Friday, 9 March 2012

The blue plaques guide to Ian Fleming and James Bond

Explore the streets of Britain's towns and cities and it won't be long before you see an inscribed circular blue plaque on the wall of a building. These commemorate a connection between the building and a famous or otherwise notable individual. Perhaps the person was born there, or lived there, or possibly the building was the place where something was invented or a book written.

There are two plaques dedicated to Ian Fleming, and a number of others commemorated people who are connected to the world of Ian Fleming and James Bond. Let's take a virtual tour around the UK (in a virtual Aston Martin DB5, naturally) and have a look at some of them.

We'll start our tour outside the Duck Inn in Pett Bottom, near Canterbury, Kent. According to the plaque, this was where, in 1964, Fleming wrote You Only Live Twice. Fleming actually wrote the novel in January and February 1963 at Goldeneye, Jamaica, but the inn does have a Bond connection. The inn's mentioned in Bond obituary in the novel and is near the home of Bond's aunt, Charmian.

Photo by shirokazan


As we're close to Canterbury, we can visit the city itself and find St Radigund's Street. A plaque marks the site of a former coachworks and the place where, in 1921-2, Count Louis Zborowski 'constructed two Chitty Chitty Bang Bang racing cars', which would inspire Fleming's adventures about the magical car. While we're in Kent, we might as well visit the coastal town of Deal, some 20km ESE of Canterbury, and go to Middle Street, the home of Carry On star Charles Hawtrey, who played Charles Bind Oh Oh – Oh in the Bond spoof, Carry On Spying.

Sticking to the coast, let's drive south-west to Eastbourne and to St John's Road to find the home of Cyril Connolly, journalist and critic, and author of 'Bond Strikes Camp', a James Bond parody first published in the London Magazine in 1962. Climbing back into the Aston, we'll motor a short distance around the coast to Littlehampton and stop off for some refreshments at The Marine public house. A blue plaque records that members of the 30 Assault Unit frequented the place during the Second World War. Just 40km away in Southsea, Portsmouth, a blue plaque in Castle Road marks the birth place of Peter Sellers, who played Evelyn Tremble (and James Bond) in Casino Royale (1967).

We'll come off the coast road now and head north-west to Horfield, in Bristol. Cary Grant, who discussed taking the role of James Bond with Cubby Broccoli in 1961, was born in a house on Hughenden Road in 1904. Then, as the plaque reads, he was known as Archibald Alec Leach. Now let's head north briefly before driving across the Severn Crossing into Wales. After a quick motor west on the M4 motorway, we reach Cardiff. We'll find Palace Road and the home, marked by a plaque, of Roald Dahl, an acquaintance of Fleming's and the screenwriter of You Only Live Twice (1967) and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968).

We'll continue westwards and head to Milford Haven, on the way stopping briefly at the Belgrave Hotel in Tenby, which, according to the plaque, was the birthplace of artist Augustus John, who painted Fleming's mother, Eve, and sketched Fleming during the war. At Milford Haven, we'll take the ferry to Rosslare, Ireland, and from there drive to Waterford. A blue plaque in Peter Street records that Raymond Chandler, who became a friend of Fleming, and whose Marlowe novels influenced the style of the Bond books, resided at the home of his uncle here during his childhood summers in the late 19th century.

Now, reaching the next stop on our tour involved a long haul to Edinburgh. Not sure of the best route – possibly a drive up to Belfast in Northern Ireland, then a ferry to Troon in Scotland, before heading to Edinburgh. Actually, we need to find Fountainbridge, and the birthplace of Sean Connery, 'Oscar winning actor, international film star', according to the plaque. No mention of Bond, though.

OK, let's head back south. Keeping to the A1 more or less all the way, we eventually reach Borehamwood in north London. A blue plaque in Malden Road, 'honours Sir Roger Moore KBE, distinguished actor who starred in The Saint television series (1962-9) and feature films Crossplot (1969) and The Man Who Haunted Himself (1970) made at Elstree Studios.' Hmm, no mention of Bond here either. Oh well, on to west London and Teddington. Sir Noël Coward, actor, playwright, songwriter – and friend and Jamaican neighbour of Fleming – was born in Waldegrave Road. Skirting round the south and east of central London brings us to Hackney. A plaque in Mandeville Street records the site of the school that Anthony Newley attended (Newley, of course, being famous for, among many other things, writing the lyrics to 'Goldfinger').

Almost at the end of our tour now as we take the Aston at a gentle pace into central London. A plaque in Chesterfield Street, Mayfair marks the home of Somerset Maugham, novelist, Fleming's friend and inspiration for the short story, 'Quantum of Solace'. We began the tour with Ian Fleming, and we'll end it with Ian Fleming as we pull up at 22 Ebury Street, Belgravia, exit the car, and marvel at the blue plaque on the building:

Photo by Gwynhafyr

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