Hampstead is home to one of the oldest gay pubs in London, the King William IV in Hampstead High Street..
If you thought that homosexuality is no longer airbrushed out of history, think again. Hampstead Heath, Alan Farmer's supposedly definitive history of London's treasured open space, begins with the first written record of the Heath in 1312. But by the time it has come up to date, it has made no reference to the fact that the Heath has been a gay cruising ground since the 19th century.
Other local history books mention the King William IV pub, but not its distinction as London's oldest gay bar. The old inn, originally called the King's Head, changed its name in 1835, after King William IV and Queen Adelaide had popped in on their way to nearby Kenwood.
The ghost of Mrs Wyatt, subsequently murdered and bricked up in the cellar by her husband, reputedly still haunts the building. A recent visit from paranormal psychic Derek Acorah confirmed that we are indeed a haunted pub due to a double murder taking place in the cellar. A reinactment by Dereck Acorah revealed a young boy who upon witnessing a murder taking place in the cellar was also murdered for being a witness to the crime. We have been told by Derek not to let anyone come down to the cellar alone.
The Willie turned discreetly gay in the late 1930s, specifically to cater for men visiting the Heath, the publican in those days being a woman known as Mumsy. In the post-war years, the Willie was a hang-out for leather men, but today the crowd is more mixed, young and old, with a sprinkling of gay celebs. The Willie is probably London's closest equivalent to a country pub, but without the hostility to strangers - "Anybody's welcome," is the permanent cry.