The origins of 007
Kent was the inspiration for several of James Bond’s
encounters and home to the spy’s creator Ian Fleming. Chris Price
James Bond has been all over the media this week as the first
007 film Dr No marked its 50th anniversary. When he signed the
agreement for the film in 1962, surely author Ian Fleming – who
wrote many of his Bond novels in Kent – would never have guessed it
would be the start of the longest running movie franchise in
Later this month, the 23rd instalment of the spy series will be
released. Skyfall, starring the sixth 007 Daniel Craig, hits cinema
screens on Friday, October 26, and will add to the £4.9b the series
has grossed in half a century – the second highest ever behind the
Harry Potter films.
It was in a remote corner of Kent where the story began, as
ex-British Naval Intelligence officer Fleming bought a beach-front
house in St Margaret’s Bay called White Cliffs in 1952, from
playwright Noel Coward. It became his weekend and holiday home for
the crucial years when he conceived and wrote his series of James
Bond books, inspired partly by his intelligence career.
And Kent was to become the setting for many of 007’s adventures,
most notably in Goldfinger and Moonraker.
The latter story follows Bond’s journey from London to Dover in
his bid to stop the Hugo Drax from blowing up London with a nuclear
rocket, hidden at Kingsdown, near Deal. Bond races his Bentley
along the same Kentish roads that Fleming drove.
“Bond did a racing change and swung the big car left at the
Charing fork, preferring the clear road to Chilham and Canterbury,”
“The car howled up to 80 in third and he held it in the same
gear to negotiate the hairpin at the top of the long gradient
heading up to the Molash Road.”
The book, published in 1955, is the only Bond novel to be set
entirely in England and, in fact, only features one city and one
county – London and Kent. The duel between Bond and Drax took place
on A20 between Leeds Castle and Charing. When the spy received his
replacement after crashing his Bentley in the pursuit, Fleming
wrote: “The 1953 Mark VI... was battleship grey like the old four
and a half litre that had gone to its grave in a Maidstone
In Goldfinger, Bond visits Goldfinger’s factory Thanet Alloy
Research at Reculver and Kent’s most famous moment comes in the
memorable golf match between the spy and villain.
It takes place at Royal St George’s in Sandwich – the club where
Fleming was a member – although he renamed it Royal St Marks in the
book. The match takes up two chapters of the novel. Bond later
followed Goldfinger as he flew his Rolls-Royce to France on the
Silver City service from Lydd.
Other Kent locations include a Maidstone bridge club and the
Dover coast. As Fleming became ill in the mid-1950s, his home in St
Margaret’s became an important sanctuary for him, although his wife
did not share his views. In 1958 they left and bought the Old
Palace at Bekesbourne, outside Canterbury. It was close to the Duck
Inn, at nearby Pett Bottom, where the young Bond come to live after
his parents died in a skiing accident.
In 1964, Fleming collapsed on Royal St George’s and died in
Canterbury hospital, aged 56.
What a shame he did not live to see his movie legacy and the
place in film history he bestowed on his favourite county.
A licence to thrill
Bond-lovers can get the complete guide to his creator’s work in
Ian Fleming: The Bibliography.
Written by Jon Gilbert, the 750-page book features Kent’s
connections with the former spy and covers Fleming’s children’s
book Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, based on a racing car built by Count
Louis Zborowski in the early 1920s at Higham Park, near Canterbury.
Written for his son Caspar, the flying car flies across the Channel
from the Kent coast.
Jon said: “One interesting item related to Kent is that Fleming
originally had the magical car soar high above the spire of
Canterbury Cathedral but in June 1961, he took his son Caspar to
see the latest Disney film The Absent-Minded Professor.
“It featured a flying car built by a crackpot inventor in his
backyard, which was seen circling a church spire. Fleming was
infuriated and decided to cut the scene featuring Canterbury
Cathedral, for fear of repercussions.”
He added: “Ian Fleming is best known as the creator of James
Bond, an icon of 20th century popular culture, but he was also a
journalist, publisher, travel writer, motor enthusiast, card
player, accomplished golfer and noted bibliophile. Much has been
written about Fleming and his legendary creation, but until now
there has been no serious bibliographical account of his published
Ian Fleming: The Bibliography is published by Queen Anne
Press and is set for release later this month. Costs £175.
- Click here for more news from across the county...