CWS Hall – 1934 a building similar to the one used as The Iron Curtain Club.

 

Who remembers the Iron Curtain club in St.Mary Cray? I think it was 1966 when I heard boys from my year talking about this new and slightly scary sounding music venue. While we had  Chislehurst Caves and the Bickley Arms to hear blues and jazz as well as the usual local church hall dances, the Iron Curtain sounded very different by the descriptions given by Rob Brown and Pete Welch.

My father, a former St.Mary Cray police officer, had heard about this new club and warned me off but intrigued I went along and what a place! Bricked up windows, dark corridors and stairways, sweat pouring down the walls and fantastic music, ska, bluebeat and Tamla all played at a volume that I’d never heard before. Fridays nights had live bands for ten bob and a lot of emerging groups played there including the Yardbirds and Geno Washington. Can anyone remember the other bands?

It was a great venue, so different from anything else around and for a time very popular but after a lot of attention from the authorities the Curtain closed.

Andy Trotter – 05 January 2018

The picture above is a Georgian house in St Mary Cray similar to the one used as ‘The Iron Curtain’. I remember the club being more set back from the road and slightly raised above street level. Does anyone have a photo of the actual building? What exists there today? Any further information you may have about the club or your experiences of visiting it will be published in the main body of this post. I am expecting some interesting stories!


Richard Beer (07 Jan 18)

 

This is a shot of the building that housed The Iron Curtain, taken this morning on a drive around ‘memory lanes’.

This is one and the same house as the 1934 photo attached to Andy Trotter’s article. The front garden is now a small car park and the house is divided into private apartments. A plaque on the front names it as ‘Latimer Court’ but there is no visible sign of its dark history. Perhaps we should petition for a ‘black plaque’ to describe the property’s heritage in our lifetime?


Derek Nash

I’d pretty much forgotten how many live music venues we had ‘back in the day’ within a few miles of the old school.

I remember The Iron Curtain, Chislehurst Caves, Bromley Court Hotel, the Royal Bell in Bromley well and, once mobile with my own Mini, Downe Folk Club and the Black Prince in Bexley. The name of the other venue in Hurst Road, Sidcup eludes me.

It still surprises me sometimes when records come on the radio to think that I saw so many artists and groups that went on to acquire huge international careers within a small patch of suburbia.


Adrian Appley

Reading the mention of Chislehurst Caves took me back to the late 1950s when a group of us attended the Saturday night raves each week without fail. The only singer I can recall seeing there was Screaming Lord Sutch who came on stage with a toilet pan around his neck and sang “I’m A Bog For You Baby” – really! There was always a trad jazz band plus several pop groups to entertain us and we would move from one group to another. I wore a navy blue straw granny hat with small bells at the end of my trousers and would dance around for ages – they were loony days. The caves are famous for being haunted and one of our lads decided he wanted to stay in the caves overnight and I decided to accompany him. We never saw or heard any ghostly happenings but when we left in the morning we could not believe how many courting couples were leaving. It was so sad when these Saturday events eventually closed down.

 


Pat Acock

I remember it well since Grace my girlfriend, later my wife lived five doors down. The Beatles were just becoming famous and demanded £5000 for a fifteen-minute slot at the opening so they had The Stones for £3000 if I remember correctly and they did a longer set. Coming back with Grace one night we met two scantily clad girls waiting for the club to open, sheltering behind Grace’s hedge and up her pathway. It was the days of mini dresses with 3-6 inch peepholes. Grace was cross since we got into a conversation. I was the class oracle on popular music at the time annotating Record Mirror and passing it around the class. I still have a ten year complete run in the loft and can easily waste a day reminiscing about those golden years of music starting in 1965 and culminating with Forever Changes by Love. My son and I saw them play at the Jazz Cafe as recently as the Summer of 2016. I even sat at the bar with dear old Arthur Lee in Cleo Lane and Johnnie Dankworth’s place, The Stables, in Milton Keynes in the early Noughties.


Barry Warren

I lived in St Mary Cray (Chelsfield Lane) and this venue passed me by completely – unless dementia is kicking in! I just looked it up and The Troggs played there on May 20th 1966, the Yardbirds on Feb 25th same year. I did the caves mainly when doing local things. Didn’t Geno Washington do the Orpington venues as well?


Brian Coleman

I used to go there every weekend with schoolmates, Tony Fleet and John Burke. we saw Lee Dorsey and the Move there. The Who played there once and apparently they got 1,000 people in there, so I’m told.
If I hear “You don’t know like I know” by Sam & Dave, I’m transported straight back in there. I can even smell the damp. Spooky!


Richard Beer

The Iron Curtain was one of my favourite haunts, next time I’m in St Mary Cray I’ll take a photo – have a feeling the building is still there. We saw Dione Warwick (“War-wick”) there but cannot recall the date, probably 1965. Other venues for blues and jazz were Bromley Court Hotel – Long John Baldry introduced a very young Rod Stewart there along with Spencer Davies, Stevie Winwood, Sonny Boy Williamson, et al. Who remembers The Austral in Sidcup? It was a 1930’s cinema converted to a nightclub/disco it became the local home of Ska in the late ’60s.

 

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11 responses »

  1. Barry Warren says:

    I lived in St Mary Cray (Chelsfield Lane) and this venue passed me by completely – unless dementia is kicking in! I just looked it up and The Troggs played there on May 20th 1966, the Yardbirds on Feb 25th same year. I did the caves mainly when doing local things. Didn’t Geno Washington do the Orpington venues as well?

    Like

    • Brian Coleman says:

      I used to go there every weekend with schoolmates, Tony Fleet and John Burke. we saw Lee Dorsey and the Move there. The Who played there once and apparently they got 1,000 people in there, so I’m told.
      If I hear “You don’t know like I know” by Sam & Dave, I’m transported straight back in there. I can even smell the damp. Spooky!

      Like

  2. Richard Beer says:

    The Iron Curtain was one of my favourite haunts, next time I’m in St Mary Cray I’ll take a photo – have a feeling the building is still there. We saw Dione Warwick (“War-wick”) there but cannot recall the date, probably 1965. Other venues for blues and jazz were Bromley Court Hotel – Long John Baldry introduced a very young Rod Stewart there along with Spencer Davies, Stevie Winwood, Sonny Boy Williamson, et al. Who remembers The Austral in Sidcup? It was a 1930’s cinema converted to a nightclub/disco it became the local home of Ska in the late ’60s.

    Like

  3. Pat Acock says:

    I remember it well since Grace my girlfriend, later my wife, lived five doors down. The Beatles were just becoming famous and demanded £5000 for a fifteen-minute slot at the opening so they had The Stones for £3000 if I remember correctly and they did a longer set. Coming back with Grace one night we met two scantily clad girls waiting for the club to open, sheltering behind Grace’s hedge and up her pathway. It was the days of mini dresses with 3-6 inch peepholes. Grace was cross since we got into a conversation. I was the class oracle on popular music at the time annotating Record Mirror and passing it around the class. I still have a ten year complete run in the loft and can easily waste a day reminiscing about​ those golden years of music starting in 1965 and culminating with Forever Changes by Love. My son and I saw them play at the Jazz Cafe as recently as the Summer of 2016. I even sat at the bar with dear old Arthur Lee in Cleo Lane and Johnnie Dankworth’s place, The Stables, in Milton Keynes in the early Noughties.

    Like

  4. Adrian Appley says:

    Reading the mention of Chislehurst Caves took me back to the late 1950s when a group of us attended the Saturday night raves each week without fail. The only singer I can recall seeing there was Screaming Lord Sutch who came on stage with a toilet pan around his neck and sang “I’m A Bog For You Baby” – really! There was always a trad jazz band​ plus several pop groups to entertain us and we would move from one group to another. I wore a navy blue straw granny hat with small bells at the end of my trousers and would dance around for ages – they were loony days. The caves are famous for being haunted and one of our lads decided he wanted to stay in the caves overnight and I decided to accompany him. We never saw or heard any ghostly happenings but when we left in the morning we could not believe how many courting couples were leaving. It was so sad when these Saturday events eventually closed down.

    Like

  5. Paul Douglas says:

    Ah, The Austral Club. I spent a bit of my mis-spent youth there as well. I recall one of the bouncers did an outrageous dance routine to Sam the Sham and the Pharoes-Wooly Bully. On one occasion the club was raided by the police accompanied by the sound of sundry pills being hastily dropped onto the floor…..It must have been good because I always missed the last bus to Chislehurst so needed to walk home.

    Like

  6. Derek Nash says:

    I’d pretty much forgotten how many live music venues we had ‘back in the day’ within a few miles of the old school.

    I remember The Iron Curtain, Chislehurst Caves, Bromley Court Hotel, the Royal Bell in Bromley well and, once mobile with my own Mini, Downe Folk Club and the Black Prince in Bexley. The name of the other venue in Hurst Road, Sidcup eludes me.

    It still surprises me sometimes when records come on the radio to think that I saw so many artists and groups that went on to acquire huge international careers within a small patch of suburbia.

    Derek Nash.

    Like

  7. RICHARD DAVIS says:

    The iron curtain club was my stomping ground in the middle sixties. Many of my Cray Valley school chums also hung out there. Peter Adams,David Jenkins and my best friend in those years, John Freed or Fred as we always called him. It was one of my coming of age places. I would park my Vespa G.S. out front and kick up a storm every Sunday afternoon. Watch the movie Quadraphenia. You get the idea! Great bands! Fun times.
    Richard Davis Las Vegas.

    Like

    • Bob Jones says:

      Richard, I always thought the Vespa GS was the better looking machine, but my Lambretta GT200 would have creamed you away from the lights 😉
      Happy days.
      Bob Jones

      Like

    • Frank Reid says:

      Reply to Richard Davis memoirs, time at the Iron Curtain… Rikki you had a Vespa SS 180 and you have overlooked the rest of our group.. Your cousins Chip ( Roger) and Beryal, John Wolfe, Graham, Little Wes and quite a few other sort of looser pals. Also Saturday at Peyton Place at Bromley and our excursions to Margate and Hastings, look back fondly.
      If I recall you always looked pretty smart ( lucky to be same size of your brother). Last time I saw Chip he said you was In the States. Good Times. Frank.

      Like

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