Article by David Salter
Ian Fleming, like his alter ego James Bond was a Londoner. Born here in 1908, he lived and worked here all his life, until his death in 1964. This long attachment was broken up by his schooldays at Eton, childhood days at the family home, Joyce Grove in Oxfordshire, his time with the Forbes-Dennises at Kitzbuhel, followed by a period at the University of Geneva and his own country homes in Kent and then Wiltshire and of course the two months he spent each year, after the war, in Jamaica.
Taking a more detailed look at Fleming’s London addresses, we can see that he moved around a fair deal during his short life and the following eleven locations have been identified:
27 Green St. Mayfair, W1 (Fleming’s Birthplace)
Following his marriage in 1906, Fleming’s father, Valentine, bought a large country house at Ibsden in Oxfordshire and also took a short lease on this six-storey brick and terra cotta terrace house, built at the turn of the 20th. Century, near Park Lane and Hyde Park. It was here, on 28th. May 1908 that his wife Eve gave birth to their second child Ian Lancaster Fleming. His second name remembered John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster who Eve believed to be her ancestor. Ian’s elder brother, Peter, gained renown as a journalist, adventurer, travel writer and countryman.
Feeling that his family needed a more secure and permanent London home, not long after Ian’s birth his father gave up the lease on 27 Green Street and they moved to the larger Pitt House in Hampstead.
Pitt House, North End Avenue, Hampstead, N.W.3
Valentine Fleming acquired this ivy-clad Georgian (although more Victorian in appearance) mansion in1909. Originally it had been known as North End House, later Wildwoods and then North End Place. Valentine renamed it Pitt House in honour of William Pitt the Elder who had once lived there. Described as a “forbidding place” The house, on the edge of Hampstead Heath, contained 12 bedrooms, four reception rooms, three bathrooms, a large ‘lounge’, a magnificent billiards room, a palm house and another six rooms to be used as the owner thought fit.
Valentine Fleming was killed early in the First World War and his widow sold the house in 1923. The house occurred bomb damage during the Second World War and was demolished in 1952. Do not be confused by the current “Pitt House” which occupies part of the site.
Ian Fleming would have lived there during his young days and when he came home from school up until he was 15.
119 Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, S.W.3
After selling Pitt House in 1923 Fleming’s mother bought three cottages in Cheyne Walk and converted them into one dwelling. She named the three Turner’s House after the painter J M W Turner who had spent his last years at No. 119. He died here in 1851. During her time here, Eve established a Bohemian salon for artists, like her lover, Augustus John, to allow them to mingle with patrons such as Winston Churchill. The young Ian lived here during his school holidays and continued to visit whilst he was at Kitzbuhel and at Geneva University.
Then, at the age of 23, he moved in and stayed there until 1936. During this time he was sorting out his future, including abortive army training at Sandhurst, Foreign Office entry exams and unsuccessful careers as stockbroker and banker (including a period of employment by Tom Cull’s grandfather at bankers Cull & Co. Then in 1936, he acquired his final pre-war home at…
22B Ebury Street, Belgravia, S.W.1
In 1936, growing tired of living with his overbearing mother, Ian Fleming decided to find his own quarters and was able to acquire the lease on a flat at 22B Ebury Street, on the edge of Belgravia and not far from Victoria Station. This flat had previously been the home of Sir Oswald Mosley, head of the British Union of Fascists – the “Blackshirts”.
The building in which this flat is located was designed by JP Gandy-Deering and completed in 1830. It housed the Pimlico Library and later became a chapel for the Strict Baptists. When they moved out it went through a number of uses, including a school, a night-club and a furniture store. In the early 1930s it was converted into four flats, one of which, on the first (2nd. U.S.) floor was leased by Sir Oswald Mosley and in 1936 Fleming was able to take over his lease and establish himself in his ideal bachelor establishment where he entertained his many girlfriends and also established Le Cercle his informal Dining, Bridge and Golf club.
In order to improve the flat’s facilities, he carried out a number of improvements including the installation of a lavatory in an alcove that had formerly been the location of the Chapel’s altar and also painting the walls black. Amongst other things the flat housed Fleming’s collection of risqué literature which he enjoyed showing to his girls.
In 1966, Ian’s brother Peter applied for an English Heritage Blue Plaque to be put on No. 16 Victoria Square, S.W.1, his final London home. This was refused by the owners of the house and after many trials and tribulations by Peter and after his death in1971 by his son Nicholas, a plaque was installed at the Ebury Street address in 1996. Sadly, by this time Nicholas also had died.
The threat of German bombing in 1940 caused Fleming to leave this agreeable abode and move into a series of temporary war-time digs. First of these was…
The Carlton Hotel, Haymarket, W.1
The Carlton Hotel was home to Ian Fleming for the short period from early 1940 until it was destroyed by bombing later that year. This magnificent hotel, whose Grill Room was often patronised by Bulldog Drummond and other Clubland Heroes, was modelled on the Paris Ritz and is now the site of New Zealand House.
It is interesting to note that it was in the Grill Room, on 24th. May 1939, that Admiral Godfrey, Director of Naval Intelligence, interviewed Fleming, over lunch, for the post of his Personal Assistant, a role that he carried out, with distinction, for the duration of the war.
After the Carlton was destroyed, Fleming moved into…
The Lansdowne Club, Berkeley Square, W.1
The Lansdowne Club is housed in Fitzmaurice House at the south-west corner of Berkeley Square. Designed and built in the mid-1700s the building was acquired by the Lansdowne Club in 1935. It was the first club, right from the start to give men and women equal status.
After the bomb damage to the Carlton Hotel in 1940 Ian Fleming took up temporary residence here. It is worth noting that the newly established Ministry of Economic Warfare established its wartime Headquarters here. This department had responsibility for assessing Germany’s industrial capacity and output; part of Fleming’s Naval Intelligence job was as liaison with them.
The Lansdowne Club has always had an active, sporting tradition and includes squash courts and a large swimming pool among its facilities. Not long afterwards Fleming moved to…
The Saint James’s Club, 106 Piccadilly, W.1
This club, described as “rather stuffy” drew its original membership from the Diplomatic Service which means that it was really an outpost of the Foreign Office. Ian Fleming joined the club in 1931, while working as a journalist at Reuters. At the time he had an ambition to become a diplomat in the F.O. This was dashed when in July 1931 he failed to score highly enough in the formidably tough F.O. entry exam.
Even so, he kept up his membership for a number of years and he moved here for a short time before he established a more established home in the Athenaeum Court Apartments annexed to the Athenaeum Hotel in Piccadilly. He lived here until 1946 when he moved to…
5 Montagu Place, Marylebone, W.1
In order to be close to his mistress, Ann, Lady Rothermere, in 1946 Ian Fleming moved to this house around the corner from her home in Montague Square. When the Rothermeres moved, a year later, to Warwick House close to Green Park, Fleming followed suit taking up residence nearby at…
21 Hay’s Mews, Mayfair,W.1
This small mews cottage, near Berkeley Square was owned by Fleming’s mother and was attached to a house she then owned at 21 Charles Street. Fleming liked the cottage and enjoyed living there, because of its proximity to Ann. However by 1950 he was finding the accommodation “too small” as he wrote to his mother and he moved again to…
24 Carlyle Mansions, Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, S.W.3
With substantial financial help from his mother, Fleming moved here in 1950 and took up residence in the corner flat on the fifth floor (6th. U.S.). He referred to this move which was less than half a mile from his childhood home, Turner’s House (see above), as a return to” childhood surroundings in Cheyne Walk.”
After her divorce from Lord Rothermere, Ann and Ian were married in 1952 and she and her daughter Fionn moved into Carlyle Mansions in March. Ann never really liked the flat which was described as “old-fashioned and gloomy” and within a year they had sold the lease and moved to their final London Home at…
16 Victoria Square, S.W.1
Located between Victoria Station and Buckingham Palace, Victoria Square is surprisingly quiet and tranquil. Having no garden, this Regency house (built in 1838-39 has a cream coloured stucco finish and an impressive dome over its circular corner detail. The family moved in March 1953 shortly before the publication of Fleming’s first James Bond novel, Casino Royale. He lived here until his death at the early age of 56 in August 1964
The ground floor (1st. U.S.) contained the dining room and kitchen; the drawing room was on the 1st. floor and on the 2nd. floor was Ann’s bedroom. Fleming’s bedroom and study were on the 3rd.. it was to these quarters that Fleming fled on returning from an evening at his club, to find one of Ann’s frequent artistic and literary soirees in progress.
After Fleming died in 1964, Ann continued to live here, dividing her time between this and their country house in Wiltshire. After twenty years in Victoria Square, Ann sold the house for £50,000 and spent the remainder of her life in Wiltshire, where she died on 12th. July 1981.
In 1996 English Heritage would have liked to commemorate Ian Fleming with a Blue Plaque on this house but the owners would not grant permission so instead a plaque was placed on Fleming’s former home at 22B Ebury Street (see above).