Ian Fleming’s first book, ‘Casino Royale’, immediately took the reader to another world.
Britain had been rationing food since 1942 and foreign travel was for the wealthy or the forces.
For many people, the exploits of Fleming’s fictional character provided a gateway beyond the British Isles. Whether he was eating caviar and ‘half an avocado pear with a little French dressing’, or drinking vodka cocktails, James Bond brought a slice of the exotic back to his homeland.
Here are (00)7 listed places in England that helped to build Bond’s world.
1. Eton College, Berkshire
Ian Lancaster Fleming was educated at Eton College, enrolling at the age of eleven in 1921. The college was founded in 1440 by Henry VI to give some of his subjects the same education as he received.
Fleming’s persona at Eton sounds very much like that of the fictional character he created years later. His housemaster didn’t quite agree on Fleming’s ‘attitude, hair oil, ownership of a car, or his relations with women.’
As a result, the housemaster and Fleming’s mother came to an agreement that it might be best if Fleming left Eton a year earlier than planned and joined (as it was known then) Sandhurst Military College.
2. Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, Berkshire
Sandhurst is a military college, mess and barracks where all officers in the British Army are trained.
Prior to its foundation in 1812, most British Officers had enrolled in privately run colleges. They received specific education, with a heavy focus on the branch of the service that they intended to enter.
Despite gaining entry to Sandhurst in 1926, any hopes that Fleming would put aside his Eton lifestyle for a respectable career as an Army officer lasted only a year.
By 1927, Fleming had no commission, and was on his way to studies in Austria, Munich and Geneva in preparation for his possible entry into the Foreign Office.
3. 22B Ebury Street, London
By 1936, having left Sandhurst, taken his Foreign Office entry exams, and endured a spell as a Stockbroker and Banker, Fleming moved out of his mother’s house and into 22B Ebury Street in London.
The building was formerly known as the Pimlico Literary Institute and was designed by J.P. Gandy-Deering in 1830. Almost one hundred years later it was converted into flats, with Fleming taking over the lease of 22B from Sir Oswald Mosley.
It’s said that, with the threat of war in the air, Fleming carried out some improvements to the flat, including the addition of an inside toilet and painting the walls black.
4. The Admiralty at Whitehall, London
During the Second World War, Fleming was the personal assistant of Rear Admiral John Godfrey, the Director of Naval Intelligence for the Royal Navy. His wartime office was Room 39 of the Admiralty building at Whitehall.
Fleming described his role as ‘a convenient channel of confidential matters connected with subversive organisations’. Fleming proved that he was an idea’s man. He believed that the war could be won, not in dirt of the trenches, but in a world of subterfuge and covert operations.
One wartime experience that would become the backbone of Fleming’s first novel was encountering Nazi officers in the Hotel Estoril in Lisbon, Portugal.
Here, he came up with the idea of ‘striking a blow’ by financially ruining the officers in a game of baccarat (a storyline that any fan of ‘Casino Royale’ will instantly recognise).
5. Regent’s Park, London
Fleming’s Bond books are mostly set abroad. The only book set entirely in the UK is ‘Moonraker’ (the film of which is partly set in space, but you can blame ‘Star Wars‘ for that).
One UK site that is mentioned in both ‘Casino Royale’ and ‘Moonraker’ is that the MI6 headquarters is a tall, grey building overlooking Regent’s Park. The specific building is not mentioned, although M’s office is on the 8th floor (the top floor, so presumably fairly large) and described as ‘gloomy’.
Happily, Regent’s Park is anything but gloomy. It was once called Marylebone Park and was mostly farmland. John Nash was appointed as the architect and he, along with his partner James Morgan, produced a design that included Regent’s Street.
The proposal was essentially Villas in a parkland setting. The park, particularly Nash’s terrace and Villa, were severely damaged during the Second World War.
6. Willow Road, London
The first James Bond film, ‘Dr No’, was released 9 years after Fleming’s ‘Casino Royale’ was published as a book.
Not only did Bond make places historic, but historic places often made ‘Bond’. The story of how ‘Goldfinger’ came into being originates from the building of a row of modernist terraced houses on Willow Road.
Completed in 1939 and designed by Erno Goldfinger, a number of cottages were demolished to make way for the new development.
It is said that Fleming took great exception to this and, still clearly outraged, he named the villain from Goldfinger after the architect. Rumour has it that the original name wasn’t Goldfinger but something much ruder.
A few listed sites have also had the magic of cinema sprinkled over them and appeared on screen in Bond films.
In 1984, ‘A View To a Kill’ was partially filmed inside the former Renault Building in Swindon (now known as Spectrum), while London’s Westminster Bridge was the scene of dramatic action during 2015’s ‘Spectre’, starring Daniel Craig.
7. Sevenhampton Place, Wiltshire
In 1959, Fleming bought Warneford Place (which he renamed Sevenhampton Place) but didn’t move in until the early 1960s as restoration work was being carried out.
One of Fleming’s final Bond adventures, a short story called ‘Quantum of Solace’, was written at Warneford Place. Sadly, he didn’t live to see the cinematic release of ‘Goldfinger’, the third film in the series.
Ian Fleming died in 1964. He is buried in Swindon in the Churchyard of St James’.