 2011.
  6. "1999: Dozens injured in Soho nail bomb". BBC On This Day. Retrieved 16 April 2019.
  7. Dornan, R I P (22 May 1999). "The Soho bomb". The British Medical Journal (1999, 318): 1429. doi:10.1136/bmj.318.7195.1429. PMC 1115811. Retrieved 16 April 2019.
  8. Emily-Ann Elliott (5 May 2009). "Bomb survivor writes Brighton play". The Argus. Retrieved 27 July 2011.
  9. "Soho nail bomb survivor murdered". The BBC. 1 November 2004. Retrieved 1 February 2009.
  10. "Gay flag ban 'attacks identity'". BBC News. 18 January 2005. Retrieved 16 April 2019.
  11. "Westminster u-turn on gay rainbow flags ban". Pink News. 8 November 2005. Retrieved 16 April 2019.
  12. "Stonegate places London pubs on market". 8 October 2015. Retrieved 16 April 2019.
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