“Random encounters with the unusual” is a repository for the oddities that me and Mrs J have encountered on our travels, which we find interesting or amusing in some way. Have a look, maybe you will find something interesting or amusing herein.

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

James Bond's London Home

A few roads over from Chester Square in London where the author of Frankenstein, Mary Shelley, lived from 1846 to 1851 is the home of another famous literary icon. The home in question can be found at 22 Ebury Street, and a blue plaque on the building reveals who the previous resident was. The blue plaque reads: “IAN FLEMING 1908-1964 Creator of James Bond lived here”.

Fleming's blue plaque.
Born into a wealthy family, Ian Lancaster Fleming had a privileged upbringing with an education that included studies at Eton, Sandhurst and the universities of Munich and Geneva. After completing his studies Fleming’s career initially saw him working as a journalist and then as a Royal Navy Officer for British Naval Intelligence. It was Fleming’s experiences in Naval Intelligence during World War II that give him the inspiration and source material for his famous literary creation, the fictional British Spy, James Bond.

Some of Fleming's wartime experiences found their way into his James Bond books. Like the fictional Bond, Fleming held the naval rank of Commander, and at one point he worked as the personal assistant to the director of Naval Intelligence, John Godfrey - believed to be the model for the character M, the head of MI6.

Fleming wrote his first James Bond novel, Casino Royale, in 1952 and it was an immediate success, kick starting a worldwide phenomenon that would lead to sales of over 100 million copies of James Bond novels. During his writing career Fleming managed to author a total of 14 James Bond novels. The other 25 official James Bond novels to date being penned by other authors after Fleming’s death.

Due to his wealth and success Fleming could afford to live a lavish Bond-esque lifestyle. In the novels (for example Moonraker, 1955), James Bond is described as living in "a small but comfortable flat off the Kings Road" - a desirable address in Chelsea, but not in the same league as Fleming's own residence in Belgravia! However, the film Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) shows a fleeting glimpse of a document giving his address as "61 Horsen Ferry Road, London S1" - a fictionalised version of Horseferry Road in SW1, just a short walk from Ebury Street.

22 Ebury Street
Fleming had other homes besides the one in London - including an estate in Jamaica, which he called Goldeneye. That was another reminder of his naval career - Goldeneye had been the codename of a British intelligence operation during the Spanish Civil War. Much later, in 1995, one of the post-Fleming Bond movies was given that title as a homage to him.

Fleming's years of good living (he was a heavy drinker and smoker) eventually caught up with him and he suffered his first heart attack in 1961. It was whilst recovering from a subsequent heart attack that Fleming dreamt up the children's story Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang. Apparently the idea for the novel stemmed from bedtime stories that he told his young son whilst he was convalescing. It seems that heart attacks would be the bane of Fleming’s later years, and it was a further heart attack in 1964 that claimed his life.

At the time of his death Fleming was living at Warneford Place, a mansion that James Bond would have been proud of in Sevenhampton near Swindon. Fleming was buried in the village’s churchyard (St James’) on the 15 August 1964, his resting place marked by a somewhat modest obelisk. His grave is not the only indication of his time in Sevenhampton, eagle-eyed visitors may notice the name of the nearby Ellipsis Farm, a name that may be familiar to some from Casino Royale.

Fleming's grave in Sevenhampton near Swindon.

A James Bond inspired Farm Name in Sevenhampton.

Pictures, London (February 2018) & Sevenhampton (July 2015).

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