Made in Chelsea – Where Did Literary James Bond Really Live?

Article by David Salter

James Bond lived in Chelsea, a pleasant and, these days very expensive, area south-west of Central London. Beyond that the information provided by Ian Fleming is pretty blurred. The most detailed source of information on this subject is “Moonraker”, possibly the most personal of the Bond books, taking place, as it does, wholly in England and telling us quite a lot about Bond’s personal and social circumstances.

In “Moonraker” Fleming tells us that Bond’s flat is the ground floor of a Regency house in a small Chelsea Square with Plane trees. Elsewhere he develops this by telling us that it also includes the basement, where Bond’s Scottish ‘treasure’ May has her quarters, that the sitting room has a bay window overlooking the square and that there are steps running up to the front door.

Wellington Square - No. 30 is just before portico.

Wellington Square, Chelsea (Photo: David Salter)

At a rough count there are seven squares in Chelsea. Running from east to west along the King’s Road from Sloane Square, they are: Royal Avenue (an enormous open ended wide street with a central pedestrian area), Wellington Square, Markham Square, Chelsea Square, Carlyle Square, Chelsea Park Gardens and Paulton  Square. Royal Avenue can be discounted immediately for the reasons I have given above. It is, though, interesting as the location of the house in Joseph Losey’s important sixties film, “The Servant”, starring Dirk Bogarde and James Fox. I have also rejected Markham Square, Chelsea Square, Chelsea Park Gardens and Paulton Square for these reasons:

  • Markham Square: too big, open ended at the far end and does not feel ‘right’.
  • Chelsea Square: too far off the King’s Road and predominantly newer houses.
  • Chelsea Park Gardens: too straggling, not a proper, contained square and houses that are more Arts & Crafts than Regency.
  • Paulton Square: too big, too far down the King’s Road and none of the ‘atmosphere’ one would look for in Bond’s residence.

So we are left with Wellington Square and Carlyle Square. I am well aware that John Pearson identified Wellington Square as Bond’s address when he wrote the ‘Authorized Biography’ (1973) and chose No. 30, because a friend lived there. There is little to argue with here; I have long accepted this, as Wellington Square fits most of the significant criteria. It is a small square, it has Plane trees, there are steps up to the front doors, the houses could be described as ‘Regency’ and the sitting-room window on the ground floor of No. 30 would overlook the square.

David outside 30 Wellington Square

David outside 30 Wellington Square (Photo: David Salter)

There are steps down to the basement with its own front door for May’s access. The only point on which it fails is that none of the houses in Wellington Square have bay windows. This has been explained elsewhere and somewhat unconvincingly by suggesting that the wall is sufficiently thick for the side cheeks of the window opening to be ‘raked’ so that they appear angled, as a bay window would from inside.

But there is a Dark, and somewhat secret, Horse further down, and on the other side of the King’s Road. Carlyle Square. This is a small square with Plane trees, off the King’s Road. It has been described to me as ‘the prettiest square in London’. It is unknown to many people as access from the King’s Road is by two narrow pedestrian walks and sight of the square itself is sheltered by significant evergreen planting along the main road.

Carlyle Square - Bond's flat? (Photo: David Salter)

Carlyle Square – Bond’s flat? (Photo: David Salter)

Vehicular access to and from the King’s Road is from the opposite end of the square via Old Church Street – but this is simple and does not conflict with Bond driving out of the square and up the King’s Road towards Sloane Square. The houses, which have externally accessed basements, are similar to those in Wellington Square except that importantly, they have bay windows. I like Carlyle Square. It is attractive, contained and has the privacy that Bond might have appreciated.

The Gardens - Carlyle Square. (Photo: David Salter)

The Gardens – Carlyle Square (Photo: David Salter)

And consider this: in the early ’50s before and after his marriage to Ann Charteris, Ian Fleming lived in a flat in Carlyle Mansions, in Cheyne Walk, down on the embankment, only an energetic stone’s throw from Carlyle Square. He left because Ann didn’t like it there and wanted something grander. They moved to Victoria Square, behind Victoria Station.

I am certainly not trying to dispute John Pearson’s well established identification of Wellington Square as Bond’s address but I would like to promote this attractive alternative for consideration.

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18 thoughts on “Made in Chelsea – Where Did Literary James Bond Really Live?

  1. The Case against Carlyle Square

    The article appearing championing Carlyle Square as the location for Bond’s flat as described by Fleming. There are a few reasons against this theory, namely, location, location and location.

    Bond’s flat is ‘featured’ in three of the Fleming novels; Moonraker, From Russia with Love, and Thunderball. It is mentioned almost in passing in two others – Diamonds are Forever, where Bond tells M. that he has put Tiffany Case up at his flat, “in the spare room…”, and in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, when Bond returns home from escaping Blofeld and needs to hurry to file his report and get to M.’s house for Christmas lunch. Here is where we find him going “up the steps”.

    Now, I do not, unlike Raymond Benson, agree with 30 Wellington Square as Bond’s flat.
    (Bond heads towards Wellington Square on his way back from dinner in Benson’s book “DoulbeShot”.)
    For one thing, a bay window is a bay window. 30 Wellington Square does NOT have a bay window. Also, there is the small matter of the fountain in the park. Fleming never mentions one, but 30 Wellington Square is almost directly opposite the park’s fountain.

    I tend to discount the ‘Plane Trees’ park as well, Fleming himself did live in a house with a rounded bay window opposite a plane tree’d park before his marriage, and most of the squares have trees in them, but not all have plane trees. Americans would know them as sycamore trees.
    So now we have a tree-lined square off the King’s Road, close by Sloane Square (in Thunderball, he turns onto Kings Road then Sloane Street into the Park (that would be Hyde Park) to the Marble Arch in 3 minutes flat.

    I have always favored Markham Square, it’s U shaped configuration provides easy ingress and egress from the King’s Road. The architecture is similar to Wellington Square, and there are a few houses with both basement access, steps to the door, and having bay windows. #38, for example.
    Lastly, let’s revisit the time factor. Bond’s Chelsea Square is directly off the King’s Road. From here he can drive to the Secret Service HQ at Regent Park in fifteen minutes in ordinary traffic (Moonraker) or, when he’s really pushing it, in about ten minutes (Thunderball). We also know it is close to Sloane Square.
    On Google Maps, I asked it to plot from the corner of Baker Street/Marylebone Road to Markham Square/Kings Road and to the corner of Carlyle Square/Old Church Street. Using driving directions, the time for both was 13 minutes. However, the Carlyle Square address did not use the King’s Road, but rather turned right and then right again onto Fulham Road, and turned again before getting to the Marble Arch. For the Markham Square address, I made sure it went to the Marble Arch, turned right, then left onto Baker Street. When I used the Kings Road with Carlyle Square, the drive time went up to between 15 and 17 minutes, depending on traffic. There is roughly three miles distance from Regent’s Park to Markham Square, three and a half miles to Carlyle.

    In short, Markham is the more likely candidate than Carlye.

    We should also discuss when Bond acquired his flat. We know from “You Only Live Twice” that Bond joined the war at the age of 17, dropping out of school. From there he would have been billeted until the end of the war. He went directly into the secret service from there and was in both Moscow and Jamaica stations for long periods of time, so if we use late 1945 as the starting point, allowing a few months for training, he would have been posted in early 1946. In short, we can probably safely put the earliest years for Bond to settle down in London late 1947, or more likely 1948.

    Thanks for the website.

    • Oh dear. I’m sorry if I have given the impression that I was “championing” Carlyle Square as the location for Bond’s flat. That was not my intention. I doubt that Fleming had any one “small, plane tree lined square off the King’s Road” in mind when he was setting up Bond’s background. The location and style of his flat, just like his clothes, his car and his possessions was given as an indication of the type of man he was. I think Fleming used typical components of London squares – Plane trees, Regency houses, steps, basements, bay windows and located it in Chelsea because that is where he himself had lived for much of his adult life. The point of my article was to look at all the Chelsea squares that might qualify and using the co-ordinates and clues that IF provided narrow the list down to those with the best claim. It has long been accepted by students of the canon, that Wellington Square came out on top. Twice in my piece I made it clear that I did not dispute this but as I examined all the contenders, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that there was another strong alternative.

      Mr. Von Tagen III makes a number of points in which he dismisses Wellington Square, casts serious doubt on Carlyle Square and introduces Markham Square as a serious contender; his comments, assertions and timings deserve a considered examination, so here goes:

      1. Google’s calculation of times to drive from Chelsea to Regent’s Park are of limited significance, as traffic conditions today are much different from those in the ’50s and ’60s
      2. The fact that the fountain in Wellington Square is not mentioned in IF’s books, in my opinion, is not significant. I must confess I have never noticed it.
      3. I am unclear why Mr. Von Tagen III dismisses the “Plane trees”. When IF was as specific as this about something, he generally meant it.
      4. It is true that one can drive from Carlyle Square to Regent’s Park by turning right into Old Church Street and then right again into the Fulham Road, but if you do you are faced with a number of right turns against the traffic, a profusion of potentially delaying traffic lights, a winding road with major junctions at South Kensington and Knightsbridge and a delaying left turn into the park at the top of Sloane Street. In contrast by turning left into Old Church Street, with the traffic, and again into the King’s Road you have a straight drive to Sloane Square, a simple left into Sloane Street, straight up, across the lights at the top and into the park – much quicker and more straightforward.
      5. I’m not sure where the acquisition date for Bond’s flat comes into this discussion. IF’s suggestion in “YOLT” that Bond was 17 in 1941 is surely nonsense (a cynical move to prolong Bond’s shelf-life) as that would have made him 27 at the time of “Casino Royale”
      6. Does Fleming say that the flat/square is “close to Sloane Square”? If so I’d missed it.
      7. Now then, Markham Square. I’m surprised that this unlikely contender has been thrown into the ring. Apart from being, roughly, square, having trees and Regency style houses, it has little else going for it. It is big, airy, open ended and, frankly, has none of the character, style and intimacy that Fleming’s description of the “small Plane tree’d Regency Square, off the King’s Road” conjures up for me.

      Nevertheless it is good to widen the discussion. I think Wellington Square will continue to top the list but I will continue to harbour an affection for Carlyle Square.

      David Salter.

      • David, I think you should go and examine Markham Sq. I live there and it is not square, big, particularly airy and it is not open ended at the far end.

      • Well, I must put my hands up immediately regarding ‘open-ended at the far end” Mea culpa. I don’t know where that came from. However I have known Markham Square well since 1962 when I lived in Chelsea. Indeed I remember exploring it with my father around that time; he thought I was nuts, trying to find the home of a character from fiction. When I said ‘roughly square’, the emphasis was on ‘roughly’, an ironic acknowledgement of a feint justification for comparing it with Fleming’s description. As far as your other quibbles go, I stand by my description of Markham Square as big and airy. It does not have the enclosed intimacy that I feel Fleming hinted at. Wellington is the best bet, with my mount, Carlyle a well-priced outsider.

        But we can agree to differ, I feel sure – and lucky you to live there.

      • OK, 007, Here’s the big climb down. My wife and I walked around Markham Square this morning after Matins at Chelsea Old Church and I have to confess that my previous description and rejection of Markham Square as a possible contender for Bond’s home were not well founded.

        It may be that my previous visits were longer ago than I care to admit and that my original writing on the subject was done from fallible memory; it may be that the trees and undergrowth have grown in the interim; maybe I have visited in winter when things were less leafy. Anyway, I confess that the square seemed smaller and less open and , as you have pointed out, is not open at the far end. As with Wellington Square, the houses generally do not have bay windows – but two do. There are unfortunately no plane trees.

        In the end I think my list is still headed by Wellington Square, which has a lovely , lofty, compact privacy and is well located, with a rather appropriate name, followed by Carlyle Square, which has a delicious sense of secrecy (and bay windows) but tying for second place with Markham Square.

        So please accept my apology for getting it wrong in the first place,

        David.

      • Ok, let’s talk about when Bond was born. This is strangely simple. Chapter six, YOLT. Fleming reveals that Tiger Tanaka was born in the Oriental Zodiac Year of the Tiger, whereas Bond was born in the Year of the Rat.
        The Oriental Zodiac is a twelve-year cycle.
        Reminding ourselves Bond served in WW2 – 1912, 1924, are the two options. 1912 would make Bond
        too old for the later novels. (not forgetting the mandatory age of 45 where he would be removed from the 00 ranks. So, 1924 fits the bill – late in the year. It makes him 17 in 1941. and yes, 27 at the time of Casino Royale. This is because Fleming always envisioned him in his mid-thirties. The reason the acquisition date comes into play is that the area was bombed during the war and the present area was built just after the war.

  2. The Sitwell Brothers, Osbert and Sacheverell (Sachie) lived in Caryle Square in the early Twenties.

  3. Hello everyone, fan from New York City here. I won’t even pretend to be able to dissect the ‘ins and outs’ of the general geography around Chelsea but I do have a question for anyone who’d be able to answer.

    Your answer seems to be geared towards Fleming’s original literary Bond but I was wondering whereabouts Bond would live in London if the timeline were set during more recent years. Specifically, I’m fond of the book ‘Carte Blanche’ by Jeffery Deaver, in which Bond is born in 1980-I understand property value in London, not unlike New York City, has skyrocketed in the years since the original novels were set and I’m fairly certain that Bond wouldn’t reside in a £1,500,000 or £3,000,000 flat on either his inheritance, benefits from his time in the Royal Navy and certainly not on his salary from MI6 (or in this novel’s continuity, the Overseas Development Group-unless of course he received some form of assistance in purchasing a home through his job)

  4. I have a distant memory that Carlisle Square was open to traffic on the Kings Road until quite recently when the railings were put up, closing off that end of the square

    • Interesting. I think the railings have been there quite a long time and there is substantial mature bushery across the Kings Road frontage but maybe it was once open. That would give Carlisle Square added credibility as a possible Bond location. I lived very close to Carlisle Square in the 1960s but I really can’t remember. David.

  5. Pingback: The Truth. Where did James Bond live? | Mid-century Bond

  6. Having managed to hold onto my original Signet paperback USA editions of “James Bond Thrillers” purchased whilst in the US army in Europe in the middle 1960’s, please allow me to throw my black, titanium bowler hat into the ring, thank you very much. I do have one small bone to pick, however, that being Herr W.H. von Tagen III computation of the age of Agent 007. I must admit I hew only to information provided by Bond’s creator Ian Fleming, either in the original Bond stories or information supplied by Fleming through interviews, other writings, etc. I accept nothing supplied by “continuation authors”. Having said that, I notice that in the list “007 Timeline” on the website<<>>, James Bond’s date of birth is given as November 11, 1920. Refreshing … if this is truly a Fleming supplied fact. Anybody out there know for sure? Can anyone reference the citation? Nonetheless, using this birth date and checking off the milestones supplied by von Tagen: WW2, 1941, Casino Royal, and the 45 years old mandatory retirement age, we can find Bond’s age. He was18 years of age in September of 1939 when England entered WW2, 20 years “but I’ll be 21 in November!” in 1941, 30 years old during the Casino Royal mission 1 March – 16 July 1951, and 43 years of age during his encounter with The Man With The Golden Gun, November 1963 – June 1964. If I may add one more milestone of my own, James Bond still had 15 months of license to kill eligibility when his creator passed away in August 1964. (The specific dates I quote here are from the above mentioned timeline.)
    Seventeen is an awfully young age for anybody to go to war even though we know it is a legal age for soldiers. I like 18 better even though the life-experience gained in that one extra year may not be profound. All this to say, we know James Bond started young. We know he was already undertaking missions for MI6 by the time he went to war, witness the two months he spent unmasking ” … those Roumanians in Monte Carlo before the war.” (MOONRAKER, Chapter 3, ” ‘Belly Strippers’, and etc.”) But I ask, how long before? I like to think two years before the war. I mean, if the young James lost his virginity in Paris at the tender age of 15 (1936) is it too much to think he was not recruited, schooled in card sharping, and sent on a mission to Monte Carlo when he was 16? Non, Monsieur! Besides, given his artistry in driving fast cars how delicious to think of our hero in a proper racing car, doing “racing changes” and “dry skids” in the 1937 Monaco Gran Prix, the last Monaco GP ” … before the war”.

    • “I see,” said the blind man, “this site will not allow the publication of an address of a competing website.” No matter, lets try it this way. The site I mention above <> is jamesbonddotfandomdotcomslashwikislash007_Novel_Timeline My last words on the subject are, “Do you expect me to talk, Goldfinger?” “No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to decode.” (And if this doesn’t work you’ll just have to search ‘james bond literary timeline.)

    • I refer you to my post of March 6th of this year.
      “Chapter six, YOLT. Fleming reveals that Tiger Tanaka was born in the Oriental Zodiac Year of the Tiger, whereas Bond was born in the Year of the Rat.
      The Oriental Zodiac is a twelve-year cycle.
      Reminding ourselves Bond served in WW2 – 1912, 1924, are the two options. 1912 would make Bond
      too old for the later novels. (not forgetting the mandatory age of 45 where he would be removed from the 00 ranks. So, 1924 fits the bill – late in the year. It makes him 17 in 1941. and yes, 27 at the time of Casino Royale. This is because Fleming always envisioned him in his mid-thirties.”
      Fleming was always playing around with Bonds’ age. In Goldfinger, for instance, Bond muses he has eight years left before he turns 45. Which would be taking place in 1957, which means he would turn 45 in 1965. (Considering this is the year Fleming died it’s rather prophetic). It’s not until the later books does the chronology settles down. So, yes, he was 17 as posted (the draft age being 18) in his obit. Some of the incidents we have to take with a grain of salt that Fleming said happened before the war. I’ve been researching Bond’s war years. The best hints so far are in Thunderball and YOLT. But I stand by the 1924 date.

      • It is interesting to read your comments and theories, sir. The 007 Novel Timeline I refer to is a good piece of work, I just need to research and find Fleming-support for the November 11 birthdate if it exists. Nineteen twenty-four is indeed in the ballpark but, really, makes James Bond much too young for some episodes in his secret life. I wish we knew more about the card sharping school Bond was sent to as preparation for his mission to Monte Carlo. Even by my reckoning, if he was observing the Roumanians(sic) in the casino at Monte Carlo as late as the day before war was declared, i.e., 2 September, 1939, (France and England declared on the third) Bond would have been only 18 years old. But by your count sir, only 14 y.o. I repeat, non Monsieur, non!

        And as for the argument against a birthdate in 1912 … If you get right down to it, the argument that James Bond would thus be too old for some of his later missions- you have a stronger case if you contend over age rather than under age on some of his missions. Especially if you consider James’ line of work … espionage.

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